Day 13 - 28 Love Letters to Black Women
This Black History Month, I am sharing 28 stories of Black women who shaped me and showed me the way towards liberation. Because Black women are often not cited for their ideas, I thought this would be one way to give flowers to those who influenced me.
On Day 13, I would like to give flowers to my friend Chrichelle Ballinger, one of the smartest and funniest Black women I know, who rescued me from my isolation of being an “only” growing up in suburban Houston in the 1980s and 1990s.
When I was seven years old, my family moved to a predominantly white neighborhood in suburban Houston. Like many parents, my parents picked the neighborhood for the quality of the schools. They hoped living in that community would give my brother and I access to a high quality education so we could thrive. There were very few Black families in the neighborhood at the time - in fact one white family on our street moved away because we moved in. I was the only Black kid in my class beginning in 2nd grade, which meant I was often the subject of racial ridicule from other children, and was sometimes forbidden from playing with some of my friends at their homes because I was Black. I remember the pain of the isolation vividly. That all stopped when the McClouds moved into our neighborhood and Chrichelle joined our class in 5th grade.
I remember when Chrichelle moved in thinking she was SO smart! She was good at math and science. And I remember being in awe at the fact that she was such a great speller, something that I never mastered (thank goodness for spell check). She would often beat out all the kids in spelling contests. (And y’all she’s still a good speller - she gets Queen Bee on the NYT spelling game alllll the time. #BossSpeller). She helped to change the idea about who could excel academically at our school. Chrichelle moving to our neighborhood was like being rescued - I no longer had to be an “only” - there was someone else in my classes who understood what it was like to be smart and Black girl in a very white school intent on keeping us "in our place."
Chrichelle is not afraid to speak truth to power. When we were in high school and being honored for an academic achievement along with two other Black students, an administrator tried to diminish our accomplishments and make us feel less than, Chrichelle joined me in going to the school board and demanding an apology and repair of the harm we experienced. Chrichelle remains committed to progressive causes to this day. In fact her sister has named a few of us the “Liberal Mafia” a name we’ve embraced and claimed as our own. Chrichelle remains one of the smartest and badass women I know.
Image description: Headshot of Chrichelle in front a vivid light blue background. She is wearing a purple shirt and necklace.