Growing up, the majority of my schooling was in Catholic schools, and most of the time not only was I the only Black student, but I was the only non-Catholic child and the only child of divorced parents. I didn’t have many friends at school, so the kids in my neighborhood, at Sunday school, and my relatives were my main sources of friendship. Even with all those communities, I didn’t have a large group of friends—or a sisterhood—until college. When I think of what sisterhood means to me, I think of friends whose relationships have become so important that I can only call them a word that is familial. I’ve bonded with these women so strongly that they deserve more than the title “friend.”
As a people whose ancestors were torn from their motherland, families, histories, cultures—everything, and then had to endure the brutalities and inhumanities of slavery, our ancestors became family to each other. We descend from a people who formed family not just from relatives but from other communities. To survive in this new world, they had to. In these formed families, they found a safe space where they could be and express themselves, where they could honor old and develop new traditions. Together, as a people, they could define what new life in a new land would be. They could say to each other, We aren’t where we’re supposed to be, but we are here together.
I saw sisterhood walking home from school each day. I passed Black women at the bus stop, weary and in uniform like a scene out of The Help. They were working, full-time, in the service of others, while their white counterparts were almost all stay-at-home mothers. So many of the Black women I knew growing up were maids, my mother and grandmother included. Each was her own woman with her own personality, and yet there were so many similarities between them. When one of them had a difficult day, another probably had a similar experience—if not that day, then the day before. They could commiserate with each other like no one else could and could be to each other what sometimes even their mates couldn’t be. Their bonds of sisterhood were forged in the feelings of unity, of knowing we are all in this life together, we have the same history, we have the same present and hope for our children to have a different future.
When I think of my own sisterhoods, I must start with being in a sorority in college. This was my first experience with a group of Black women who were all educated and career-bound. Some were first-generation college students, a lucky few had parents who had gone to college, but we were all still in the same boat. We were ambitious, carrying the hopes and dreams of our families and our communities with us to class every day at the University of Illinois where out of 30,000 undergraduate students, only 800 were Black.
Then, once I entered the workforce, even though times were better for Blacks in some ways (and I wasn’t standing at the bus stop like my grandmother and her peers had done), the sisterhood of Black women in the workforce was just as needed as ever. We bonded over shared experiences and shared history, commiserating with each other when we knew that slights were likely because of our skin color. We probably shared the same spiritual beliefs and could talk about praying and trusting God for something, and praising Him for something else. We were different but the same.
As Black women, our sisterhood is our safe space. It means home. It’s the place where a look can say things when words may not be appropriate to express. It means a level of comfort not experienced in any other facet of our lives. For our women who are neither married nor have blood-related sisters (or maybe don’t get along with their biological sister), this sisterhood becomes an extended family. It goes beyond socioeconomic status, beyond educational level, beyond marital status, and beyond shape and size.
And finally, sometimes when we are out of character, our sisterhood—just like family—forces us to grow in love, tolerance, compassion, forgiveness, grace, mercy, and patience. Our sisters will hold a mirror up to our actions and make us better people.
Have you ever experienced sisterhood in action—what does it mean to you?Leave a Comment
Paula Stadeker says
Saw this in action over the last month. Women supporting one another through grief unimaginable in the loss of a child or parent. Our sisterhood as women of color is remarkable!
Lady MLW says
I grew up in a gated white Catholic community in Seattle WA. I was always the only black child in my class, as well as the baby of the family.
I married a black man we were a very successful power couple and retired at 50.
Black women especially always mistreated me, and I treat people no matter who you are with respect. I was raised to treat others how I want to be treated.
I owned restaurants, cooked for 3 sitting presidents and First Ladies, as well as numerous celebrities.
Angela M. Hawkins says
My story is about two sisters. My mother and her sister provided for the five of us. They both decided they did not want us to grow up in a small town, my aunt moved to KC, to make a better life for us all. My mother kept her son, with the four of us, and when she found a place, we all came to town. Their relationship was great! Their mother died while they were young, so my great grandfather raised the two of them and their brother.
We lived in a three story house. My aunt would work days, so she would be home with us in the evening. My mother worked a swing shift and mostly nights, so she would be home while we were at school. This worked for us, until around the time of the riots (1968), but their connection kept our family together.
Showing up, support and praying for one another, encouraging one another going out on a limb, learn how to forgive, communicate, love, lean and have boundaries 🙏🏾❤️
Dierdra Zollar says
This piece definitely strikes a chord with me because there have been several times in my life where being a part of a sister circle of friends (found family) literally saved my life. And these safe spaces were often created when I, and other sisters like me, felt like an outsider–in an environment that was, at times, both alien and unwelcoming to us. I thank God everyday for the gift of my sister friends. Thank you for sharing your experiences and the reasons why these sisterhoods are so vital to our community.
Linda J. Sylvester says
I am 70 years old, and I still have a sisterhood with friends as far back as elementary school. Although we may not see or talk to one another regularly, getting together never feels like a time gap. Women who do not have a girl friend relationship, are missing out on a valuable and memorable sisterhood connection.
Rasheeda S. says
I couldn’t agree more. Sisterhood is important and even more so for women that look like yourself and go through life with similar struggles and adventures.
Deirdre Price says
I enjoyed my new sisterhood with Mahogany. It’s rewarding, inspirational and motivational. I cannot express my gratitude to see the talents, gifts and creativity of everyone’s writing. I am proud of you all. At Mahogany, we also get to encourage each other.