Posted on Leave a comment

Black Woman Heal: The Racism in Gynecology

“History, despite its wrenching pain cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage need not be lived again”

Maya Angelou

This is a special blog post because it includes excerpts from my latest book, “The Black Girl’s Guide to Healing: 10 Ways to Achieve a Healthy, Pain Free Period”.

The Black woman must take her rightful place as self-healer. She must master herself and her thoughts. She must begin to muster up the courage to trust her intuition when it comes to her body. As J. California Cooper (my favorite author) says, ““The only thing, no matter how long you live; that is truly yours, is your body”. Your body is all you have and there is no one beside you that knows what is best for your body. Especially not the white man and that is particularly true when it comes to our wombs.

The womb is the essence of your being. It is what makes you, uniquely you. It is where the wisdom and power of your entire being is held. The woman’s womb is the seat of her creativity. It holds the key to her magic, power, inherent beauty, and divinity.

When there is an imbalance or dis-ease in the womb, there will be imbalance and dis-ease in all areas of our life. It will manifest most readily in our physical health. But it can also manifest in our relationships, our finances, and careers. But a woman who heals her womb, heals her life. It is the center of your world. You must guard and protect it for all it’s worth.

There has been a seemingly unending assault on the Black woman’s womb.  Birth control, uterine fibroids, PCOS, cysts, excessive menstruation, endometriosis, infertility, and hysterectomies have become synonymous with black womanhood. It is as if we are born, we suffer, and then we die. Our wombs are not valued in the same way as white women.

J. Marion Sims is touted as being the Father of modern Gynecology. He invented the speculum, which is still used today for vaginal dilation and examinations. He also developed the surgical technique to repair vesicovaginal fistula, which is a severe complication resulting from childbirth. Many women were relieved of their suffering due to Sim’s medical breakthrough. Unfortunately, the only women who benefited were white.

J. Marion sims perfected his craft by experimenting on enslaved black women without any anesthesia. The widespread belief amongst white society at that time and even today is that blacks did not feel pain like whites. In her groundbreaking book, Medical Apartheid, Harriet Washington explains:

Medical journals and professional word of mouth had detailed the inhalation of ether as anesthesia since the early 1840s, and Sims knew of this, but he flatly refused to administer anesthesia to the slave women and girls. He claimed that his procedures were not painful enough to justify the trouble and risk attending the administration, but this claim rings hollow when one learns that Sims always administered anesthesia when he performed the perfected surgery to repair the vaginas of white women in Montgomery a few years later.

Sims experimented on 12 enslaved Black women. We know the names of three of those women; Lucy, Betsey and Anarcha. 18-year-old Lucy was the first woman he experimented on. She had just given birth a few months prior and could not control her bladder. 

The women were completely naked, positioned on their knees, bending on their elbows as their heads rested in their hands. Sims experimented on 17-year-old Anarcha 30 times over a period of 4 years before he finally perfected the fistula surgeries. I cannot begin to imagine what our ancestral mothers and sisters suffered. The torture, humiliation, and physical, emotional, and spiritual trauma is unfathomable, unforgivable, and unforgettable.

The US healthcare system is not a safe place for us to heal. There is a documented history of the black woman being deemed expendable and without inherent value. There is a documented history of experimentation and torture. Our wombs are not safe. We must become our own healers. We must love, respect, and trust ourselves enough to take complete control of our health and the health of our wombs. History has shown what can happen if we leave our healing in the hands of others, particularly our oppressors.

We do not have to relive the past. What Dr. Angelou said is worth repeating, “History, despite its wrenching pain cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage need not be lived again”. We must face our history in this country with courage. We must face the systemic and institutional racism seeped in western modern medicine with courage. When we do this, we will gracefully snatch our wombs back from the very system that has destroyed it and begin to heal.

To read this chapter and more in The Black Girl’s Guide to Healing: 10 Ways to Achieve a Healthy, Pain Free Period click HERE

Posted on Leave a comment

Miss Celie’s Hoodoo: Return to Sender

“The words we use, use us”

Unknown

The Color Purple is my favorite movie of all time. There are so many scenes that resonate with me, but the one that touches me the most was the Easter dinner scene when Celie gave Mister more than just a piece of her mind! Whew! Sends chills down my spine. Finding all those letters and realizing that not only is her sister alive but her children are with her sister lit a fire in her heart. Ahh, just thinking of it makes me smile. All those years of experiencing the deep and profound loss of all she loved, now gone! Hope and joy now creeping into every crevice where pain and heartache once was.

“Something that is loved, is never lost”

Toni Morrison

Well, Mister being Mister wasn’t having none of that. He went to hit her, and Celie threw those three fingers up and he stopped mid swing. She told him, “𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘫𝘢𝘪𝘭 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘱𝘭𝘢𝘯𝘯𝘦𝘥 𝘧𝘰𝘳 𝘮𝘦 𝘪𝘴 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘰𝘯𝘦 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘨𝘰𝘯𝘯𝘢 𝘳𝘰𝘵 𝘪𝘯…𝘜𝘯𝘵𝘪𝘭 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘥𝘰 𝘳𝘪𝘨𝘩𝘵 𝘣𝘺 𝘮𝘦, 𝘦𝘷𝘦𝘳𝘺𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘦𝘷𝘦𝘯 𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘯𝘬 𝘢𝘣𝘰𝘶𝘵 𝘨𝘰𝘯 𝘧𝘢𝘪𝘭” Then she ended it by saying, “𝘌𝘷𝘦𝘳𝘺𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘥𝘰𝘯𝘦 𝘵𝘰 𝘮𝘦, 𝘢𝘭𝘳𝘦𝘢𝘥𝘺 𝘥𝘰𝘯𝘦 𝘵𝘰 𝘺𝘰𝘶”.

