Katura Hudson, what do you imagine for Black girls?
I don’t remember the class or even the name of the book we were reading. But I do remember my professor’s comment.
We were talking about a character’s need for freedom. “Free from what?” I asked. The professor called me out. Asked why the character needed to be free FROM something. It was a rhetorical question but I pressed my mind for an answer. I was limiting my idea of what it was to feel free.
Back then I would have called that irony, even though that’s not technically what irony means. But how odd, that to understand freedom I had to know what the character was trying to escape from.
Maybe it’s not odd. Maybe it’s typical. Much like when someone asks what you want to eat, or what you’re looking for in a new job, and you respond “not pizza” or “not another position in tech.” I have similar feelings about the idea of “equality.” Some people even say “equal to” — but I don’t want someone else’s life to be my measuring stick.
What I want for Black girls and women especially is what I know my professor, a Black woman, wanted for me. To be able to think, create, grow, learn, love, be — from a place of wholeness and abundance. Learning for ourselves what joy feels like and living in it. Or sometimes not living in it and knowing that’s okay too. Knowing that freedom stands on its own. That the word “from” doesn’t have to be a factor. That maybe, “freedom” doesn’t even need a definition.
Infinity pools, stretches of sand, and singing along to favorite songs. Big earrings and bold lip colors in corporate spaces. Letting your hair blow. Getting lost in words. Discovering your gifts. Changing your mind. Speaking up, staying quiet, holding your ground, and letting stuff go. Knowing that people are watching and dancing anyway. Understanding that just by being here, you’re worthy. You don’t have to earn it. No accomplishments needed.
All that is freedom for me. Freedom is being — and knowing that a goal doesn’t have to be attached to your journey. Ask me tomorrow and I may imagine a different list. Or no list at all. Because the thing about freedom is that we each define it for ourselves.
Katura Hudson is a children’s book author and a communication strategist. Her latest book, I’m A Big Sister Now, illustrated by Sylvia Walker, won the 2019 Benjamin Franklin Award for picture books. You can find her on Twitter and IG (@Arutak1) posting about books, diversity & inclusion, and gushing over New Edition.