black women in the military

Diary of a Black Male: Entry #46

I met this girl at work a few of months back. I thought she was cute so I gave her my number, but I told her we would talk business. Her name is Melanie– short, brown skin– one of those delta sorority sisters who sounds mad country. She wanted to work on this piece with me– at least that’s what she made it seems like. She wanted to do a spoken word visual about growing up in poverty as black people. I thought she had a great vision. I let her know that it was a really good idea. I was kind of excited to be honest. She called me that same night to talked about it and everything sounded like a go.

We made arrangements to meet up to actually discuss this vision. We sat down and thought about different ways to portray the different ideas. We had gone through a lot in our short time on this earth. We came from different backgrounds, so she never saw the things that I saw. She told me I introduced her to a new world. She told me she liked that about me. I wasn’t sure if it was the compliment or not but at that moment I felt some real ass chemistry. Before you know it we started to share some personal thing about our life. She told me she appreciated how open and transparent I was. Things had got really deep.

Maybe a little too deep, I could tell it had gotten a little overwhelming so I asked if she wanted to go for a walk. She agreed and we went outside and just start walking. It felt great. I love nature. I love everything about it. It kind of helps me feel free. I could tell she felt a little better herself. Finally, we had a seat on the bench that was right outside this coffee shop. She told me that she was glad she ran into me when she did. She told me I seemed like a great guy and she could the two of us becoming really great friends. I agreed. I definitely saw that too.

I cannot lie. That shit made my dick tremble a little bit. Don’t ask me how or why– just know that it did. I made the suggestion to link up again some other time. I told her we would have fun and the next time we link up we didn’t have to talk about the heavy shit. After that we kind of said our goodbyes and went our separate ways. Later on that night she thanked me for listening to her. She told me she has always had so much to say but no one to really say it to. She told me that was the reason why she wrote– to say the things she couldn’t say to anyone else. Ironically, that was kind of the reason why I started to write. I used to write just to clear my mind. I wrote anything from poems to essays– outside of university work to journal entries.

The more she revealed about herself the stronger my attraction towards her became. Sometimes when she would speak I could just hear the passion in her voice. It was the sexiest thing ever. She made my dick tremble quite often and didn’t have to be talking about sex. Bruh, she told me a story about how she had to go off on her co worker– I swear I couldn’t help myself. That shit was sexy af. She just started going in and I could hear myself saying, “damn, I love you” I was thinking to myself, “this chick might be wifey.”

Over the span of couple months we had gotten really close. Sometimes when she came over she would spend then night. We had gotten really close. I felt like it was about that time to take our relationship to the next level. I felt like I could be myself with her and I felt that wholeheartedly. We had already gone on a number of dates. There was no reason why we weren’t already a couple. I had been thinking about it for weeks. I had even called my best friend to ask for his opinion. He gave me his blessings and that was all I needed. I trusted his word. He always had my best interest at heart.

That night I called her and asked her if she could meet me at the coffee shop. The coffee shop was the symbol of our relationship. It symbolized the pinnacle of our growth. It was apart of our history. We met there often to talk about our project ideas and to talk about life. That coffee shop meant a lot to our relationship and I wanted it to continue to be apart of us.

That night I told her to meet at the coffee shop so we could talk about this idea I had. It had been awhile since we actually sat down and talk about our ideas. My ideas often came to me while I was laying in bed. I would usually write them down before I go to sleep. We called each other every night before bed. I guess that’s why I’ve been thinking about her so much lately. I didn’t think about much of anything at night other than spending time with her. I guess you can tell how much I really liked her.

She called me to let me know she was close. I had already ordered some tea and sat on the outside. Before she got off the phone she told me that she had something to tell me. I had no idea what she had to say but it made me nervous. I was already been kind of nervous to finally ask her out despite being so close but it added to my anxieties. All types of things started to go through my head. I called my boy back real quick to calm my nerves but as soon as he answered the phone I could see Melanie pulling up.

I told him I’ll call him back and greeted Melanie. She smiled and gave me hug as usual. Everything seemed to be fine and my nerves seemed to have calm down. She asked me about the ideas I had. I kind of wanted to know what she had to say to me before I got into why I asked her to come out. I just told her away. I told her about a few project ideas for this short film I wanted to do. I wanted to document black hair and what our hair means to our identity. I wanted to focus on standard of beauty and natural hair for both men and women. There were some other things I wanted to discuss but I was too anxious to find out what she wanted to say to me.

She started to mention the weather and asked me if I wanted to go for a walk. She knew I loved shit like that. I thought it was going to have one of those romantic moments you read about in story books. After awhile my anxiety dissipated and I was actually feeling pretty good about everything. While we were walking she grabbed and held my hand. She told me that she really like me and maybe even loved me. I was excited and a little relieved but I also had butterflies in my stomach. I could only smile despite the discomfort.

