“We were not in a relationship. Truthfully, I was shocked that I ended up in that place. My initial silence about what happened was out of fear for myself and my friends. Even as a victim, I have been met with skepticism and judgment. The way people have publicly questioned and debated whether I played a role in my own violent assault proves that my fears about discussing what happened were, unfortunately, warranted.”
The rapper notes that in the weeks leading up to the Nov. 3 election Black women are “expected to once again deliver victory for Democratic candidates,” noting that Black women have gone from being unable to vote legally to being a “highly courted” voting bloc in just over a century. “Despite this and despite the way so many have embraced messages about racial justice this year, Black women are still constantly disrespected and disregarded in so many areas of life,” she writes.
After reflecting on the injuries she suffered in the shooting, Megan (born Megan Pete) said she realized that not all violence against women is connected to a relationship. “Instead, it happens because too many men treat all women as objects, which helps them to justify inflicting abuse against us when we choose to exercise our own free will,” she says. “From the moment we begin to navigate the intricacies of adolescence, we feel the weight of this threat, and the weight of contradictory expectations and misguided preconceptions. Many of us begin to put too much value to how we are seen by others. That’s if we are seen at all.”
She explains who Black women struggle against stereotypes — being seen as angry or threatening when they stand up for themselves or each other — not leaving much room for passionate advocacy. The rapper described how she used her time as the musical guest on Saturday Night Live two weeks ago to rebuke Kentucky’s attorney general, Daniel Cameron, for his “appalling conduct in denying Breonna Taylor and her family justice.”
Anticipating some backlash for speaking out against the lack of serious charges against the officers who fired more than 30 shots into Taylor’s apartment, the 25-year-old MC says she was ready for it and took to heart late civil rights icon and Congressman John Lewis’ exhortation to make “good trouble, necessary trouble,” even if it risks being attacked by the status quo.
“But you know what? I’m not afraid of criticism,” she writes. “We live in a country where we have the freedom to criticize elected officials. And it’s ridiculous that some people think the simple phrase ‘Protect Black women’ is controversial. We deserve to be protected as human beings. And we are entitled to our anger about a laundry list of mistreatment and neglect that we suffer.”
The essay also tackles the disturbingly high maternal mortality rates for Black mothers, violence against transgender and gender-nonconforming people, the daily threats to Black women’s lives and health and the judgement rendered based on how they choose to dress.
“I would know. I’ve received quite a bit of attention for appearance as well as my talent. I choose my own clothing. Let me repeat: I choose what I wear, not because I am trying to appeal to men, but because I am showing pride in my appearance, and a positive body image is central to who I am as a woman and a performer,” she says, stressing that she values compliments from women much more than those from men and that she does not dress or perform for the male gaze.
“When women choose to capitalize on our sexuality, to reclaim our own power, like I have, we are vilified and disrespected. In every industry, women are pitted against one another, but especially in hip-hop, where it seems as if the male-dominated ecosystem can handle only one female rapper at a time.” She describes being pitted against her “WAP” partner Cardi B, or Nicki Minaj, stressing that they are all unique in their own ways and wondering what it would be like if Black girls weren’t “inundated with negative, sexist comments about Black women?”
The rapper recently put her money where her mouth is, with the Don’t Stop Scholarship, a partnership with Rap Rotation to award two $10,000 scholarships to female students pursuing an associate, bachelor or postgraduate degree in any field.
She wonders what it would be like if they instead learned about trailblazers like NASA research mathematician Katherine Johnson — the subject of Hidden Figures — or Alice H. Parker, who filed the first patent for a home furnace, or the creator of the first home security system, Marie Van Brittan Brown.
The list goes on to include Rosa Parks, Black Lives Matter co-founders Patrisse Cullors, Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi, as well as pioneering politicians Shirley Chisholm, Loretta Lynch, U.S. Representative Maxine Waters and Carol Moseley Braun. “My hope is that Kamala Harris’s candidacy for vice president will usher in an era where Black women in 2020 are no longer ‘making history’ for achieving things that should have been accomplished decades ago.”
Click here to read the full essay and here to see Megan’s video essay.