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  • Writer's pictureAshley Thomas

My Sistah

All my life I considered myself to be a sistah, until I moved to Milwaukee. 

I am biracial. My mother is caucasian and my father is African American. I grew up in the midwest, predominantly in the suburbs. So growing up I identified more so with being African American because of how I looked, yet, lived a life that reflected my caucasian background. The food I ate, the clothes I wore, and the music I listened to identified most with the caucasian culture. Yet, there was always the awkward situations where I thought I could blend in with the culture I found myself in. Afterall, as a kid you just want to fit in; no one wants to be different. For the most part this worked out, no one really wanted to call me out for picking one and refusing to embrace the other. 

Then I came to Milwaukee. 

Suddenly I was faced with the stigma of being light skinned, and light skinned didn’t mean black. I recall a member abruptly asking, “What are you?” I remember laughing to keep from saying how rude that question was. As if human being needed any further explanation regardless of my shape, size or color. Yet, as I looked into her eyes, I saw the pain of having been asked the same question. Not solely because of her outward appearance but because of some of the poor choices she had made. So I temporarily entered into her narrative and explained my background.

Light skinned. Never have I ever looked at myself as superior let alone desirable, but I was suddenly being labeled as thinking such. This assumption was extremely painful. I spent months trying to convince many women and even young girls, that I was safe to be in a relationship with. I didn’t want to steal their man, I didn’t have impure motives and most of all I was not full of myself. At least not in the ways that they were accusing me of. 

When I was officially on staff at Hope Street, the most difficult obstacle to overcome was getting the “okay, clear” from our women. I would get the stink eye, the cold shoulder, the smirk then quick frown, and of course the “you don’t get it.” I am not just blaming the women, because unfortunately, for a period, I fell into the same funk. I had an attitude because they did, and I was determined to be better at having one.

Sabrina was a tough, resting-bitch-face, no bullshit type of woman (sorry I am just saying). She came to Hope Street from prison, and had experienced all the ups and downs that life brings and just didn’t have the time or space for anyone to get remotely close to her. Now it wasn’t just me that she wasn’t a fan of, she had a hard time trusting anyone. But I was the most unbearable. To her I was too nice, too naive and too pretty. To her I was never going to last at Hope Street. She came and went each day, handling her business both in the classroom and at work. I admired her from afar and desperately wanted to know her story. Yet, both of us were pretty stubborn (I am German afterall). Then the blessing came, her two girls moved in. 

Hope Street forces you to deal with your mess.  

We aren’t supposed to have “favorites” but you can ask the community and they would name Sabrina as such. It’s probably because when we first met neither one of us had much patience for the other. We both had our assumptions and our bias’, both kept us from being willing to be present with one another. This eventually changed as I was able to completely adore her two girls from the get go. Kids often have a special way of bringing adults together. Time passed and Sabrina and I had brief encounter after brief encounter, until one day we couldn’t remember a time where we were never laughing, crying, sharing struggles, making plans, or venting. I adore her. 

Hope Street has taught me that being as well as having a “sistah” is so much more than the color of our skin. I gained a sistah in Sabrina. She became my truth teller (even when it hurt), soundboard and my confidant; I taught her that people can love you and not need a single thing in return. Beyond that I am sure I have received more than I ever gave. It’s important to find the sistahs in your life who are not enamored by you, are willing to speak truth, and of course love you no matter what choices you make.

Sabrina is my sistah for life. 

Rest in our Father's Arms. 10.14. 2019

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