Social Identity by Nijaah Howard

Written by tmadmin

August 15, 2023


Growing up, I was classified a ‘tomboy’, some men would label me an ‘amazon physique’. I was the girl who could out throw, out run, and out jump most if not all the boys. I was always the first one chosen, that is after I proved myself. As much of a tomboy I was, I also absolutely loved wearing dresses. Once when I was little, I was in love with the original ‘Little Orphan Annie’ and never wanted to take off my ‘little red Annie dress’. Oh, and watching reruns of ‘’Wonder Woman’ (Lynda Carter) AND ‘Bionic Woman’ (Lindsey Wagner) were my everything. Those women empowered me. I never really questioned my sexual identity until I was 17 years old, on my way home from my basketball game, one of my school mates (female) followed me home, I thought she lived in the same neighborhood, but as I was walking, she caught up to me and told me something like:

“Do you want to be my girlfriend?”

I was so confused. In that split second, the energy immediately shifted, and it felt ‘dirty and nasty’. I gave her a dirty look, said no! and ran home in tears. I was so insulted and offended because I could not understand what it was about me that gave her the indication that I was into ‘girls; was I ugly, did I look or act like a boy? In that moment, I could not understand for the life of me why I could not just be a ‘girl’ that liked playing basketball without being labeled ‘lesbian’. I clearly remember the positive effect Lisa Leslie of the WNBA had on me growing up because she made me be confident in being a great athlete and a feminine heterosexual lady at the same time. At that time, I certainly wasn’t sexually active, but I knew that I didn’t like girls like that and I didn’t want to feel pressured into doing so just because I was into ‘boy’ sports and hanging out with the guys. I learned that people will always put labels on you or place you in their ‘box’, I had to learn quickly how to define myself and live with boundaries and without borders.

I became an adult when I moved out of my parents’ home; life became more colorful. My style evolved. I began to see life differently and explore every corner of this world that I knew was mine. I was and will always be ‘strict dick’ (excuse my French) but I do remember an adventure I had with a woman that I have no regrets about. I was madly in love/lust with my ex (my child’s father) and I remember when we broke up, it broke my heart. He had a distinct walk, swag, cocky, and clean flava about him that to this day, I will never forget. When we were no longer an item, I remember transitioning into another phase of my life, I was getting used to being single raising our son. I got a new job and during orientation there was a clearly out gay woman who looked identical to my child’s father. Same hairstyle, same height, same baggy jeans, smelled good and she was playing basketball, my favorite sport. She was a better man than he was. Well, let us just say that I liked her and never thought I would look at a woman in that way, but I did and for a short while I was in “that” life. It was an interesting, fun adventure, but I am clear on loving men. I learned that sometimes life can throw you curveballs and make you think you are something that you are not, but you have a choice to either catch it or allow it to hit you. I had to sit with God and pray that He brings me eternal peace and happiness regardless of what that may look like by my own standards.

I was raised in an immensely proud African American family. My Godmother, Aunts/Uncles, Cousins, we celebrated Kwanzaa annually and Black pride daily. My home always exhibited Black Culture via artifacts, paintings, sculptures, etc. My parents always hosted the Karamu (last day dinner) where we ate a typical southern cuisine with a leg of lamb to honor Christ birth, we dressed in African attire, discussed history past and present, played games, exchanged Zawadi (gifts) and paid respect to all our ancestors. My mother mostly never wanted us to grow up relying on others to educate us about our culture and history. We always had books and never missed a documentary, a live theatre, show, or event that edified Black Life and all the different types of Black within the African Diaspora. So, growing up, I was always clear on who I am and stood proudly and always had friends of multicultural backgrounds, in fact many of my non-Black friends loved my life and they were always welcomed in it. I loved the fact that I was rooted from Africa and born in America. I loved the elite, exotic, essence and resilience of the Black struggle and experience. In my mind and heart, it is what shaped us as being ‘strong’ and powerful human beings and helped paved way for many others who came after. Although, I always loved being ‘American Black’, the sisterly love for Black men became the driving force of my life’s work after experiencing inequality, injustice, and oppression. I yearned to be a part of the world that created resolve and demanded respect for Black people, especially Black men
because they are the missing pieces of many of our homes whether due to consequence or by choice. But this narrative needed to change, and the single parent household rate needed to decrease. I prayed for ways that I could be of service to create solutions for my people, community, and the world.

In my life, I have been fortunate to acquire “Black Privilege”, of course, not in the same meaning as ‘white privilege’ but to me, my privilege came in the ability to do much of what white skinned people can do without my race taking precedence and hindering or denying me in such a way due to other people’s ignorance. I have experienced systemic oppression and came across many situations with people who tried to devalue my self-worth and failed. I know what I know and will raise absolute hell if someone denied me anything purely for the color of my skin. Now, with understanding of who I am and the difficulty many others have with me simply because of my skin color, yes, I have experienced isms. Because of my wisdom and knowledge, I will continue to educate children and community on what isms look like but by no means do I feel like I can't or shouldn’t do something because I'm not allowed or not qualified based on my skin color and other people’s assumption or belief systems. I need to educate my African American son on systemic racism for his own daily protection. Knowing what I know to be true, it is imperative that I make him aware of his surroundings and stereotypes for him to be safe. He must always be aware of how to think quickly and 9 steps ahead. If you are a parent raising Black sons, we must educate our children on understanding that not all people who look like you are ‘rooting for you’, and not all people who do not look like you ‘are enemies’. Just be aware. I demand to be treated with human kindness and respect. I do not handle ism discrimination with arguing and media’s negative stereotypical feedback, I go to the CEO, Founder, President, Creator, Owner, Media, Courts, Law Enforcement, Write letters, and gather people, etc. I make noise and raise absolute hell for my perpetrator in a way that makes them do right in the future and if at all at the very least, you will remember my name. I never grew up with an internal belief that I was ‘less than, in fact, in my mirror, always a Queen/ Empress. I have always accepted all of me and me being who I am in God, is and has never been my problem, it is theirs. People hear the statement but do not understand it, ‘Hurt people, hurt people’. Why demonstrate your pain hurting others when you can just go get mental health support and once you know better, you feel better, and you will do better.


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