Sadness (Painting)

By Jazlyn Williams

(This piece is the first prize winner in the Visual Arts category for "Who Am I/Who Are They" Multimedia Essay Contest")

As a Black girl, as an "Other," I've struggled to reconcile all the cultural notions of Black female strength and beauty with my depression. We are always, always, always, supposed to be tough, resilient, angry, unbreakable. In my case especially, as a Black girl with an afro, people assume that I'm loud, or rebellious, or that I don't hurt easily. So this piece is a tribute to my softness and my vulnerability-- it is a reminder to myself that I am allowed to be sad and scared and lost and confused.

Originally I called this piece "Black Girl Sadness," but in this instance I want the humanity that a racial label often strips me of. My Blackness informs parts of my sadness, but when my heart is broken, I cry just like any other person. This is a piece about depression, and the girl suffering just happens to be Black. The butterflies are a symbol of anxiety, a lot of which stems from that conflict between how I perceive myself and how others see me. What people romanticize as strength and beauty feels like a bunch of horrible flutters to me.