“When she finally stopped looking outside and turned inward, she found everything that she’d been looking for.” -Simone, The Shy Peacock
Today’s an important day in the life of The Shy Peacock. It’s the first day of the “How I Found Me” series that will bring attention to the things that push us to vibrate higher and move closer to who we truly are as individuals. A while back, I had an encounter with a person close to me that brought some things into focus about how we view and idolize others. During the encounter, the individual made some less than kind comments about a mutual acquaintance who seemed to have it all and was on a constant winning streak. I was caught off guard by the venom in this person’s voice because they had no idea what our acquaintance was really like and how she became brave enough to just be herself and allow the blessings to flow in. In response to that, I decided to invite women (and men from time to time) to share their stories on how they’ve reached places of self-acceptance and how it relates to their passion and higher calling. I wanted to know what it took for them to get in balance with themselves, even if it’s just in one area of their lives. No two stories are exactly the same and that’s what I like. I’m hopeful that you’ll like it too.
For the first installment, the spotlight will be on someone that I’ve known since our days in the youth department of the church I attended in childhood. From the time I met her, she’s marched to the beat of her own drum in the most beautiful way. She’s model gorgeous, but more important than that, she’s an advocate and activist for equality every single day of her life. She slays in her outward appearance, but slays and serves harder in the community. It’s fitting that I have the privilege to have a platform to share this story of someone from my hometown as I currently sit in my hometown to get centered with family and friends. I’m happy to present a conversation with my comrade in empowerment Chenoia Bryant.
Hi there! I’m Chenoia, and am a doctoral student at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and I teach sociology courses at the University of Alabama.
What’s the current object(s) of your focus?
Sheesh! Right now it’s a full plate. As stated previously, I just got offered a full-time position at the University of Alabama, and I also participate in a lot of local activism for LGBTQIA communities, with emphasis on transgender persons. One of the most important things in my life right now though is my autonomy, my voice. It is so important to use it right now not only in a way that empowers others but motivates them to empower someone else.
I live in a world that attempts to remind me daily that, as a black woman, I am the antithesis of that which is beautiful, humane, deserving of respect and entitled to a certain level of dignity. In that regard, my very existence is political. The fact that I draw breath is both an act of defiance and liberation. As black women, to exist beyond the boundaries that a racist, sexist, homophobic, bigoted classist society has told us to is an act of resistance. I express moving beyond those boundaries in ways that feel comfortable to me. I was just telling me my mom the other day that it sometimes seems that what is MY expression of self and MY way of being makes other folks uncomfortable. We were in Target and of course, I had on about 3 different prints and pounds of turquoise around my neck, along with having my hair wrapped up as high as I could get it in this beautiful ikat print scarf my mom gave me years ago. There was a woman with her daughters who looked at me and laughed. Like they went out of their way to make me feel uncomfortable. I told my mom it’s almost like they were not made uncomfortable by my blackness, but by the way I owned it, UNAPOLOGETICALLY. How I paid homage to what has been appropriated on runways and magazines in a most minstrel way, and I brought it to life, proudly, right before their eyes. It made me smile inside. I put them in an uncomfortable space, and their attempts to place me into a box that made them comfortable with my presence, only magnified my joy. I have been told to stay on the margins and use respectability politics to blend in all my life as a colored girl in the South. I will not shrink to make anyone feel bigger…not anymore.
I feel that my purpose is to use my passion for advocacy, education and social justice to liberate other individuals, especially those folks who are marginalized and oppressed. Self-esteem has played a major role in me coming into my own and finding my place. I said earlier that my very existence is political, and my love for myself, my self-care and liberation, are all acts of resistance. Loving myself was a first step in finding my medium to uplift and encourage others.
Well, if you can’t tell, I am very expressive and very “free,” so I want others to feel the same. I advocate for people to find their own place and their own voice. I advocate for people to be themselves in all the glory that becomes one who refuses to be defined by society’s expectations.
What is the one thing that’s most important for a woman embarking on her personal journey to know?
It will not always be easy. Sometimes, they will try to rip the vision from your very hands. But hold on; do not let them sway you. Do not let them discourage you. For if the work is in your heart, it is there for a reason. It often means you are being called to do it, and the reality is that if you don’t do it, it may never get done. Resist, my sisters, RESIST, and keep dreaming and doing. Your work WILL yield fruit.
I keep moving. It is easy to quit; it is hard to keep going. And the reality is that sometimes you have had the setback for a reason you may not understand, and to keep moving will actually mean you need to stand still and just wait…wait on the answer, the instructions, the vision. Let’s be real here. That is HARD. I love Orange Is the New Black, so I am going to quote it here. “Think of all the roads; think of all their crossings. Taking steps is easy; standing still is hard. Remember all their faces; remember all their voices. Everything is different the second time around.” For there to be a second time, that means you have to try again, and to try again, you have to be willing to take the journey, remembering that it is often about the journey and not the destination. The journey is often the lesson, and the destination is a manifestation of the blessing.
What is the one thing you know for sure?
“There are years that ask questions and years that answer.” – Zora Neale Hurston
Do you have anything else you’d like to say?
To all the beautiful little colored girls around the world if you are reading this know…”you are beautiful…you are loved…you are worthy. You are worthy of all good things. You are a good thing, and you are worth being loved…”