A Black Woman Dreams of Her 100th Birthday.
Chip’s Note: This guest post comes from one of MEA’s Activists in Residence, Evelyn Reynolds, who just spent a couple weeks with us in Baja. We first became aware of Evelyn through ageism activist Ashton Applewhite and Evelyn’s Huffington Post essay, “Aging While Black.”
While many of us are focused on longevity, many African-Americans are focused on survival. Here are some of the passages of that essay that caught our attention:
- "While old age and death are linked in the dominant American consciousness, too often for African-Americans, age does not predict when death will come knocking.”
- "We can already see some of the fruits of intergenerational and intersectional Black activism in the 21st century. Resistance movements like Black Lives Matter have shown us that leadership is not dependent on age. While it may be important to give age-specific groups space to gather and commune, we should always ensure that there is also space for the contributions of folks of all ages."
It was a joy having Evelyn join us for Sabbatical Sessions in July. She had a "Baja Aha" while she was at MEA. She mid-wifed this poem about what longevity means to a black woman. Hope you enjoy it.
Forty minus two years, am I mid-life or mid-stride?
I pluck a grey hair. Paused. Acknowledging that each one was earned.
Navigating the minefield of U.S.A everyday.
Boom, boom goes the guns, another one passes away.
Held up and barricaded, suffocating from the guilt of others.
Chronically sick and tired, words murmured by headshaking grandmothers.
Can I live?! Not asking permission as I push, shove, and fight for my next breath.
A Black woman politic. Corporal disdain, denial of possibility and potential.
Still I rise, strive, and float to the surface. My head just above water, surveying the best path for
survival. Neck deep in rage, self-care through isolation.
It’s hard to trust, hard to relate, I’m on edge.
A colored girl who once considered suicide when her rainbow was snuffed.
Living life as a threat, life-threatening in presentation. Big butt, big lips, cornrows, White gazes.
I have just enough nerve to assert my right to exist each and every day.
An imagining, speculating, Black woman dreaming of her 100th birthday.
Evelyn Reynolds is an Associate Professor of Sociology at Parkland College in Champaign, Illinois where she has taught for over 10 years. She wrote a popular article featured in The Huff Post and Next Avenue that connects aging with anti-Blackness and the unique experiences that Black Americans face as they age. She’s an MEA Activist in Residence.