“It’s not the load that breaks you down, it’s the way you carry it”

Lena Horne

What she did was a spell called “Return to Sender”. She also hastened the karma that was already coming his way. Mister thought he was invincible. He thought he could do whatever to Celie with ZERO consequences. If you’ve seen the movie, you know Mister’s life quickly fell apart. Until he went and made it possible for her sister and children to return, he would continue to suffer. (“Until you do right by me, everything you even think about gon fail”).

Y’all better watch who ya knowingly mistreat, lie on, manipulate, sabotage, plot on, and disparage. You must watch who you bring hurt and harm to. Because the person on the other end might throw a Miss Celie root on ya and reverse and return that same energy you’re sending out right back to you. See, the irony is, the jail you planned for others will become your home. It’s not even a form of revenge. Because it’s your OWN energy (everything you done to me, already done to you) coming right back to you.  Miss Celie not only took her power back, but she returned to Mister the hatred, resentment, and envy he directed toward her back to him. We all have the power to do the same. As a traditional Hoodoo Root worker, return to sender is a staple ritual for me. At least once a month I gather all the negative energy, resentment, jealousy, envy, and hate sent to me by others and I return it right back to its sender. So generous right? Most times, Spirit will reveal who these people are to me. And I just shake my head, almost in pity for them. Please don’t bring no clouds round my way, because I will make it rain.

Posted on Leave a comment

In Honor of the Slave Mother

“A mother holds a knife by the blade”

Tswana Proverb

I’ve been here many times before. I keep coming back because there is a lot of unfinished business. There is much karma to transcend and wrongs that must be made right. Some of them are mine, but most have nothing to do with me. Still, it is my duty to make them right. I owe it to myself, but more importantly, I owe it to them. My children. The precious souls that have chosen me as their mother. I often wonder why they chose me. Why choose a mother who is a slave. Why choose a mother who will give birth to more pain than joy. Despite my many flaws and no matter what oppression we were born into, whether it was the backwoods of Alabama or the low country region of the Geechee, whatever child I birthed, I loved to no end. I didn’t care who the father was either. Whether it was Massa’s or my husband. My child was MY child. My devotion to them is steadfast, and I will protect what is mine even if it cost me my life. And it has cost me my life before.  And I’d do it again. They know that. My children know my heart. And that’s why they was MINE. The only thing stronger than my love for my children was my hate for the massa. They say you ain’t supposed to hate, but most days my hate was the only thing that kept me alive.

I couldn’t love them with all of me; working them fields and then in the Massa’s house. But what was left, I gave it all to them. I can’t think of where else it could go. I loved my babies with all I had and all I didn’t have. How I did it, only God and my mama, and her mama, and all the mamas before them know. When a child is born, something is also born in the mama. I learned that with my first child. A girl. I couldn’t love nothing in the world more than her. I had her bout 4 years and then they sold her. She on that wagon screaming “Mama” and I bout lost it. Took 3 men to hold me down. I would have tore that wagon to pieces to get my baby. I never was the same after that. I had four more children after that. Two of them sold too. After my girl, they sold two of my boys. They tried to run. They was caught. I seen the fire in they spirit. I never would try to stop it. I was proud of em. They whipped em them sold them as punishment. Massa said didn’t make no sense to kill em, make some money off em instead. I wonder if they would still be here if I had taught them different. If I put the thoughts of freedom out they head. I can’t help but think it is my fault.

After they sold my three boys, all I had was my last one. A boy too. He was born a little sickly. I wasn’t as strong as I was. My body was, but my heart was so full of pain, I guess he carried that with him. He was never gonna be fit to work the fields and I couldn’t bear the thought of my last child being sold or killed by Massa. So I figure we try to run. I wasn’t able to save none of my children. But maybe this one I could save. My mind was made. Run. I had to be smart about it. Plan it really good and talk to the others about how to get to freedom. But before we could leave, my last child, died in my arms. Yellow fever they say. 

Wasn’t nothing left to live for after that. Not even freedom. But I run anyway cause I can’t stay.  All my babies gone. Gone. Ain’t never gon see them again, cept in the land of the ancestors. After we all dead. So what is freedom here? I wonder bout my other children. How they faring in this world. Did I give em enough to carry them through this lifetime. I ran. Don’t know what I was running to or from. I just ran. It was bout a month before I was caught. Massa tied me to the post hisself. Gave me those fifty lashes with everyone watching. I didn’t cry or scream. Wasn’t no tears left in me. Make an example out of me they say. I would get the noose. I was worth more dead than alive.

I could have lived without freedom if I had my children. My children gave me freedom in bondage. But they took every one of my children. I could hate the Massa and still live in bondage if I had my children. But with that noose around my neck I was strangled to a sort of freedom.