Just four years after leaving Howard University’s Washington D.C. campus, Zora Neale Hurston penned one of her most seminal essays, “How it Feels to Be Colored Me.” Within the text, which was originally published in The World Tomorrow, Hurston describes what it was like [for her] to be black in the early 1900s.
“But I am not tragically colored,”Hurston wrote. “There is no great sorrow dammed up in my soul, nor lurking behind my eyes. I do not mind at all…Even in the helter-skelter skirmish that is my life, I have seen that the world is to the strong regardless of a little pigmentation more or less. No, I do not weep at the world–I am too busy sharpening my oyster knife.”
Nearly ninety years later, How have things changed for black women in America? As Washington D.C. boasts one of the largest populations of black women in the country, The Bridge decided to stop by The Ubiquitous Women’s Expo to find out exactly how it feels to be a black woman in the DMV.
Erin Arnes, 24
Just because of the fact that D.C. is a hub for politics, it is very diverse…. you’re going to see a lot of white people, if you’re in Southeast, you’re going to see a whole lot of black people, if you’re in Bladensburg, you’re going to see a whole lot of latinx people. So, it kind of depends on where you are in the city. I personally haven’t really experienced or dealt with any prejudice. I’m also a part of the queer community…I feel, in general, being a person of color in this time and day it’s very difficult moving through life and having to fear any type of prejudice from anyone on any given day it’s challenging but D.C. has done its best.
Alex Proctor, 13
It is amazing. I love living in the DMV area because I just see so many beautiful brown skin women and we all love each other. I really just want girls to love themselves and I don’t really like when girls get picked on or bullied for how they look or for having hair that is ‘nappier.’ My business is Curlinista and I want to teach girls you’re beautiful, no matter how you look. We sell a curl cream, detangler, and a curl custard.
Brittany Williams, 29
It has its ups and downs – ups being basically we are almost 100 % black it’s definitely a lot of love here for sure, but we celebrate each other we make sure we support each other, just like we are here at the expo. It can have its downs because of the police brutality. It’s not just men, it’s women too. I don’t watch a lot of news anymore. A lot of my friends get pulled over and get things planted on them by cops of different races and it just shouldn’t happen.
Mayia Branch, 27
It is a blessing and it’s also pressure. You have to stand up for what you believe in. There’s pressure due to social media looking at standards for what people look like. I love being black. I would be mad if I wasn’t, the fact that they’re mad, I would be mad too. It’s a job in itself. gentrification is taking place so they’re trying to push us out. and we’re like ‘no’ we aint going anywhere.’ we gotta represent. The main issue was when they tried to tell us to turn our music off — number one thing, you will not mute D.C.
Jalisa & Janelle Odom, 22 & 19
Jalisa: I think it’s empowering to live in D.C. because there’s so much culture. It’s very diverse, you can be exposed to a lot of different walks of life and professions. It does have its cons, being a black woman, but I think that’s the same for anywhere. You have to work twice as hard to prove yourself or meet certain standards overall. I think it’s good because of the access, exposure and culture.
Janelle: It can be hard sometimes. You always have to prove yourself, especially at Howard. People there are on the higher end of things. I would definitely say kind of bougie, a little bit. Honestly, trying to be your best — not even the bougie side of it, the educational standard and [the standard] just being a successful black person is so high. Trying to work hard, but it also pushes you at the same time.