She flips to the end of her diary. Her mind racing, and thoughts flooding, while her inner peace desperately treads the thrashing water. She touches her pen to a fresh page, ready to channel the overflow on to the paper. 

This entry is special, and the very last one in her diary. She adjusts her reading light, and a spotlight casts on the small book. She begins. 

9/23/2020 

2:02 am 

Dear Diary, 

I’m so envious of the strength that I am perceived to have. It holds me hostage to degrees of pain I don’t want to endure. It reduces my concerns and cries for justice to anger and exaggeration. It strips me of my vulnerability, this burden of strength, and holds power over me. 

My blackness and womanhood intersect, making for an experience like no other. Society ascribes a special kind of strength to me, yet I find it so hard to summon it when I need it most. I am a strong black woman. Aren’t I? As I lay in bed, grappling with the acquittal of Breonna Taylor’s killers, I am heavy with sadness. How do we convince a society that believes we can withstand struggle so well that we are indeed in need of help, and we are deserving of justice? While having the ability to command a powerful presence and overcome adversity is admirable, the expectation to be strong all the time is taxing. I am tired. I am overwhelmed. 

She places her pen down and lets out a sigh of relief. 

Her words are only the beginning of a vivid story, one that tells of a young black woman living in 2020. Overt racism continues to surface on social platforms, and we have once again taken to the streets to fight for our community. It frustrates her when she finds that the passion black women put into this fight is often unreciprocated when they are in need. 

She picks up her pen, again.

To my future self, 

I struggle to imagine who you are. Do you still like to part your hair on the left side? Are you more outgoing? Have you gotten your dream job? 

You are fifteen years older than I am now. At 19, I am still discovering myself. I am prying away at the labels attached to my identity. I am forging a path to success, irrespective of what the world thinks of me. I plan to do so with strength. One that I cultivated on my terms, a merciful strength. One that never fails to remind me of my worth and one that grants my humanity.

So I ask, who are you? What have you become? Have you developed this forgiving strength? 

Have you mastered maneuvering through a white male-dominated society? Are you the token one? Has the pain of misogynoir gotten sharper? Most importantly, how do you cope? 

She places her pen down and closes the book, securing the lock on her diary. She reaches for the bottom drawer of her dresser, and rests her book under her things, tucked away for safekeeping.

-Dahlia Woodley