Several weeks ago, I was invited to attend a meeting with other professionals about programs my community plans to implement. As I hold key positions in these programs, my input regarding the implementation and the expected outcomes concerning a problem we all agree on, justified the invitation. After my talk, the woman who invited my participation discussed the energy found at the base of these programs, the energy that suggested promise regarding the success of these programs, and the energy the could be derived from my leadership. I was completely taken aback. The last time I remember having energy was when I was about 18 years-old–when I only needed to be concerned about myself and my interests, and my pursuits. As a black woman with a five-year-old child, a husband, a house, a job, and who is about as close to turning forty as one can get, being described as “energetic” estranges me from myself. In fact, this description estranges me from every black woman I know: those who are single; those who rent; those without children…I don’t know any black woman who does not work in some form or fashion. I know black children who may be described as “energetic.” My next door neighbor was playing with my son on Saturday and I would be comfortable describing them as “energetic,” but fully grown, black women? I’m not denying that these black women exist, but I sure don’t know ’em.
When I think of “energy” as an enactment of vitality, I don’t think about black women A-Tall, I think about that pink, Energizer Bunny that has been going nonstop since 1989. Unlike the lifeless bunny whose batteries can be replaced within minutes, it takes black woman much, much longer to be revitalized. Given the labor we are constantly being asked to perform at home…o.k., EVERYWHERE, I know very few black women who I would call revitalized. Every black woman I know seems to be in recovery from fighting “to make a dollar out of fifteen-cents,” from living within a system of domination, and from being conscripted into service for others time and time again. So if it is the case that I look like the embodiment of “energy” it is because I have honed the skill of making exhaustion appear attractive. To that end, every black woman I know can lay claim to being a master craftsman who turns a Sisyphean task into a work of art.