If you are reading, I’m willing to bet that someone in your life, at some moment in your life, has told you to "remain true to yourself and everything will work out." But what does that mean? I'm sure that this adviser was encouraging you to be authentic, but again, WHAT THE HELL DOES THAT MEAN?! I can't be that only one who occasionally thinks that "authenticity" is some platitude that people say when they don’t have real advice to offer. Webster defines authenticity as being “true to one's own personality and spirit; or their character is sincere.” I don’t resonate much with this definition, mostly because it is too simplistic for practical use. You may be shocked to learn that I don’t have a more profound alternative definition to offer. Now Natasha, why the hell would you name your blog after something you don’t even know? Answer: Because I'm still figuring it out.
I often wonder if authenticity is something people can “just be.” Do you remember the ending of The Pursuit of Happiness, where Chris Gardner (portrayed by Will Smith) uttered that iconic line, “maybe happiness is something that we can only pursue and maybe we can never have it?” I think authenticity is kind of like that. I mean we have “authentic moments,” where we are open and honest with ourselves and others, and there are times when we are simply not. Perhaps authenticity can not be defined because it is an experience, an unique individualized experience. Just maybe, it is defined by the ways that people experience it. I'm less interested in achieving authenticity and more interested in the process it takes to get there. I believe that there is magic in that process. I've only been on my journey toward authenticity for a few years now, but here are my knowing about the process:
Authenticity is the process of understanding and practicing self-love. It is learning hearty habits and unlearning pestilent practices. It is standing in what you know to be true. It is an on-going, life-long journey--full of highs and lows, fuck ups and aha moments.
Throughout my life I’ve been constantly invited to be my authentic self. Growing up, my Momma always told me that good things would happen as long as we don't “put on” for anybody. (“Put on” is a Black folk speak to describe the act of using a superficial personality or emotion to make others like you). I wasn’t much of a church goer growing up, but the times I was there, the church encouraged to “come as you are,” as long as you weren’t too outwardly queer. As I got older and began the job interview process, I was advised to “just be myself” as long as I wasn’t too Black . There seems to be a consensus that our authenticity will lead us to great, momentous achievement as long as that authenticity lies between the parameters that persons in power have set for us.
In his renowned book, Between the World and Me, Ta-Nahesi Coates posed the question “How do I live free in this Black body?” Coates argued that someone— both institutions and people— are always out to snatch Black bodies rather to exploit, extinguish, imprison, or objectify. Naturally I wondered, “Well shit, how do I live free in this Black Queer Female body,” specifically in a context that politicizes and weaponizes my identities? Black bodies are devalue and discarded by paid public servants. Queered bodies are beat and gunned down at night clubs. Female bodies can be grabbed by the pussy and the perpetrator is elected president. Where do I find place and space to live free and be authentic? How can I escape the impending and everlasting threat of body terrorism?
I can't truly escape, but I damn sure can write about it. I developed AuthenticBlackGirl.com (aka NatashaMLee.com) to document my journey toward authenticity, while navigating sociopolitical systems of racism, sexism, and heterosexism. This blog is my accountability and reminder to engage in self-care, self-love, and self-compassion. It is intended to be a place of mental, physical, and spiritual healing, where I can center both joy and pain, and most importantly it’s a space of learning and unlearning, healing and letting go.
TO BE CLEAR: I am NOT the "Authentic Black Girl" because authenticity is a journey not a destination. I only aspire to be authentic. The blog is NOT design to give advice, but rather to bring about my own enlightenment. In the process, I hope to help others begin their own journey toward authenticity. I invite you all to follow my blog because I want us all to heal holistically and to become happier and healthier versions of ourselves. Remember, there is magic in the process.