She mentioned her ex. She told me she wanted to tell me something and it had to do with him. I could feel myself getting sick to my stomach. My anxieties were going through the roof at this point. I stopped walking. I stood there and waited for her say something disappointing. I just had this feeling in the pit of my stomach that told me I wasn’t going to like what she had to say. Then she looked over to me and said “my ex is actually my husband” I just looked at her in disbelief. Apparently they hadn’t gotten a divorce but they were just separated– legally at least.

He had been overseas for six months on a mission. She said that he was coming back and that he was going to kick her out the house they had together. She told me they had some type of agreement but that didn’t matter to. She lied to me. She was never really honest with me. This entire time I thought I had really found someone to me. I thought I finally found someone. There was not enough unconditional love that would make me forgive her so easily. I couldn’t believe I let this happen to me.

She had a whole ass husband. A whole ass military nigga. I got so sick that I actually puked. I had to leave. I had to get away from the situation. I didn’t know what else to do. She could have told me about this. I don’t know why she hadn’t told me this to behind with. There had been so many opportunities for her to tell me about this but she waited until the moment I thought she couldn’t do any wrong.

She told me that she had more to say but I couldn’t take it. I didn’t want to hear it. I just went home. I didn’t even call my boy. I didn’t want to talk to anyone. She had been hitting me up that entire night but I refused to answer. I just put on some Jazz music and internalized everything gotdamn thing that has ever happened in my entire life up until that point until I just fell asleep of exhaustion.

I felt so empty and incomplete but I also had this heaviness about myself. I didn’t want to talk to her but I knew I wouldn’t feel better until I found out what else she had to say. I shut myself out from the world for a couple days. I just hadn’t been feeling like myself. I hadn’t returned any of her calls and to be honest it was eating me alive. I needed something to help me take my mind off of Melanie. I thought if I invited another woman over that she would help me take my mind off of things. I thought she would make me feel good– make me feel like myself again.

I called Jasmine. We used to mess around from time to time. I hadn’t seen her in awhile. I ask her if she wanted drop after she got home from work. That usually meant she would come through for sex. I thought that was something I needed but when she got there I just wasn’t feeling it. I could barely function let alone entertain a woman while the entire time I was thinking about someone else. I didn’t make me feel any better. I actually felt worse. I thought she would be fun. I thought she would’ve brought me out of that shitty mood I was in but all she really wanted to do was to have sex. I guess I got what I was asking for.

I had been too detached to do anything remotely close to sex and Jasmine didn’t like it. She had gotten really upset so I just asked her to leave. While escorting her out Melanie pulled up.

C: I recently enlisted in US Air Force Reserve and I have basic training AKA bootcamp in about a month. I’m not that nervous about the training, I take care of myself and I know what to expect for the most part. However, I am nervous about my hair. I have microlocs that mimic sisterlocs and so far no one has said I break regulations with them. I’ve worn them in two braids and also in a low pulled back bun. It’s crazy as a black woman we have to worry about this since our natural hair has to conform to other standards.

Women have long served in the Army, both unofficially by dressing as men, as well as in sanctioned roles as nurses. But until 1941, the Army had a ban on enlisting black women.

Through the efforts of prominent black women, and aided by first lady Eleanor Roosevelt, eventually the Army began to enlist black women as WACS, most serving as nurses.

Photo caption: Members of the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) pose at Camp Shanks, New York, before leaving from New York Port of Embarkation on February 2, 1945. The women are with the first contingent of Black American WACs to go overseas for the war effort From left to right are, kneeling: Pvt. Rose Stone; Pvt. Virginia Blake; and Pfc. Marie B. Gillisspie. Second row: Pvt. Genevieve Marshall; T/5 Fanny L. Talbert; and Cpl. Callie K. Smith. Third row: Pvt. Gladys Schuster Carter; T/4 Evelyn C. Martin; and Pfc. Theodora Palmer.

Photo source: https://www.theatlantic.com/photo/2011/09/world-war-ii-women-at-war/100145/#img04

“Mrs. Mary Couchman, a 24-year-old warden of a small Kentish Village, shields three little children, among them her son, as bombs fall during an air attack on October 18, 1940. The three children were playing in the street when the siren suddenly sounded. Bombs began to fall as she ran to them and gathered the three in her arms, protecting them with her body. Complimented on her bravery, she said, ‘Oh, it was nothing. Someone had look after the children.’”

(AP)

Confession: my husband doesn’t ever make an effort to find anything fun for us to do on our time off or our weekends. He gets upset when I don’t want to be the perfect housewife but sometimes I feel like if I put off doing housework at least I’ll have something to do when he’s off and wants to waste time sleeping. Being a young Navy wife with no friends in my area is starting to make me very depressed.

