By Tierra Henry
Like many when I hear the term ride or die I instantly associate it with a woman who is loyal to her man (or significant other) and will stand by his side to the very end. No matter the circumstance, whether he is right or wrong. In the early years we all probably associated the ride or die to the idea of Bonnie and Clyde. However, some of us in the Black community have created newer mental pictures for how we define Ride or Die. For example, Coretta Scott King for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Betty Shabazz for Malcom X and even Tiny for TI. For a lot of us these couples provide an infinite answer of how and what the Black woman should do to remain a ride or die chick. I don’t oppose this idea; I’m not here to judge. Like my grandmother used to say, “whatever floats your boat,” LOL. I ain’t mad at you.
What I am here to do is advocate that we as Black women and African women need to Ride or Die for ourselves. We rode and continue to ride for the community, for our husbands, our boyfriends, of course our children and children of other Black women. And, while all these things are important, we will be unable to continue them if we don’t stop and “do for self!” The super woman mentality and the idea that Black women “can do it all” because we have done it all and we continue to do it —
It is hurting some of us!
Yes we are resilient! But we are also tired, drained and we are human. Why should we be expected to stay in toxic relationships? Why should we keep silent on matters of the self? Why should we constantly praise, reward and support others but not praise, reward and support ourselves? Why should the men in our lives continue to reap benefits that are not reciprocated? In a space that conditions us to actively accept passivity, the simple act to question why, is probably the most critical step to begin riding for ourselves.
Perhaps, if we knew better we just might do better. If we knew that we are allowed to love ourselves unconditionally the way we love others, we probably would not stay in toxic situations or accept things that lead to unhealthy relationships. I say “probably” because I am aware of the pathology associated with staying in broken relationships.
But, advocacy is imperative.
We must advocate the importance of riding for ourselves, like we ride for our significant others, our job, and our friends. Loving ourselves is a revolutionary act. It allows us to be powerful in our own right. Saying no to toxic relationships and yes to self-love. It is crucial and necessary.
The importance of riding for self began early for me. I grew up in a single home, raised primarily by my grandmother who took care of so many other people in addition to me. My grandmother effortlessly supported two of her three incarcerated sons, one of which was my father. These caretaking duties extended to the endless sitting of grandchildren, great-grandchildren and other children in the community. There is beauty in the unknown; I do not know if my grandmother sacrificed anything. What I do know is that Tierra (me) is doing very well. Each time I reflect on that vision it further supports why self-love/self care is valuable for the Black woman. I think my grandmother’s actions represent the misinterpretations of Black matriarchs; histories of support and ridership have been sadly interpreted as self-sacrificial and illogical. However, because Black women occupy this beautifully silent space of diligence, the duty to tend to self becomes ever more important.
There is something so revolutionary about a Black woman who knows it is perfectly fine to love thy self.
By caring for ourselves we let our daughters know, cousins, sisters, best friends, young women standing on the bus stop know that it is OK to think about the health of self. The health of self means that you are allowed to love yourself, in a way that does not make you selfish but makes you a revolutionary in the act of survival!
In the words of Jamilah Lemieux Senior Editor of Ebony Magazine “Black girls are magic and there is love to be found.” That love, Black women, starts within ourselves. I challenge you to step back, reflect and Ride or Die for self.
I would like to thank my support team, my grandmother Bernice Henry, Robert Smith, Chanetta Delain, Erica McLaurin, Khadija Jones, my amazing aunts and other Black women who encourage and impact me daily in person and through social media. Most importantly I would like to thank The Ride or Die Project for granting me the opportunity to share my voice.
Tierra Henry. Baltimore made me, grandmother saved me, Ratchet Womanist, claiming her Blackness, two stepping through the streets of Baltimore. Improving my self-love daily and encouraging Black women near, around and far to take steps in doing the same.