I thought I’d collapse. When I walked into the house filled with Black women dressed in all white, talking, laughing and gliding across the space barefoot, a spirit washed over me. I rummaged in my bag for my framed photo of Sophia and Tiffani and set it down on the altar the ladies had made for our special gathering. (Sofy and Tiff are two of my best friends who have passed on.) In the backyard photo, they are in a ridiculously tight embrace—one that followed a session of raucous laughter. Their pretty faces say, “Stop before I pee!!!”
Of course, I’ve been in a room with the sisters of my collective, Oya’s Elements, many times before. We’ve grown up together. For the original few, it’s been over 20 years now. We were fresh out of college when we initially found each other; all of us, like-minded hearts and heads (Team Natural before #teamnatural). As a sisterhood, we’ve been through breakups and babies and burials together. In fact, Sofy and Tiff were part of the earliest circle, and when they died, it was in the arms of this group that I found the greatest solace.
Oh, my life has changed from how it was back with the girls; it’s now filled with achingly grown-up responsibilities and a career that leaves little time for gatherings and good gossip. I break appointments and make plans I can’t keep. I miss homegirls’ birthdays and other occasions. I pass on brunches and don’t return texts. I don’t talk to my mom or sis like I should. I’m a great friend to essentially no one. And yet.
I walked into the room where those gorgeous women were gathered, and the safety and serenity that enveloped me was more than I could bear. When was the last time I even showed up to a meeting? I looked around and realized that I hadn’t been in the company of women outside of work in forever. By living the last couple years in a girlfriendless bubble, I was killing off the best parts of me.
Yes, I am a mother, a wife and a boss, but I am also a girls’ girl. Since rocking Afro puffs, it’s been my sisterfriends who’ve consistently cheered for me and checked me. The culture of girls: what we do when no one is watching, how we love so deeply, the fortitude and fragility that is our birthright, I choose to honor. I am guilty of forming mini sororities at every stop in my life; my middle school crew, my high school massive, my college comrades—girls.
It seems that in today’s crazy world, more Black girls and women are embracing the foolish idea that other girls and women don’t make good friends. Some of us claim to have the backs of  “our daughters” but summarily attack other women as a means to an end. Some of us throw shade—or worse, drinks—in each other’s faces. Some of us lazily repeat the false narrative that women can’t be trusted;  you know, the sisters who start every conversation with, “I don’t mess with chicks because … blah, blah, blah.”
Working on this “Women Up!” issue, I found myself feeling sorry for the Black women who genuinely don’t get what’s so great about us. Our empowerment is the empowerment of the globe. Our freedom is the world’s freedom. Please take a moment to enjoy our “Free Black Women We Love” list (p. 22) by the very girly Senior Editor Jamilah Lemieux, who also pens her inaugural “Honey Child” essay this month (p. 34). What does being a free Black woman mean? Look like? And while we’re at it, what do free Black women read?
I’ll tell you this: The women on the cover of this potent issue are free. (Not to be confused with 100-percent confident all the time or some other human impossibility.) They are free despite society’s insistence that women in the public realm be “sample size” and dainty. They are plus-size and fierce, and in “The Curvy Confessionals” (p. 106), they  bravely discuss body image, womanhood and Blackness.
EBONY got it wrong on the matter of girls and women in a February 1966 cover line that actually read: “Are Negro Girls Getting Prettier?” Um … First: not possible to “get prettier” when we are all already the prettiest. Second, I’m sure EBONY meant: “Are Negro Girls (AKA Black women) the Boldest, Smartest, Baddest People to Happen to Black America Since Ever?” Yup.
I romanticize and exalt Black women, yes I do. Because we are the ones. We are the magic holders, but we are also the ones history (and the system) has too easily forgotten, erased and sometimes even killed; see “Hello, My Name Is …” (p. 102). For most of us, life ain’t no crystal stair and ain’t never gonna be. To climb them, girls will always need each other.
Love a Black woman today,
Kierna Mayo