relating to, derived from, or consisting of matter: having real importance or great consequences
By Mentee Sunei Clarke
This piece is excerpted from Taking Our Place in History: The Girls Write Now 2020 Anthology
In honor of Black History Month, I have written a piece that reflects on everyday reminders of slavery. I draw an unconventional parallel between my life and the experience of an enslaved woman.
A few months ago, I heard that drinking a glass of water first thing in the morning helps reset the body. True or not, it’s a ritual I will always keep. The glass is always the same—the tallest clear cup with six ridges.
The first ping was when they all knew to start moving. By the time the spoon hit the glass again, they were to be standing in front of her waiting for an order. It didn’t matter the time of day.
At the beginning of my night the sheets always cover the four corners of my bed. By the time I wake up the smooth cotton sheets are no longer there. All that is left is the itchy stitching of the mattress beneath me.
It seemed like the loudest sound in the field. Her heart beat faster, harder. She moved with the wind. Each step she took, she felt the stems scratching at her legs. No longer did they blister her fingers.
Clothes off. Hair up. Shower on. Pink bar, white bar, or body wash? My face wash is always in the same spot perched on the window ledge. My towel hangs, stuck between the sliding door. Shower off. Towel dry. Day starts.
Sack secure. Dark sky. Head down. Knees bowed. Ready. As tired as she was, the brush of the crisp water against her bruised feet gave her instant relief. She waded through the water in the opposite direction, finding it harder to keep herself afloat. Another step. Don’t stop. Keep going.
Years as Mentee: 1
Born: Charlotte, NC
Lives: Brooklyn, NY
Mentee’s Anecdote: A good mentor is hard to find. Thankfully, I lucked out. My favorite thing about my relationship with Caitlin is I have someone to talk to about anything I want. Our conversations are quite fluid and I am never afraid to be open and honest about my feelings on even the most controversial topics.
Years as Mentor: 3
Occupation: Creative and Content Strategy Consultant
Born: Syracuse, NY
Lives: Brooklyn, NY
Mentor’s Anecdote: Sunei is—in a word—tenacious. She doesn’t just plan to go to college, she wants to go to college in Spain. She doesn’t just wish to be a doctor, she intends to be a doctor in the military. She doesn’t just love to travel, she endeavors to explore the world. When I first met Sunei last fall, I was struck by her curiosity, confidence and determination. She is eager to engage with the world in all its complexity. We’ve had conversations about feminism, eugenics and racism, to name just a few. Sunei—I am certain—is ready to take her place in history.