I remember when I got my first period. I had just got finished bragging to my best friend about how I hadn’t gotten it yet. Three days later, I innocently went to go to the bathroom and it was like a crime scene had exploded in my underwear. My ovaries decided it was high time for a meet and greet, puberty edition. I pulled my underwear up (and died inside a little bit), went to my Mom, and whispered more quietly than I had ever done at a funeral, “I got my p-e-r-i-o-d. I need p-a-d-s.” Yes, I whispered and spelled like I was talking about a secret in front of a two year old.
Fast forward to five days of what will be quite a large chunk of the rest of my life, my period ended. But...I was still wearing pads. It took about two weeks before my Mom pulled me aside and asked me why I was wearing pads when I wasn’t on my period. She patiently explained that I had to count twenty-eight days from the last day of my period, then I start wearing pads again. I was ecstatic! I had been liberated! I could walk around a free woman! But I was still nervous, so I didn’t wear white pants for the entire time I was in high-school (and if we’re being honest, I still don’t).
While 13 year-old Cassia knew her period was a normal thing, I know that many other girls think something is seriously wrong when they first get their period. I know young women who got cramps for the first time and thought they were inches away from certain death. As someone with severe cramps, it’s not that hard to see why they would think that. Educating our young black girls on what a period is, why and how it happens, and what to do to make your Red Sea the easiest sea you’ll ever have to cross is crucial.
Everyone experiences periods differently, too. Twenty-eight days wasn’t a schedule my body followed when I first got my period, so I only had a vague clue as to when my ovaries would express their disapproval of my precious unused egg. Some women don’t get cramps, some only get mild cramps, or some, like me, have such severe cramps that it can them out for an entire day. Some periods only last two days, some last a full seven days. It varies from woman to woman. Proper education on what’s going with your body makes experiences a lot less scary. That education includes making sure that our girls know that their period isn’t taboo or shameful.
All in all, the female human body is pretty interesting. If time is an oven, we’re kind of like cake! We go through some incredible bodily changes as we grow older and it’s important that we understand what’s incredible. Don’t be ashamed to ask questions and understand what’s going on beneath the surface.
My body has lightning bolts.
They are on my sides, my butt, and my thighs. These lightning bolts may appear, to the less informed, that they are just stretch marks. But they are more.
You see, the lightning on my thighs reminds me that I must walk like my feet are the cause of thunder.
The lightning on my sides reminds me that every time I take a breath, I must breathe in greatness and breathe out excellence.
The lightning on my butt...well, I’m still working on what my body is trying to tell me with that one.
Most of all, the lightning on my body reminds me that it is necessary for me to love every part of who I am. I must love my color, my mind, my hair, my lightning bolts, my thighs (that are indeed made of thunder), my lips, my eyes, my smile, my nose. I must love me.
But I know that this isn’t an easy task, especially when your body type, race, or hair (or all three!) aren’t represented as often as they should be. Loving yourself isn’t always a walk in the park or a piece of cake, but something that takes serious effort. However, take it from me, the result makes all of that work completely, undoubtedly, and wonderfully worth it.
When you love yourself, you begin to see how valuable you are as a person. You glory in your personhood. You are comfortable being a black person, a black woman. It is that understanding that helps you to know exactly how you must be treated. You will then exude an aura of expectation that alerts those around you that you are aware of the respect you deserve from them. And they had better deliver.
My wonderful people, we are powerful, excellent, amazing. We are earth-shaking, stereotype-defying, groundbreaking people. We don't reach for the stars because we are them. Instead, our hands are outstretched to grab even greater. We have cornbread and resilience deep in our souls, spirituals woven in our hair, rhythm in our hands and feet. We have generations of stories on our tongues, laughter and smiles on our lips, unshakeable joy in our hearts, brilliance in our minds, and natural skill in our fingertips.
And we must love ourselves.
Baby Anulika is officially 13 days old! Her umbilical cord fell off a few days ago and that’s when it really hit me – this girl is getting older! Today I can count her age in days. Soon it will be weeks. Then months. And any day now she’ll be coming to tell me she’s having her first period LOL. The gift I’ve been given does not escape me. Every day I thank God for the opportunity to love her.
I’m feeling very tearful and hormonal…I hope this isn’t the onset of postpartum
depression? Maybe it's just the Postpartum Blues. I’ll make sure to leave the house tomorrow and get some air. Baby came two weeks early so none of my family is here. I’m sure the distance isn’t helping with my mental state. Luckily, my big sister arrives tomorrow and her visit should help. After her my aunt, then Baby’s grandmother, then my sister and brother – GAH I’m getting excited just typing this!
