A Seat at Your Own Table: The Importance of Self-Discovery and Introspection for Black Women
Claudia S. Williams, Esq.
Solange's album, A Seat at the Table, is a manifesto speaking to the simultaneous vulnerability and resilience of Black women and Black womanhood. The album declares that Black women -- in all of our divine and infinite wisdom -- must strive to explore the innermost depths of who we are. Solange put the world on notice, Black women included, that her introspection and creative processes took time and that these inner workings were deserving of slow, methodical, and intentional exploration.
In an interview with Tavi Gevinson for W Magazine, Solange characterized the internal creative processes that were a catalyst for ASATT. She stated,
It’s been such a healing process and that’s what really started the whole experience, was feeling the need for healing, self-reflection, self-discovery, and empowerment. When I first embarked on the journey it was really scary, and now I feel so empowered and renewed.
After spending so much time with the album, having it on repeat throughout late 2016 and 2017, I began to wonder what experiences shaped Solange’s insistence on the emotional space necessary for such a deep and profound internal investigation.
Exploration of what queer, Black civil rights advocate Rev. Dr. Pauli Murray called the “illimitable heights and depths” of our beings is not a privilege often afforded to Black women.
We are expected to give freely and fully, emptying ourselves out in service of others. We are expected to navigate violent systems of racism and sexism without critique or contempt, without replenishment, and without shelter or refuge. Heterosexism and homophobia increase the likelihood of traumatic experiences creating additional psychological, physical, and emotional burdens for women living at the intersections of these systems. The care of Black women has never been high on this country’s list of priorities.
Solange inspired me to explore the depths of my own feelings and internal workings. ASATT prompted me to wonder what I might uncover if I engaged in my own self-reflection. What feelings had I not felt fully? What trauma had I rushed myself through in the interest of survival?
As a young, Black queer woman, my deepest self-inventories have often taken place in the context of therapy. I don’t think therapy is the only way to reflect on your emotional well-being; but in my experience, it helps to have someone guide you through the process, especially when that person has an understanding of the ways in which these systems cause stress and distress in our lives.
For me, counseling was initially a means to an end. It was a problem solver. While in college, I started to have sporadic crying spells. At the time, my emotions were more of an inconvenience than a subject deserving of tenderness and careful exploration.
I had never considered seeing a therapist. Between prayer, family, and fellowship with my trusted sister-circle of Black women, I felt like my system was all that was necessary. However, my therapist helped me learn that I was closing myself off to deeply feeling my emotions for fear of being exposed and vulnerable.
How many of us are suffering? How many of us are emotionally isolated, either from each other or from ourselves? How many of us are experiencing and re-experiencing trauma without uncovering and healing the deepest pains that trigger it?
It has been almost seven years since I’ve seen a therapist. One reason for that has been a lack of access to healthcare to cover the costs. Another is that I’m still learning to prioritize self-care and to embrace the life-long process of pursuing health and wholeness. Solange’s album, and my commitment to practicing what I preach, have once again led me to seek out a therapeutic ear.
One benefit of a professional counselor is that they help you view your actions and choices outside the context of your everyday life while increasing your awareness of how you engage with yourself and others. While professional counseling is not accessible to everyone, other reflective self-care practices -- such as meditation, mindfulness, and journaling -- can empower you to positively affect your life’s outcomes.
I hope that other Black women, especially Black queer women, heed the manifesto of A Seat at the Table and engage in their own processes of self-discovery. It’s time we have a seat at our own tables, with ourselves, and all the multifaceted complexities that make us so transcendent. As Solange and Master P remind us, the glory is in you.
Follow Claudia on Twitter @UnboughtUnbound.
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