I began my Tuesday morning not overwhelmed. I was traveling to Canada to present at a conference. My flight was not early. In fact, it was at a time late enough that I didn’t have to worry about oversleeping, and wasn’t too late so that I would have to wait overnight to see the beauty of Montreal. I must admit that I was more excited than normal, and it had little to do with traveling internationally and seeking another stamp in my passport. It was election day and I was excited about the possibilities of having a woman in what is considered the highest office in the land. You see, I have a position that sits at the center of the affirmation of women. Daily, I am responsible and willing to remind young women, and even more seasoned women like myself that we are enough; that we are brilliant and that we are worthy of all that is good, right and just. Considering that for one day, the rule of patriarchy would turn in our favor had me downright giddy! I traveled to the airport, said farewell to my love and teased that if things didn’t land in our favor, I would send for him.
My trip was a result of invitation to present at a conference focused on women’s studies with a colleague and soror. More specifically, our topic was on the lived experiences of women on color in higher education. Even as I was experiencing excitement for a woman holding the office of president, I couldn’t help but wonder when someone who shared my melanin would be able to fill such hallowed shoes, or would our beloved Lady Michelle be the closest representation to living inside 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Nevertheless, I was #withher, so for now, I’d live my hope through her. Back to the presentation. We were planning to provide a gift to the participants who attended our program. They were rocks with inspirational one word messages on them. They were not too heavy, but heavy enough to potentially jack up my 50lbs luggage maximum weight. So, I opted to place them in my carry on luggage. The only challenge I anticipated on experiencing was the atypical routine check of my hair that seemingly carries weapons of mass destruction. Sideeye and shade. My hair checked out alright (albeit touched by a stranger), but my carry on bag was pulled. I was informed that it needed to be searched. I agreed, and told the agent that it was probably my rocks. As she looked through the boxes of rocks, she expressed, “Oh, how cute.” She swiped the inside of my bag with some instrument. When she tested the instrument, the alarm sounded. Several agents came over and it was shared that I would have to undergo a manual body search. Two women who looked like me came over and explained the process. As my eyes swelled up with tears, one asked, “Would you like a private screening?” I whispered, “Yes.” The first woman, who had the instrument, instructed me that my shoes needed to be scanned again. I complied. By this time, my heart began to beat faster. Suddenly, even the women who shared my melanin seemed foreign. I knew I’d not done anything, except attempted to carry love, faith, charity, friendship, family, inspire, truth and dreams across the border. However, in the moment, it was as though I was empty. As I followed strangers to a small room off to the side, I wondered how many people were watching me, and wondering what crime I was attempting to commit. Is fear a factor? Am I that fear? Is there a threat to existence? Am I that threat?
I entered the private room and as the shared melanin sister touched by body albeit as professional as possible, I wept. Perhaps it was my body responding prophetically, but I recalled each injustice committed against women. The objectification of our bodies, the way that we are not valued. The role that power has played in our lives and the perpetuation of patriarchy. I summoned the sister women before us and how they sacrificed for us to break barriers, and glass ceilings. As traumatic as the experience felt, in the end, one of the women offered me tissue. She then told me I could remain in the room and collect myself. I was surprised at my response. It wasn’t an angry cry, but instead a helpless one – yet again, as professional as I was dressed, carrying knowledge across borders, prepared to give a stellar presentation, and yet I had little agency to match the moment. I went to my gate, processed the event with my loved ones and went on my way. I put the event in the back of my mind, not thinking about it again until I prepared to border cross again, this time, back to the United States.
As I packed, I had about 15 rocks left. I didn’t want to return and experience a dejavu moment, so I left them, physically, but opted to consider how I might carry them in my heart. As I reflected upon the election, I considered the voices that I’ve heard, pondering the same questions that I thought before crossing the border as a woman, and more specifically, a woman of color; “Is fear a factor? Am I that fear? Is there a threat to existence? Am I that threat?” In order to get across our borders, we need the rocks all the more. Rocks of love, faith, charity, friendship, family, inspiration, truth and dreams are foundational pieces for our peace. As I sat in the airport in Canada waiting for my flight, I overheard what I assumed to be Americans celebrating the win for their candidate. I began to experience a physical reaction, I grew tense, my breathing elevated. I thought I was going to weep again, but I didn’t.
I don’t know how long the wait will be until I awaken with an expectation of hope, or my daughter or my grandchildren for a Tuesday like we had a few days ago. I wanted to ask God if he was creating a new holiday. We are beyond Halloween, but before Thanksgiving. Some are feeling as though they have been given a treat, and others another trick. In all things, we are instructed to give thanks (I Thessalonians 5:28). I’m sure there’s more weeping to come, but I must hold to Romans 12:18, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” I’m not completely certain how to do this, because border crossings are not easy. But I imagine, border crossings, be it physical, psychologically, emotionally, spiritually or all of the above, begin with the rocks.