Since Trayvon Martin's death in 2012, his mother, Sybrina Fulton has been seen as a warrior in the #BlackLivesMatter movement. She has founded the Travyon Martin Foundation, served as spiritual support to Black families, has spoken out at rallies, organized protests, and been relentless behind closed-door meetings fighting for justice for her son and other black men who have been killed unjustly.
Most recently, on February 5, the day that Trayvon would have turned twenty years old, she was asked how she was feeling on a television interview. I stopped what I was doing and turned up the volume. I wondered if she was willing to explicitly articulate, with her words, the visible weariness and acute sadness communicated in her eyes.
To paraphrase, she said that waking up on the morning that should have been her son's birthday was painful. She said that she wanted to stay in bed; on that day, nothing went right and she wished the day could have ended sooner.
I was relieved that Ms. Fulton seized this opportunity to express her full humanity. Equally important, I'm glad that America had a chance to see Ms. Fulton outside the caricature of the steely, strong, and fierce freedom fighter that we, as a nation have fully supported and embraced and should take responsibility in co-creating. For black and white folk alike, the "black woman built outta brick" is part of our national identity and consciousness; despite its empirical lack of veracity, we cling to this ideal at time of national crisis for a sense of collective comfort.
Instead of dissembling and minimizing the pain of the death of her baby as to stay strong for the movement, Ms. Fulton stood firm in her vulnerability and reminded the world that she is complex, human, and with every right to be seen as such.
I hope this act of public self-defining and self-healing is not overlooked. In a nation, where the intersection of race, gender, class, and policy, create heavy, unbearable realities for many black women to shoulder; and where we are asked to bury our pain and endure (preferably in silence), Sybrina Fulton, in stating that she was not okay, was asking more of herself, more of her community, and more of her country.
We need more of this.
Earlier this week, Justice Ginsburg was interviewed and asked her thoughts about the success of the women's rights movement. Justice Ginsburg chronicled the various waves of triumph that women have achieved through the struggles of the movement: more equal wages, reproductive rights, and the dismantling of widespread stereotypical views around women working outside of the home.
And while these are wins, albeit uneven, and in favor of white women and women with means or access to capital, I would have to agree with Justice Ginsburg when she argued that the next wave of feminist work lies in fighting unconscious bias.
As black women continue to serve as the backbone of our homes, faith-based organizations, and communities and strive to create a new sense of normalcy with arguably fewer emotional and financial resources in the midst of tragedy, it is important that we stop and remind ourselves that, like the black male lives lost unfairly to violence, the black lives of the black women that are left behind to hold things down and keep things together also matter; how well these black women attend to their feelings also matters; and how we fight against the distorted and limited belief that black women facing ungodly levels of suffering can toil without tears or strive without a stumble also matters.
When we replace oppressive beliefs and expectations around Black women's inexhaustible strength and capability with more accurate and robust understandings of our complex humanity, we not only honor ourselves, but we also teach our daughters and others to do the same.
This post is part of the "Black Future Month" series produced by The Huffington Post and Black Lives Matter for Black History Month. Each day in February, this series will look at one of 28 different cultural and political issues affecting Black lives, from education to criminal-justice reform. To follow the conversation on Twitter, view #BlackFutureMonth -- and to see all the posts as part of our Black History Month coverage, read here.