For more than thirty years, America has recognized March as Women’s History Month, honoring contributions made by women throughout the history of this country. In the same spirit, One Voice celebrates the role Black Women play throughout history and present and the majesty with which we navigate and resolve the issues that uniquely affect us and our families. Only we think we’re important enough to make it a monthly thing.
This month, One Voice dedicates this space to one of our founding member’s newly released book The Girl In The Alley. Bernita Bradley, mother, grandmother and writer, shares in raw, vivid detail a childhood pregnant with pain and insecurity. Though alleys are typically seen as unsafe, we learn that the “girl in the alley” is adolescent Bradley seeking safety in seedy spaces, the alley, in order to save herself from the monsters in her neighborhood.
I lived in shadows and alleys and masked pains.
In her book, Bradley writes authentically about tragic instances of sexual assault by family members, bullying, suicide, mental health, and self-hate. While these issues are not specific to Black Women, we understand that such circumstances are compounded by larger societal issues of race and class. While much of Bradley’s testimony is punctuated with seemingly irreparable injury, the reader is also treated to the memory of her beautiful, powerful mother and glimpses of other angels along the way.
For a poor family, we always looked rich getting off the bus. Momma made $10 go along way. I never knew we were poor until years later.
We all know a Veunita Williams. Bradley’s momma was a picture of strength and resolve. She worked to make a life for herself and four kids, as well as the various characters she readily welcomed into her crowded home. Not only was she quick to share what little she had, but Williams was also a well-known seamstress and singer who worked hard at everything she attempted, including showering love and protection of her only daughter, Bernita.
But the monsters are adept at slivering around a working mother’s protective glare and best-laid plans and Bradley courageously allows the reader in on that part of her world. The thieves of her innocence, the peers who sneered, the family who mutilated her trust, the food that deceptively soothed, all monsters that worked together to create a world with which young Bernita no longer wanted to be associated.
Pains that made me cry out for death
Knowing why was my heart’s cry even as a young child
I still don’t know the answers
So this March, we honor the superhero within us. That magic that allows us to love generously through unimaginable pain. That special something that gives us buoyancy in a sea of nefarious actors attempting to drag us down. Those God-given boosts allowing us to clear hurdle after hurdle after hurdle after hurdle after hurdle.
We salute the survivors and fighters — the Bernita’s and Veunita’s.
As Bradley brilliantly states in her poem “We Were Built For This”:
We were made for this. We are overcomers. Over Achievers.