Hidden Herstory: Phyllis Mae Dailey, First African American in the U.S. Navy Nurses Corps

Photo: Phyllis Mae Dailey, second from the right, and others are sworn into the U.S. Navy Nurses Corps on March 8, 1945. 

Phyllis Mae Dailey was inducted on this day in 1945 into the Navy Nurses Corps. Dailey, pictured second from the right, was the first African American sworn in as a Navy nurse, following changes in Navy recruitment and admittance procedures that previously excluded black women from joining the Navy Nurse Corps. These discriminatory procedures were enacted by the U.S. Air Force as well, which had rejected Dailey prior. Dailey’s determination opened the door for many other black women to join the military nursing profession. 

See more photographs that document some of the first black women to serve with the U.S. Navy: bit.ly/2mYOxoh

Continue celebrating the unsung stories of women this Women’s History Month with us, using #HiddenHerstory! Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

Black in Europe

“Ugh I didn’t like France. French people are racist”“Go to Italy! They’re so friendly and I hear they love black women”“Do Germans even have black people outside of the military?”

It’s something almost every black traveller fathoms before venturing abroad. How will my blackness be perceived in this predominantly non-black space? It’s a valid concern. At best, our otherness might put us on a flattering pedestal. At worst, we might get mistreated. Even traveling to remote areas of the U.S you will find people that stare at you and ask aggravating questions like “Can I touch your hair?”. I certainly wondered about how I’d fare as a black woman before moving to France. 

But this post is really not just about me. Yes I am black. Yes I am in Europe. But that really doesn’t make me special. Because even though only a small percentage of African Americans travel to Europe yearly, there are tens of millions of black people that are already there: Afro-Europeans. 

Black people don’t just live in Africa and the United States. Thanks (but like, no thanks) to colonialism, the African diaspora truly reaches some of the most unlikely corners of the earth. Most African Americans make the mistake of assuming that we are the only group of african descendants living as the underrepresented, mistreated, systematically oppressed minorities in predominantly white spaces. Tell that to the 55 million Afro-Brazilians. Or the millions of black descendants in the UK, Italy, and France. 

But our egocentricism isn’t entirely our fault. I, too, had no idea exactly how many black and brown people lived in Europe until I came here. I assumed based on films, television, and images I had seen growing up that Europe is one homogenous white continent. Full of sameness with very little variation of color or culture (or at least not culture from an ethnic standpoint). It’s the invisible diversity of Europe. In the same way African-Americans lack representation in almost all facets of our society, Afro-Europeans lack it even more. 

I had met a lot of people my first couple of months in France but I still felt something was missing. I yearned to connect with people that were like-minded. People in which I had an inevitable bond with. In short, I needed to make black friends. It sounds silly to some but anyone a part of a minority group in some way (race, sexuality, etc) understands this desire. 

The problem was never the lack of black people, but how to organically make friends with them. Making friends as an adult is not an easy feat. When you’re a kid it’s so easy! All you have to do is say this: 

But how do you tell a random person you think they’re kinda cool and we should hang out in the most platonic way possible without being creepy? 

Several months later and I’ve met friends of friends, connected with random people through social media, and have even joined a Black Expats in Paris meet-up. By speaking with people I’ve gathered quite a few perspectives. 

African Americans are both admired and envied in France. Believe it or not, we have the type of global visibility not afforded to others of the African Diaspora. African Americans are the examples of cool, the creators of pop culture. Our celebrities are their celebrities, our favorite TV shows are their favorites too. African Americans are vocal in periods of inequality and reactionary during times of social injustice. Mike Brown & Trayvon Martin are not only names uttered on American soil. “I Have a Dream” is familiar to all European ears, the “Black Lives Matter” cry has been heard around world and the Civil Rights Movement is a part of their curriculum just as much as ours. In short, the Black American experience has left a definite mark in world history. 

For Black Europeans, however, their history tends to get shoved under the rug. I am not AT ALL an expert on this topic but here is a concise history of European colonization in Africa in my own words. 

**Anndi’s Quick and Over-simplified History on the Conquest of Africa**

In the late 1800s, several European countries such as the UK, France, and Portugal had set up port cities in Africa for trading goods and resources. Everything was cool until this dude named King Leopold II of Belgium was like, “you know what would be awesome? My own territory in the Congo”. So homeboy sliced out a chunk of the Congo for his own PERSONAL benefit, not even in the name of Belgium. The other European powers (UK, France, Italy, Portugal, and Germany) started to freak out and thought, “Damn my ego is super big, how can I make it bigger?”. So they had a meeting in Germany, found a map of Africa, and literally cut the continent apart like slices of pizza. It’s worth mentioning that none of the African countries in question were invited to said pizza party. So NINETY PERCENT of the continent was colonized without permission, MILLIONS of Africans were forced into labor, resources were exploited, men were killed, women were raped, children were maimed, feuding ethnic groups were mixed…all under the guise that they were “saving uncivilized savages from eternal damnation”.

