I accept my crown. I have been called a Queen. A legend. A moment that garnered me a loving hug and eyes of wonderment from my eldest son one Wednesday night in early 2021, when Moneybagg Yo released ‘Time Today.’
…But I digress, like I always do when I am associated with greatness. I don’t know why I have shied away from the light and the glory. I’m unpacking that in therapy. (I’ll figure it out. I’ll get there — I always do.) That’s my duality: I strive for greatness, yet am hesitant to wear the crown. Perhaps it is because I don’t think I have yet arrived at greatness. I used to look outside of myself, looking for the hardware from others to validate such claims. And even as I have shed that need for external validation, I still haven’t found a way to fully embrace what is often offered to me in sweet, kind words, graphics on t-shirts, and fun crown emojis on my social media platforms.
But… by not accepting my crown, and not sitting on my throne, is to devalue those that do see me. They are brave, bold enough to name what they see, and to claim what inspires them. And for that, I say, “Forgive me. I accept my crown.” I have been told that I raised a generation of millennials who discovered their humanity in the hours of television that babysat them, allowing them some time on the sofa next to their moms and aunties. I have been told by those millennials that I reflected their humanity back to them. That time in the early aughts was a time when they could hear their elders laugh at the truth in themselves, and their girlfriends, and the men they loved, in the characters mirroring back their humanity.
They were a time when the very women who tucked them into bed every night talked back to the TV when Toni, Joan, Maya, or Lynn were out of line. A time when natural hair and weaved hair were equally celebrated and showcased. A time when varied hues of brown skin were represented. A time when the “Superwoman,” “Bad and Bougie,” “I can do bad all by myself,” “Oh Hell No,” and “Lost and Lovable,” could all break bread together, and laugh, argue, and support one another through the changes of being a Black woman in the world. I have been accused of hiding cameras in every Black woman’s house when I painted the portrait of Mary Jane. I knew we all needed the aliases of Mary Jane to air out our secrets because the truth is, we’re not always a strong enough as Black women to admit them to the world, let alone to ourselves.
I have been revered for being vulnerable [read: strong] enough to take the leap of love and to believe in a man that society said was not my equal… and then to lovingly tell our story of what love is. I have been there; so much so. It was the authentic giving of myself; lending myself as the vehicle through which an experience of community could be shared. The work that flowed through me has been studied — it shifted thesis statements. It has led academics to deeper levels of discovery and language in discussing Black women and men and our modern human existence.
I am grateful that I am still here to wear it and to stake claim to my life. I am indeed a Queen who has forged ahead after loss, being a public testimony that proves nothing is a loss if one surrenders to God’s Plan. I am still here, deciding to rock my grey hair and declare its beauty and regality. I am still here rebuilding and chasing dreams like I’m fresh out of college, with nothing but hopes and dreams in my pocket. I am still here spending the blood, sweat, and tears of my ancestors on a life well-lived, always remembering to leave the door open for others.
“They are brave and bold enough to name what they see and to claim what inspires them. And for that, I say, “Forgive me. I accept my crown.”
I am still here teaching a generation of storytellers how to make the sausage — and smartly enough to adjust the recipe for the changing times. I am still here seeing the potential in others, just as I continue to see the potential in myself. I am still being vulnerable enough to bet on someone and to give them their first taste of their dreams while I slow cook my own. I am proud of the legions of Black artists in this business that have blossomed because I doused them with care from my watering can, a watering can that is led by my heart, aka the spout of God’s whisper.
And because I am still here, I will continue to lead… but this go-round, I will take some moments for adoration, to know the joy of a coronation, and to sit on my throne right smack dead center, InTheLandOf Mara.
WORDS: Mara Brock Akil
PHOTOS: Mara Brock Akil Archives