Black History Month Essay Contest: First Place Winner Keri Grigas
Keri is a first-year student studying Networking & Systems Administration: Cyber Security. She is originally from South Florida and plays flute, piano, and oboe. Below is an excerpt from her essay and what she said in her speech at the annual Unity Day Celebration Zoom event.
Throughout history, Black women have been leaders in movements and innovation, despite being treated as less than. We carry the weight of the world and are expected to do so with grace otherwise we are “ghetto”. “Ghetto” for being angry with the world just as anyone else when injustices impact the environment around us.
Discussing this is still an internal fight with myself as I feel the need to not complain, just take my experiences in stride… but in doing so, important conversations are not being had and thus the cycle continues.
Mental health in the black community almost seems like a taboo topic. Often, mental scars are masked by strength that we draw upon, from an inner finite well. Normally being labeled as strong is great, however not when it dehumanizes another human being.
I often felt as though my feelings didn’t matter, as though I was somehow impervious to the pain of physical ailments or racial slurs. For the longest I struggled with going to therapy as time and time again I found myself in the care of those that found my issues to be nothing more than complaints rather than cries for help. For years afterwards, my mental health declined as I avoided therapy, deciding to just shoulder it all silently as I had been taught to do so many times before. As had been expected of me, so many times before.
We are strong, however we’re human all the same and need support. We are strong, but not numb and incapable of feeling pain. Even though I am seeking help for my mental health, I am no less capable of a black woman. I still succeed in whatever I put my mind to, while making sure to reach out for help when I need it. While it is taking some time for me to break away from certain parts of this trope, I am glad that it is being talked about as I feel that there are many black women that need to hear and have conversations like these.
There is nothing wrong with being a strong black woman, but there’s a problem when it impacts our mental health. We are allowed to feel, we are valid. We are strong.