When I started sharing the lavender flyer across Instagram, I never expected so many people to show up. I still did not quite believe my eyes as they rolled in by the tens and then the hundreds, filling up every bare inch of space on the grass. Despite my stomach performing intestinal gymnastics, we had done it. We had managed to host a Black Lives Matter sit-in in front of the National Cathedral, even without any help from our school. I stood in front of the rainbow of facemasks as my co-coordinator Anaya whispered in my ear, “Read your poem.”
Don’t cry baby girl, because black girls don’t cry when their hearts are breaking.
Growing up as a black girl, there were so many instances when I wanted to cry. The first instance, that defined my future, was after my father handed me my first book. There was only one character who looked like me, and she died. He kept handing me books, one after another, and I kept watching in despair as black boys and girls kept dying before my eyes, forgotten at the turn of a page. But I didn’t cry. I used a different outlet instead, grabbing my pen and furiously scribbling against the pages. I rewrote the books in front of me. I rewrote the story so that I could see myself in the pages — I wrote about black witches who went to Hogwarts and black demi-gods who went to Camp Half-Blood. When I set down the pen, they were alive and staring back at me. I had breathed life into these characters, and I wouldn’t let them die.
Growing up as a black girl, there were so many instances when I wanted to cry. There were so many times that the veil separating reality from childhood fantasy blew in the wind and showed me the imperfections and inequalities of a world I barely knew. There were so many times a boy told me I was “pretty for a black girl” and that curtain fell. There were so many times I was told “I don’t date black girls” and that curtain fell. There were so many times when I felt the world on my shoulders. I watched as my best friends, boys, cried and mourned the death of someone who was distinctly like them at the hands of evils we did not create and did not deserve to face. And when someone distinctly like me, a girl, died… I had to straighten my shoulders, because black girls don’t cry.
Do cry, baby girl. Cry for me, cry for you.
I cried. For the first time since the death of George Floyd, I cried, reading those words in front of nearly four hundred people. I felt their support and their conviction. I felt deep within me that everyone there understood my pain and anguish. I felt them through their testimonies, their snaps and claps, and their silent clenched fists. I felt that no one wanted another little black girl to hold in her tears as she juggled the turmoil of centuries on her heart.
Up until the sit-in, my rebellions had been private. They had been silent, personal, and down-played. I never trusted or believed in myself to do more. I was always told that I would change the world “one day,” but I made June 5th, 2020 myday.
And what a day it was.
The little girl who wrote in sloppy cursive on the small pages of a spiral notebook would have been proud of me on June 5th. She will also be proud that I will never stop fighting to be seen in the place where I feel most at home: in books. Little black girls deserve to see our heroes, and ourselves, embraced and loved in the pages.
I will be the one who gives us what we deserve.