Physically, I’m feeling good. My energy level is up and my milk is in. I’m only ten pounds over my pre-pregnancy weight and can’t wait to get back into the gym. Endorphins. E-N-D-O- R-P- H-I- N-S!!!!
So Grateful. So Thankful.
Do you understand how little 2% is? When you have 2% of something, you are missing 98% of whatever that object is. 2% milk is missing 98% of the fat. A loading bar at 2% has 98% percent that still has to load. When you have 2% of a dollar you have only two pennies. You are missing out on the other 98 pennies. Two percent of ten dollars is only twenty cents, and so on. But who cares? Why is 2% significant? Well, 2% is significant because that is the percentage of Science and Engineering Bachelor degrees awarded to African American women in 2010.
My name is Cassia Trusty. I am currently a rising sophomore at Villanova University and my major is Computer Engineering.
I am incredibly proud of my major and am excited to pursue this degree. Even so, I recognize that while it is important to express my excitement, I also must deliver the truth of what it's like to be a black female engineer.
When I think about my experience, a word that comes to mind is “intimidation”. Within the first month of being at Villanova, I had someone suggest I get tested for a learning disability and that I consider changing my major from engineering. While I don't claim that this comment held racial or sexist intent, it was still an eye-opening experience.
I had earned my way to Villanova through preparation that took place throughout my entire educational career. Of the 17,235 applications for the class of 2020, I was one of the 1,670 students who were accepted. I, Cassia Trusty, had been accepted into Villanova University to pursue (at the time) a Chemical Engineering degree. The same major that, when I told people, was met with “Ouch! That's one of the tough ones!”. And yet, here I still found myself, face to face with someone who so strongly doubted my abilities, that they felt the need to clearly voice their opinion.
I was already firm in who I was. I knew my capabilities. This was not the first oppositional voice I had heard. I did not take the bait. There are times when it is not up to us to insist that we have certain abilities. Instead, our actions must do the talking.
It is intimidating to be a black female engineer at a predominantly white institution. But you will notice that I said I am “currently” studying at Villanova. Intimidation has no hold on me. I am here, and here I will stay. As a woman. As an intelligent woman. As an intelligent black woman. I shall not be moved.
As you may or may not know, one DoD Founder is on maternity leave and the other Founder is on international leave. I'm Dr. Joy, the one who is in Zanzibar! Shout out to Dr. Nenna though who is mastering breastfeeding while I'm teaching ultrasound. As apart of Social Media Summer Camp, we are blogging! One Doc Blog and one Teen Blog to keep things intergenerational!
First, I want to introduce you to this amazing place called Zanzibar, Tanzania. It is in East Africa and is definitely apart of the African Diaspora. The national language is Swahili, basically all of the words used in Kwanzaa come from Swahili. I'm living on a small island called Pemba, which is apart of Zanzibar. It's roughly a 99% Muslim island, so while living here most women are expected to dress conservatively. The American doctor who was here before me had to cover her hair for Ramadan, or month of fasting. I usually never show my arms or legs when I am in public places.
Every weekday I drive around the island to different hospitals to teach doctors, midwives and other clinical workers on how to perform ultrasound on pregnant women. It's difficult to teach ultrasound in general, but what makes this experience unique is that I teach a majority of the time in Swahili. As a black woman who is not Tanzanian and coming back to volunteer to teach, the doctors and midwives are very receptive. Speaking Swahili is also a bonus for them. It’s a way for me to give back to the diaspora, as a daughter of the diaspora.
Did you know that Dr. Nenna and I both speak African languages? We were the first students ever awarded Language Certificates in an African Language at Harvard College. Dr. Nenna speaks Igbo, the language of her parents, which she learned completely at Harvard. When we started Daughters of the Diaspora, we were actually on vacation in Zanzibar together five years ago. This trip is like a homecoming for us and for Daughters of the Diaspora, Inc. So glad we can take you on the ride. Stay tuned for more adventures in Zanzibar next Wednesday!
Launching in July!
Dear Daughters. Dear Diaspora. Dear Diary. is an introspective blog of different women of the African Diaspora's voices to aid in the self-development of adolescent females of this community. The goal is to lend a voice to the work of Daughters of the Diaspora, Incorporated.
Each post is different. Either they are addressing younger girls as in the heading "Dear Daughters" or they may address the African Diaspora as a whole in the salutation "Dear Diaspora." Finally, "Dear Diary" is used to address one's self and help girls see black women encourage themselves but still be honest about their emotions and feelings.