“When Black Girl Magic Becomes Black Girl Tragic” Joy Bryant Shares The #MeToo Story, That Resulted In Her Birth
The #MeToo movement has unearthed so many stories we would have never heard if it weren’t for the exposing of so much deplorable behavior in Hollywood to your local neighborhood. Recently, actress Joy Bryant shared her deceased mother’s #MeToo story, the story that resulted in her birth.
In all of the #MeToo conversations, Bryant admitted that of course, she reflected on her own experiences with sexual assault. But on her birthday, she also reflected on her mother.
“On October 18, 1974, Joyce gave birth to me, not in love but in shame, after hiding her pregnancy from my grandmother for six months. I am the product of a fifteen-year-old girl and an older man she knew. It doesn’t matter how or why or when. It happened, and with both my mother and my father dead, I’ll never know the specifics. What matters is that no one protected her before or after. What matters is that my mother was the one who was shamed. What matters is that my father ruined her life just as it was blossoming. What matters is she was trapped in a trauma she could never escape, a trauma that prevented her from being the mother I needed her to be. What matters is that she didn’t matter. And because she didn’t matter, I didn’t matter to her.”
Bryant writes that her relationship with her mother was so fraught, she was wrapped in her own victimhood to acknowledge that her mother was hurting too.
“A family member once told me, “Your mother ain’t been right since she had you.” I was eighteen at the time and thought I knew what he meant. She was just “crazy.” It was the night before my grandmother’s wake, and Joyce and I had a big fight. She didn’t appreciate how I was speaking to her, and I didn’t appreciate her grabbing me, so we went at it. It was the first time I ever hit back. Years of anger and disappointment will do that to you sometimes. As family members pulled us apart, my mother yelled, ‘Your grandmother ain’t here to protect you anymore, bitch! Imma get you!’
What was I supposed to do with that?
While she was alive, my grandmother did what she could to protect me, but she didn’t do enough to protect her own child. I’ll never know how she felt about that. Guilt? Shame? Embarrassment? My grandmother took on the full responsibility of raising me. Was I her chance to make it right? She became the mother to me that neither my mother nor I had had. Was my mother jealous of that, and did that only add to her resentment and our estrangement?”
While Bryant and her mother did not get along, in her adulthood, she realizes that there was no way the two could have ever denied each other.
“But I was always my mother’s child, no matter how much I tried to erase her or how much she pushed me away. In addition to our similar names, we looked just like sisters but spent most of our lives living as enemies. I became everything she wasn’t, everything she could have been if she hadn’t had me when she did, the way she did. So much of who I am as an artist is a reflection of who she was and could’ve been. She had more talent in her pinky than I possess in my entire being. She could sing and dance, and she was a much better actor than I could ever be. She was also a poet and the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. It’s taken me a long time to give her that due.
Hers is a story of what happens when Black Girl Magic becomes Black Girl Tragic and the casualties it leaves in its wake. Her story is one of stolen innocence and lost potential, a record of pain spun on a never-ending loop. Her story is sadly the story of so many.”
You can read Bryant’s full essay over at Lenny Letter.