Now, when I say all Sistas are not Lauryn Hill this is not a personal attack to Lauryn Hill. I find it strange that neo soul or “woke” Black female artists are what people like all Sistas to model themselves after. You know the Sistas with the dreadlocks or big afros, the Sistas who always relate everything to a deeper meaning. I guess Sistas with perms and weave ain’t (and yes I meant ain’t) “woke” though… And what the hell is a “woke” Sista anyway?
One day I was actually stereotyped as a typical neo soul Sista. I was in the breakroom at my job, and a guy asked me what I listening to. I said, “Alicia Keys,” this guy and the entire break room turned around and said yeah you look like you listen to her, India Arie, and Lauryn Hill.
You could imagine my confusion with this stereotype, and although I do listen to all of those Sistas. I really wanted to know when and how I turned into that “Sista”? Two years prior to that, I chopped off my relaxed hair and made the decision to be natural, so maybe my afro was why they thought I was on this other level of Blackness. Fast forward a few months into grad school and one of my favorite professors mentioned how he was use to hearing about Black Feminist thought because of his black feminist friends with big afros and nose rings. And again I was reflecting on myself, a Black women with an afro, a nose ring, and a self identified hip hop feminist? Had I unknowingly turned myself into the accepted “woke” Black Woman that Black America sees as the Mother Earth who is all knowing?
In reality, I, Christin Maureen Smith listen to all types of music, but why were people only seeing one thing when they looked at me? The final moment I had with the “woke” Black Sista concept was recently when Beyoncé’s LEMONADE did not win the Grammy for album of the year and I saw a number of Tweets that said Solange should have gotten album of the year. I love the Solange album personally, but I wanted to know why people were placing it up against LEMONADE. I realized that Solange’s album fits right in with the “woke” Black Sista idea since Solange has the big natural hair and because of the lyrics that Solange sings on the album a Seat at the Table. Beyoncé on the other hand is not seen as the “woke” Black Sista because she has weave, and wears certain outfits that do not fit into the “woke” Black Sista box, even though she promotes black feminist and womanist thought like her sister Solange.
And then, it all just smacked me in my face that Black America wants majority of Sistas to be out here on some neo soul shit, with a big ass afro to prove how black and loyal we are. Let me say this for all my Sistas. WE DO NOT ALL LOOK LIKE LAURYN HILL, and just because we do not look like her or Erykah Badu does not mean we are not aware of the oppressions that haunt and plague our Black community. There is not only one way to be empowered as a Black Women, so please stop your shenanigans.
You see, when you give us a box to fit in as the Sista who can speak for all Sistas, it is oppressive to the Sistas who are not a reflection of that Sista. For example, if you hold every Sista to Lauryn Hill’s standard of true Black femininity then a number of things are being left out that still oppress us as Black Women. There are Sistas who wear the weave, finger nails, or clothes you may not agree with who teach us about sex positivity, and how it is okay and not jezebel like that you enjoy sex.
You have to see that there is empowerment in Lauryn Hill, Jill Scott, Erykah Badu, and Solange, as well as Lil Kim, Foxy Brown, Nicki Minaj, Cardi B, or Beyonce. To imply that a sister is not empowered because she looks a certain way is ridiculous. To completely uplift Black women, we cannot go by one narrative of being the solution.
Why can a Sista not rock her bundles, while still being empowered and “woke”? . Empowerment is not for just one type of Black Woman, it is for all us, and can come through a number of ideas and concepts. I realize that a Sista from the suburbs may seek her empowerment differently than me who is from a lower middle class family. It is certain stuff I cannot understand about her, as well as stuff she cannot understand about me. To chantase someone because their thoughts do not align with yours, does not help with the bigger issue. The bigger issue in this case is the conflicting identity of the acceptable Black Woman that is being sold to our children.
We have to stop even giving society definitions of what we are doing. Once you give a definition to something or someone you can put it into a box that is controlled. What is a “woke” Black Sista? It is whatever you personally want it to, as far as your life is concerned.
As far as my music choice, if you pick up my headphones it is honestly no telling what you will hear. Also, as far as “woke”, my Sistas and I have been “woke” before it was cool with our braids, weave, afros, relaxers, booty shorts, and all.