The attack occurred on February 22, 2020. One year ago this week.
They were only slightly older, but I did not know the three women in their early thirties—these Strangers— who jumped me. Leaving a bar in Fells Point with my partner and two other friends, the women came out of nowhere and threw me through a storefront window. Much of the event remains a blur, however I remember feeling the weight of one of them pinning me down while they all ripped my locs out by the roots. I remember saying to the woman on top of me something like, “queer Black woman to queer Black women, this is not what it needs to be – and for your safety as well as mine can it just stop?” The cops were called, the women ran away, and I was left with a myriad of injuries including a cast on my arm, staples in my head, and stitches in my hand that would send me to physical therapy to regain feeling in my pinky finger.
It was a life changing experience. The kind that makes you reevaluate things. Ambivalence reigns inside my mind and heart. I remain proud of myself for not losing my temper – and angry for not losing my temper because maybe I could have protected myself more. I remain saddened that this horrific act was committed not only by women but by queer Black women – and angry for yet another instance of Black-on-Black crime. I remain convinced that random acts of violence are always unacceptable and should bring consequences – yet hurt that this could lead to more Black bodies in the system.
One year later I’m realizing that while I have grown from this event, I also carry deeper scars than anyone can see. There was no time to grieve or process this trauma or this traumatic event, because shortly thereafter COVID-19 took the stage and the world shut down. BLM protests began in earnest after George Floyd’s murder, joining Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and the 2020 election as the west coast caught fire and the raging pandemic raged on. Now the storming of the capitol and so much more lies at the center of things. This year has been disproportionately toxic for the mental health of Black and Brown people, and in the grand scheme of 2020 events, my mugging seems but a drop in the bucket. Add in the ongoing historical trauma of Black experience, and my own suffering recedes even further. When would there have been a time to fully process?
So, I put a band aid over my trauma. It took a long time of being uncharacteristically apathetic, on edge and sad, to realize what I was doing to myself. Of course being Black in America, a woman in America, and a lesbian in America – you would assume I had the band-aid response down pat by now. And I do. I learned long ago to let certain things roll off me, because if I addressed all the hate, there would be no time to live. There is a time and place for everything. There are spaces in which to be loud and make yourself heard. But TOO often, when you open up and share back all the dissonant energy you receive; it proves the point of why you were afraid to be vulnerable in the first place.
We need each other.
For all the people who don’t share what they have going on because it seems small or unimportant or not as bad as what other people are experiencing – for all the folks who think their experiences, feelings and vulnerabilities don’t deserve to be aired out – for all my friends who hold down the fort for everyone else while their insides are breaking, I have a word. No experience is TOO small or unimportant. Sometimes, you don’t have to be strong. Chances are there is someone who would love to share your space, be vulnerable, acknowledge where they are, and name their pain and yours. And it won’t matter if it’s physical, mental, emotional, spiritual or some complex combination – in the end we call it mental health.
YOUR experience, YOUR truth, is valid and valuable. Your mental health is crucial and you cannot stay healthy alone against trauma that will always come. At the end of the day we must not be desensitized. It’s okay to not be okay. We must not be “okay” with the evil we see in the world, nor can we become numb to it. This doesn’t mean we let it consume us. It means we let it grow us; we let it stoke our fire against injustice. We need each other.
The concept of “mental health” carries a variety of connotations depending on the circle you occupy. At the very top of the many things I hope for in the wake of COVID-19, more open discussion around mental health in Black and Brown communities is my deepest wish. I agree with actress Tarajii P. Henson in her efforts when she declares, “Without a concerted effort to prioritize Black mental health and reverse the downward trends in mental health in the Black community, Henson says the future of a generation of Black children is at stake.”
Because we start so far behind, too many of us have learned to “be okay” and never show weakness. This hurts all of us. In the wake of personal violence and ongoing self-examination, I beg my peers to open up with yourselves and others you can trust. Can we acknowledge that everyone needs a little help at times? As I finally allow myself to process more deeply, here’s the most valuable thing I’ve recognized so far. Finding and building healthy community for mutual support is the very best way to stay afloat.
A note for my sisters: You can find therapists of color and resources in Mental Health meant for you here…
- Health In Her Hue: “A digital platform connecting Black women to culturally competent healthcare providers, telehealth services, and health content.”
- Therapy for Black Girls: “an online space dedicated to encouraging the mental wellness of Black women and girls.”