Climbing what used to be the confederate monument at the entrance of City Park in New Orleans, LA was more than just for a photo opportunity. It was a silent monologue that portrayed a snippet of the black woman’s struggle, the adversity we often face, and then….the exaltation we most definitely deserve. This picture goes beyond a black girl wearing all white while perched on a monument in the middle of a busy intersection. To me, it is a portraiture that depicts the plight of sistas.
When I was asked by Deorin Payne (the mastermind and photographer behind this shoot and the Enthroned project) to take this picture, I immediately accepted the challenge. I didn’t know which monument we would be shooting at, but I was open to whatever his creative brain had in store. When we got to the location, I got nervous.
The stone is as tall as it looks in the pictures. Metaphorically, it represented the struggle we black women often face. Just like the tall stone, life can sometimes seem insurmountable to us. Not only do we have to deal with being a woman in America, we have to deal with being a black woman in America and all the push backs that come with that beautiful reality. However, despite the odds that black women often face, we always find ways to persevere. And with that in mind, I set out to climb that tall stone. In an ankle length skirt, I proceeded to mount a ladder and ascend all the way to the top. On my way up, I thought about Harriet Tubman’s fierce journey, Sojourner Truth’s fight, Assata Shakur’s braveness, Angela Davis’ audaciousness, Fannie Lou Hamer’s assuredness, and all my other dynamic foremothers who paved the way for women like me; I instantly got an extra boost of confidence.
When I finally got to the top, I figured the rest would be a breeze. I was wrong. Adversity reared its ugly head as it always does. People began honking, some recorded me on their cell phones, and some people were frowning while possibly yelling expletive language. But here I was, nestled on top of the tall stone, drowning out the noise and posing every time the camera flashed…..another example of how black women push through despite hardships.
While up there sweating with my legs shaking, I thought to myself….”this can very well represent the experiences of being black women,” – uncomfortable, unsure at times, constant noise, discrimination, voyeurism, shady judgment, and pressure. But despite the rubbish, we endure and rise. And when we look back, we are glad we stayed the course and grateful that we left no stone unturned.
To all my sistas, gracefully tackle any challenge that comes your way because you are built for it. Rise to the occasion, sit firmly in your position, handle your business, drown out the noise and wait for the beautiful picture to unfold – it will be all worth it.
This post was written by Samjah Saulsberry and originally ran on the Secondline Blog.