Flash forward several decades and the European Powers finally started to leave. Whether they left on their own accord or were driven out by revolutionary groups, the heinous effects of imperialism are evident for several African countries by way of corrupt governments, tireless civil wars, and psychological trauma.

**The End** ….Except not the end because these heinous effects still linger. 

I’ve noticed a slight lack in community for Afro-French people. For African-Americans, there’s this idea of fictive kinship. I may not know you from Adam, but if we are the only two black people within a predominantly white space then we will acknowledge one another. But that’s only on a micro-level. On a macro-scale, we have become masters of creating spaces for ourselves. Hair salons & barbershops, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, BET Network, NAACP… we have a black national anthem!! All with the intent of uplifting and strengthening one another, for validating our place in a society not made for us. 

But our sense of community derives from our shared experiences. Many of our ancestors were slaves. Many of our living relatives grew up in segregation. For France, and many other European countries, the experiences of black europeans, while similar, are not identical nor are they shared. At any rate, its hard to have a sense of community when you don’t even know how many people of African descent live in your country. Apparently, taking an ethnic census is constitutionally banned in France. 

For Afro-french people, they’re not bound together by race as much as their family origins. If you’re a black woman from Guadeloupe, you might feel a bigger bond to people from the West Indies than to those from West Africa. Honestly, I envy greatly that Afro-Europeans know exactly where they come from and even have family that still live in those countries. I have never felt so shameful about not knowing my roots until moving here. Every time I meet an Afro-french person for the first time, the conversation goes as follows.

Them: So where are you from?

Me: I’m from the U.S!

Them: Yeah, I know. But like where are you really from?

Me: Washington, DC. 

Them: What’s your family origin I mean to say.

Me: Um…I don’t know? My ancestors were slaves so…

Them: …..

Me: …..Nice meeting you! 

In general, there’s this idea that black people are never really from whatever predominantly white country they reside in. Afro-french people can be born and raised in Paris and never feel or be seen as “french”. Even when I meet White Europeans, they are generally skeptical about my origin story but for a different reason. Because I have a lighter skin tone than most Afro-french, many assume that I am “métisse” or mixed. During my trip to Italy, an italian man told me “You’re beautiful. I love mulatto women”. The assumption really bothers me because black and beautiful are not mutually exclusive concepts homeboy! But I do love their faces of disappointment when I tell them I am proudly, undeniably, 100% BLACK. 

But let’s discuss some positives, for there are many. While Black French don’t organize against injustices in the same way we do, that doesn’t mean they aren’t having these important conversations. The Afro-fem movement seems to be really big here. I’ve seen countless articles, youtube videos, tweets, and have even been invited to conferences by Afro-feminists to discuss the interesting balance of race and gender. 

I’ve met so many black french women who are smart and woke. Clever and funny. Women who want to be a voice for their community. Women who are artists, poets, and singers. Women who are beautiful inside and out. Women who are writers. Women who are fly. Women who are college educated. Women who want to uplift and strengthen their fellow sisters. Women who want to be a vessel for serious change in their society. 

So don’t sleep on Afro-Europeans. They have a very real place in our world. 

I would be remiss not to mention the Strolling Series by Cecile Emeke, which was in truth my personal introduction to Afro-European voices. Cecile Emeke is a British woman who brilliantly decided to film black individuals across the African diaspora. The result? Unraveling the generalized blanket of our black experiences into singular, personal threads of testimony. Emeke has filmed in the Netherlands, Italy, Jamaica, and many other countries and its widespread appeal has garnered a huge Youtube following. Of course, you’ll hear the familiar stories of micro-agressions, respectability politics, and self-love affirmation. But you’ll also hear views on mental health, sexual orientation & expression, capitalism, veganism, colonial reparations, and a plethora of other subjects not often heard from black standpoints. 

If you’re interested, I would start with one of my three favorites: Two Black Friends in France , One Black Male Feminist from the UK, or A Black Actress in London

So what does it mean to be Black in Europe? I have the same answer for someone who would ask what its like to be black in the U.S. There is no simple answer. The culture, the attitudes, the ideas, the joys, the struggles of black people are not monolithic. They are varied. They are nuanced. They may intersect but they don’t coalesce. 

I write this to say there is more to the black experience than what you have experienced personally. I think its important not only to have conversations on blackness within the US but in a global context as well. And lets remind ourselves that as Black Americans, our global visibility gives us a certain level of privilege. The next time you say #BlackLivesMatter, mentally expand that demand outside of North America. When you think of the black community, challenge yourself to think beyond your own borders. 

And if you’re able, travel abroad. Talk to people. Have these discussions. Your eyes and minds will open wider than you know. 

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