It was 1:30 AM. No one was awake. Well, at least she hoped.
Her plan was to meet the others and leave before THEY noticed. She grabbed her few things and wrapped them in a rag. The sound of her bare feet crushing the sticks on the ground set off an internal alarm she was unable to snooze.
Petrified. Fear convinced her that THEY might hear her walking and release the dogs to teach her a lesson. The smell of the wounds inflicted during yesterday’s whipping made them an easy catch.
How far could she, the other ladies, and he possibly travel? She didn't know, but staying was not an option. She had to move quickly.
After meeting the three other courageous comrades for the journey north, the group left. It was four hours before sunrise, and they had to get as far away as possible. The disguise of darkness, their limited strength, and the divine light reflected from the moon guided their escape from the plantation.
Every time the wind pushed the trees to dance, their four heartbeats accelerated, the rhythms of their breaths synchronized, and all eight legs stood still. Their enslaved bodies only moved when the leader determined it was safe.
Any person that didn't follow protocol died without discussion. It was their death or the deaths of everyone.
Liberation sometimes required one death over many.
Why risk it all? Anything was better than suffering through another rape or beating by THEY. Yes, even a shallow grave that allowed animals to eat their flesh outweighed the abuse.
The illusion of freedom always prevailed over the reality of slavery.
Roxanne Gay’s collection of essays in Bad Feminist, Cheslie Kryst’s death, and Colson Whitehead’s novel, The Underground Railroad, inspired this imagined escape from slavery.
In the book Bad Feminist, Professor Roxanne Gay explores how she fits and breaks the mold of feminism. She shares how her relationships with men and music often contradict her politics with open, candid descriptions. Gay also offers thoughtful critiques of television, film, and literary works demonstrating the complexities of gender identities in our society.
Roxanne Gay's writings clarify that living as a woman of color in the United States is not all glitz and glamour.
Who knows what forces pushed Cheslie Kryst to jump from her Manhattan home? It’s too early and inappropriate to speculate about the causes of her premature death. However, following the solid cultural analyses presented in Gay’s book combined with thinking about Kryst’s roles as Miss USA, blogger, attorney, television personality, and social justice advocate, I suggest something in her private life misaligned with her public successes.
Maybe, I am wrong about Kryst. But, I know we can do better to support and work alongside Black and other women of color.
Paying more attention to current events and reading books such as Bad Feminist and Colson Whitehead’s novel, The Underground Railroad, you can see how gender, race, and sexuality comingle to support oppressive practices today. Gay’s essays illustrate how media depictions of women influence our beliefs, policies, and laws. By following Whitehead’s story of an enslaved woman, you can draw parallels to the remnants of institutional slavery in 2022.
Whether you live in the African continent or the diaspora, believe we share a beautiful history that preexists slavery with periods of royalty, peasantry, and everything else in between. Our women have played pivotal roles in society's construction, maintenance, and destruction.
During and after this Black history month, let us commit to creating more narratives about race, gender, and sexuality. These stories can find their places in blogs, articles, books, or a host of other mediums that allow you to share truths about women.
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