You’re different. —And many Black women have recognized your dissimilarity when you became highly-visible on our small screens as Lena James for the 1990s sitcom A Different World. For the unknowing, the superficial folks, you seemingly filled the void of another woman of distinction, the beloved Lisa Bonet. However, for those of us who do know, the many young Black women who clung to every episode to hear the sound of Baltimore roll off your tongue and witness equal elements of Black girl aura, attitude, and magic—understood you were very much filling your own shoes while representing the pumps, the Jordans and 54-11’s we wore. We still know because you still speak a visual language of liberation and sing a song we’ve longed to sing ourselves—Jada you are a kindred spirit who many Black girls and women identify with. You are akin to those of us who beg to differ from what society sees fit for Black women. We see you.
We saw you back in 1997, as you took the podium in Philly, at the Million Women’s March and challenged Black women to love and be in solidarity with one another but most importantly, you implored us to love ourselves radically:
Then, you turned around and became the exemplar of your very own words. You showed us what you meant, what operating from a space of love looks like, the benefit of wholly loving oneself. You made the blending of families and raising free children palatable where once upon a time, a lot of us wouldn’t even imagine—nor dare. You provided tangible examples of an individual who bet on herself and her beliefs. You did that. We watched you do that. Your walk is poetic. You defined you for you—as the late great Audre Lorde suggests we must do—else “be crunched into other people’s fantasies” … “and eaten alive.” We also learned this through you. We learned, too, that radical words and lives don’t keep piranhas at bay.
They want to chew you up and spit you out.
It is both perplexing and not—to witness a Black woman being vilified and at the center of controversy that by every account stems from patriarchy. Mass media has chosen yellow journalism over real reporting and thus has chosen violence against you. Mainstream outlets are actively participating in a smear campaign by repurposing dated material and interviews and are conflating them with speculation. To drive traffic, many of these platforms are bating readers with misinformed headlines, leaning on quotes from “anonymous sources” and unidentified “insiders” to fabricate stories, and assassinate your character and form public opinion against you.
Jada, you represent many parts of ourselves and the struggle against the various wars waged against us. I am not here for the peak misogynoir and vitriol directed at you, neither is a legion of Black women who see you and have always seen you. You are ours.
With Love, and on behalf of MADAMENOIRE and millions of Black women,
IDA HARRIS, Managing Editor