28 Days of Black Joy: Black Sisterhood

Me, left, with my friends Helen and Jasmine.
Me, left, with my friends Helen and Jasmine.
Photo: Jasmine Barnes

Mara Brock Akil’s iconic Girlfriends came back into our lives via Netflix last year, but though binge-watching the series (and many others) helped me make it through the mess that was 2020, my real life posse of Black women was even more integral.

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As I write this, I’m sitting in a cabin in the far north woods of Wisconsin, celebrating the birthday of my roommate—a Black woman whose friendship has been instrumental to me making it through the unrelenting trauma we’ve all experienced these past 12 months or so.

Over a sumptuous dinner of lentil soup the other night, which was lovingly prepared by another of my friends—an Eritrean-American woman I’ve bonded with over our shared love of the vast beauty that is the Black diaspora—I recalled the time last summer when I tried to open a window in the Chicago apartment my roommate and I shared and somehow managed to injure the sciatic nerve in my lower back.

I had immediately crumpled to the floor in pain at the time, where I lay until my roommate checked in on me and—get this—offered to massage my lower back to help ease my discomfort.

It was yet another moment, in the many I’ve had with my female friends, that exemplified to me what true love is—and that the love people write songs about isn’t relegated solely to romantic relationships (not to mention it’s far from guaranteed in them).

When the pandemic began barreling through the nation last spring and disproportionately hurting Black communities, a devastating stream of news and viral videos of Black people being killed violently coming hot on on its heels, my roommate and I sat on our living room couch and cried, not needing that much language to speak of the soul-deep pain we shared, like the melanin in our skin, even though she was born in Detroit and I originally hail from Jamaica.

On Juneteenth, all three of us lay in the emerald grass by Lake Michigan in Chicago’s Hyde Park and dreamed about a world where more Black people—far-flung and separated across the globe by history as we are—could connect like we did, an American girl, an Eritrean woman and a girl from the Caribbean.

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We watched as waves rippled through the blue lake and talked about the ships that pulled out from West Africa with our ancestors.

We drove to Louisville in August and grappled with the cruel shortening of the life of Breonna Taylor.

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A debilitating double whammy of depression and anxiety snuck up on me in late November while my roommate was away, and my Eritrean friend soothed me by doing everything from preparing warm, homemade golden milk tea for me to graciously keeping her voice on the other side of my phone line as long as it took me to come down from a panic attack.

When my roommate came back she prayed for me.

Throughout it all, we kept encouraging each other, “You can make it through 2020. We’ll make it through together.”

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Now we’re in Wisconsin listening to Solange and chopping wood for a real life fireplace, looking like the baddest set of Black women this corner of the country has ever seen.

I’m celebrating that we made it, and that I’ve been blessed with the gift of the women who helped me make it through.

Writer, speaker, finesser, and a fly dresser. Jamaican-American currently chilling in Chicago.

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