My name is Safiatu Diagana and I am 19 years old. I am currently pursuing a dual degree of Global Public Health and Nursing at NYU. I live in Queens, New York and am from Mauritania, West Africa specifically the Soninke tribe.
IG Handle: @saaaaffii
“When loving yourself as a black woman brings
more shame than hurting a black woman,
that’s when the tears begin”
I sit with my sisters in my room, the laptop equipped with our playlists of Akon, Rihanna, and One Direction. We scream the lyrics that tie us back to elementary school, where playdates and friendships were the backbones of our lives. As one song slowly comes to an end, the next video is queued. But first, an ad. Of course, I mumble as I roll my eyes, ready to skip the ad. However, a deep voice booms through the speakers. “The most disrespected person in America is the black woman”. The eyes of Malcolm X seem to scan mine as I search for the meaning behind his words. I am bothered; hot tears slowly slide down my cheeks as I mumble his words instead of my favorite summer song. We are stunned, unable to captivate the reason for our silence. I don’t know how to love myself anymore.
“But to be at the wrong place
At the wrong time
To be accused of something since his skin color is his only crime
Is something his mother will never forget
But she will have mercy”
“I swear black boys are begging officers to kill them”, a woman says to her friend on an early Monday morning as the train halts to a stop. The stranger’s flaming words scorched my insides, my heart threatening to burst out of its rib cage. I wanted to scream at her. I wanted to stand up and tell her what she was saying was wrong. I wanted to do everything Martin, Rosa, and Thurgood wanted me to do but I didn’t. My voice betrayed me, getting off the previous stop and leaving me here with nothing to say. “Say something!” My body screams at me, but I simply hold onto the pole tighter as anxiety and fear pat my back for not doing anything. It’s not my problem now.
“Next time you tell a black woman to open herself to the world
Don’t place her on the highest shelf and forget about her
Let her lips move
Let her spirit prove
That she will always have mercy for you”
I whisper the last lines slowly into the microphone, watching the watery eyes of my fellow classmates. I no longer move due to fear; I move to conquer. I no longer speak when I am only asked, but for the lost black voices. The skin I once hated now glistened as my spoken word flowed through their hearts. The little girl who was once afraid to tell her story, afraid she would be taunted for her self-love, afraid of everything in the world just took the world by storm. There is nothing you can do to stop her. She is confident. She is brilliant. She is beautiful. She is me. Forever and always a proud, black woman with a voice. Call me Aoide, the muse of voice.