In the company of my sisters, see I am relaxed, relieved and refreshed. My women friends are the ones I turn to in times of need. Not in a “spiritual way,” although many of my sistah friends are fierce prayin’ warrior women. No. I mean when I need a break, or I need a laugh, those sister-friends are always good for a full-throated don’t care who’s listening laugh-out- loud kind of laugh. When I need some reflection, a hug or a good story, my sister friends are there with love, care and respect for who I am without pretense or hesitation. In the company of my sisters, I take a moment to exhale and go on a short vacation from the outside world. I take a break from that “real world” place, constantly reminding me, of life’s limitations and the politics of living as a black woman in America. I take a break and I am refreshed and renewed to begin again. I put my best foot forward and continue in the work, hoping that what I do can somehow make a difference for somebody somewhere.
One might say that as the first born of five girls, my appreciation for sister friends is inherent or more to the point, inherited. My lineage has, in fact, powerfully influenced and impacted my perspectives of friendship and sister-friends; however, it is not entirely responsible for the value I place on sisterhood. Growing up my sisters were, at times, entirely too inconvenient and time consuming but my parents made certain to instill in all of us the understanding and recognition that we were richly blessed to have one another. They told us we were rich beyond measure, not in the money in the bank kind of way of course. The metaphor was often lost in the feeling that I’d rather have money! But we were required to love one another, to support one another and to protect one another. Although we had our “classic” sibling skirmishes and battles fought, won and lost, we never had what psychologists term “sibling rivalry.” It was simply not present in our family. There were so many seeds of love planted and cultivated in the soil in which we grew, we did not have to compete with one another or sabotage each other to gain more for ourselves at the expense of the other. There was always enough to go around and the more we shared the more we had. We even had enough to share with our own individual sister-friends in the neighborhood. Yes. Five girls was not enough for our house, each of my sisters had at least one sister-friend that became yet another sister in the family. They are still present to this day at every major family event. We grew together in that kind of sistah friendship that is more valuable than gold and more precious than fine jewels. The kind of sister-love that makes us wealthy and richly blessed in ways that cannot be measured.
Sororities and organizations like Alpha Kappa Alpha, Delta Sigma Theta and the National Council of Negro Women are historic national organizations founded for and by black women to collectively pursue opportunities and break down barriers faced by these women in education, politics and society. The National Council of Negro Women was founded in 1935 to bring together and combine the efforts of organizations like these and others that represent African American Women. Leaders of the National Council have been formidable historic figures in both Black History and Women’s History. Civil rights and advocates for educational, social and political equality for women and children, Mary McLeod Bethune and Dorothy Height have both headed the National Council of Negro Women. These institutions broke barriers for African American women in areas where little power or authority existed for minorities and women in the early 20th century. There are literally millions of sisters and sister-friends who are members of these organizations and many like them today because of the value they place on the collective effort, talent and energy of the sisterhood. We are stronger together than we are when are are apart.
My mother demonstrated by her example how essential friendship is in one’s life. She taught us that to have a friend you must first be a friend and show yourself as friendly. She taught us how to care for, love and value your sister-friend and in so doing plant the “seeds” of friendship and cultivate the soil that will grow friendships into deeper friendship, lasting friendship that withstands the trials and tribulations of life’s journey. In the company of my sisters I know whatever the challenge, I am not by myself…. together we can and will persevere.
I celebrate my sisters, my sister-friends and the sisterhood in this Women’s History Month. I exhort each of you to teach one another the value of sister-friendship. I encourage you to make the investment of time and treasure that it takes to cultivate and grow that investment. In the company of my sisters I am revived…for now, more than words can express. What about you? Can you relate? Talk to me!
Artistic Director and Founder of
The Conciliation Project & Professor
At Virginia Commonwealth University
Up Next week: “Church Folks”