I’ve never came across a feminist work that left me as amped the way this book had.
After reading Straight No Chaser: How I Became A Grown-Up Black Women by Jill Nelson, I was in awe by her common-sense based knowledge and courageous mindset.
Who is this woman? How is she so fierce? How is she so soberly aware? And where the hell was she now?!
From the moment you turn to the introduction, Jill becomes the instructor ready to unload her perspective on the decades considered pivotal in our US history – the 1960s- 1990s.
It was during these imperative historical times that, according to Jill, black women missed the boarding train to gaining true political presence in this country.
And I bet she’d attribute this issue as to why black women are now among the lowest earning group in the U.S., and in the bottom of the totem pole, for just about everything else.
Millennial terminologies like, “woke” are nothing compared to the awareness Jill possessed during those times. Nelson’s third eye had to be all the way open for the kind of tea she spills.
If the majority of young people today cared as much as she had, people would transform from ineffective social media addicts who rant about whatever hot issue of the moment to actually attempting to stand for, and eradicate them… wouldn’t that be something?
A voice like hers makes you want to ask yourself, “whatever happened to this level of honesty and passion in people, particularly women, nowadays?”.
Voices like Jill are rare. Rare in the sense that they’re not afraid to speak their minds, tell their truths, and deal with a few enemies along the way.
They’re not afraid to cause a ruckus. Be deemed “un-lady-like”. Look unattractive or otherwise, and that’s because voices like Jill possess the kind of self-esteems that’re not built on the approval of the same rules and guidelines created to demean them.
The only other person I hear that isn’t afraid to scream her truths till the cows come home is Amanda Seales, but she’s part of a small collective who’re doing the work, and that’s not enough. It’s not acceptable.
Jill’s audacious, tell-it-like-it-is nature and keen perceptions of society is amazing, and addicting to read, and aside from being inspiring, she truly makes you question all the stuff in the past that seemed like it benefited everybody else, but the black woman.
Don’t get me wrong, the Civil Rights movement was pushed by blacks, and with the help of white alliances, enacted equal rights for everyone non-white. But was that the true plight of the Civil Rights movement?
After all, major civil rights leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. were slain right at their peak. Right when they were tap dancing on the FBI’s last nerve and pissing off rich white racists.
To add to that, let us not forget that many black women during those times were shamefully silenced and hidden from the movement as to not jeopardize it. Perfect example being the case with Claudette Colvin, the first black woman arrested for refusing to get off the bus (and Rosa was playing the game too because she went along with it… go figure).
Although I’d consider Jill’s words eloquent, they were also raw and very passionate. It was her rawness and audacious nature that stirred something deep within me.
While self-help books like Own Your Own Glow by Latham Thomas helped me to reemerge as my higher self while claiming the bad ass that I am, Jill’s work implanted an unveiled truth about the state of the black woman in America while dismantling the patriarchal rhetoric that many blacks continue to take in without question.
In doing so she ignited a fire in my soul while placing a torch in my hand, ensuring that I’m well equipped to do the same for other women.
On the very last page of her book, Jill leaves us with these emboldened, beautiful words:
There are mirrors scattered in odd places around my house. I catch my reflection tying my shoes, reading in my favorite chair, turning a corner. There are pictures of black women I like tucked in unexpected places too. Fannie Lou Hamer, Joycelyn Elders, Dinah Washington, Maxine Waters, Aretha, Winnie Mandela, Sarah Vaughan, Queen Latifah, Harriet Tubman, Cassandra Wilson, Myrlie Evers, women I know and women I never met whose strength and sense of self is abundant.
These mirrors and pictures remind me that I, we, exist, and of all the magnificent things we have done and can do. A black woman’s custom-made funhouse of affirmation. They help sustain me when I leave the house every day, just another barely visible sister, who as Mississippi activist Fannie Hamer said, is sick and tired of being sick and tired, fighting against erasure, for voice and respect.
It’s so important that we honor the movers and the shakers who’ve hailed before us. They paved the way so that we can strive to become the entrepreneurs, politicians, doctors, lawyers, activists, and community leaders that we stand as today.
Many will claim to have played a part in the black woman leveling up, but we know who to really thank.
Honoring them means continuing the legacy of greatness, a legacy where we don’t stand for anyone’s shit. Not even our own.