Rust: A Black Woman’s Story of Growing Up in Northeast Ohio
Black women I know from home have stories that often go unnoticed and untold
I only know weathered women. Women like my great-grandmother who stared at the lines on her palm to predict a change in the air. Like my aunt, an exercise instructor who ran away to Chicago only to return home with a stroke. And my grandmother, who left one morning in her burgundy Pontiac. She died three months later, after the car accident. My mom withered down to 90 pounds while taking care of my grandmother when she was in a coma. I lost my memory.
For the women I know, shouldering the burden of unemployment, drug addiction, and family dysfunction comes at a high price. Some were abused. Many died. Some loved thick, but that kind of love was never returned. Others left for a short time and came back, maybe because of shame or guilt or maybe because Northeast Ohio was all they really knew.
In places like Northeast Ohio, where it seems only working-class White Trump voters exist, Black women are living in racially segregated neighborhoods, and their babies are dying at alarming rates, all while leading the fight against corrupt law enforcement agencies. Though some studies give us a sense of the social and environmental stressors Black women confront in the Rust Belt, more often than not, statistics aren’t disaggregated by gender and race, making it even more pressing that Black women’s stories from the Midwest are told.
In this region of the country, home is possessive. And the choice to leave, when presented, is rarely an easy one. You either leave Northeast Ohio for better opportunities, or you stay to build a life. This choice is especially salient for Black families. Despite social conditions that have plagued the lives of poor and low-income Black Americans, there’s still a shared sense of struggle and history that makes this place we call home ours.