I’m Learning

I Have No Reason to Ever Feel Inferior

I come from a rich lineage of Black excellence

Photo: Yadira G. Morel/Getty Images

“Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave/I am the dream and the hope of the slave.”

— Maya Angelou, “Still I Rise”

In 2017 BC (before Covid-19), I had the opportunity to visit the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee, where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. The former motel is now the home of the National Civil Rights Museum where visitors can see decades of activism and achievements of Black Americans on display.

I walked through exhibits showing the Transatlantic Slave Trade, Southern lynchings, the diner sit-ins, the freedom rides, and the exact place where Dr. King lost his life. It was heavy and somber and as I took it all in, I found myself overwhelmed with emotion and I started to cry. But I wasn’t sad or even angry or scared. I felt… Powerful.

If I’m being honest, “powerful” isn’t a word I would use to describe myself. I wouldn’t call myself a highly confident person. I’m riddled with anxiety, and I suffer from imposter syndrome pretty regularly. I never even thought of myself as coming from a really powerful family with money and connections whose name carries significant weight in these streets. I always saw myself as a regular, degular girl who’s just lucky to be here.

But as I walked through that museum and absorbed all of the history within, I realized there is nothing regular or degular about my existence.

Someone in my lineage had to survive being sold and shipped across the Atlantic Ocean. Someone made a life for themselves during slavery and Jim Crow. Because of someone who wasn’t able to read or write or speak the language on this continent, I’m able to be here today as a senior editor and published writer and free human being with the nerve to doubt my inner power.

I’m learning to look to my ancestors to remember who I am and all that I’m capable of. If I ever doubt myself and all that I can be, I need only remember that survival and achievement and overcoming whatever odds are stacked against me is literally my birthright.

How dare I ever look at myself in the mirror and see anything but greatness?

There’s an old hymn we used to sing in church whose lyrics repeat “there’s power in the blood.” It’s a song about how the sacrifice of Christ on the cross protects and empowers all Christians who believe. Even if you aren’t religious, I think this refrain rings true for all Black people. There is power in the blood of Black folks. And I’m not just talking about the blood that violently spilled by racism and discrimination. There is more to our history than trauma, death, struggle, and sacrifice. We are the people who make culture pop; we set the trends. Our history is strong, it’s smart, it’s wise, it’s beautiful, it’s sexy, it’s funny, it’s creative, it’s talented, it’s brave, and it’s full of love and hope.

That legacy within me gives me confidence. I am descended from all of that. It’s all in me! *said in my best Whitney Houston impression*

This Black History Month, I’m reminded of my generational wealth. No, I didn’t grow up rich by any stretch of the imagination, but I come from a rich legacy of powerful Black men and women, whose hopes, prayers, and achievements I carry with me in every room I enter.

How dare I ever look at myself in the mirror and see anything but greatness?

I’m Learning is a weekly series of essays by ZORA senior platform editor Jolie A. Doggett about all she is learning about life through living. Follow her for more stories!

Senior Platform Editor @ZORAmag | book lover | fangirl | Black woman | Terp

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