November 9, 2020

ST. HILAIRE | The Shoulders I Stand On

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I haven’t cried truly happy tears in a long time. This isn’t to say that I haven’t cried this semester, because I have, but the tears that dampened my cheeks as I saw Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris emerge in white on that stage in Delaware Saturday night weren’t a means of coping with everything going wrong in my life. Instead they were an intense acknowledgement of what I knew would be coming, of the joy and light and happiness that I hoped were waiting for us on the other side of Trump’s America. Call me a senseless optimist. I’m alright with the title, and I’ll wear it with honor. I am optimistic for what she and every other Black girl has in store for this country. 

Kamala Harris exudes Black girl magic, but in a more refined way. Her magic isn’t boundless and unyielding, unaware of where it will establish itself to foster change. Instead, Harris is controlled. Her magic has been concentrated with years of experience and fight to nest itself in the realm of politics as her way of instituting change in the world around her. I can only hope that the sense of magic within me reaches that level of refinery one day without losing its spark, its drive and its power. 

She stood on a podium before millions of people, accepting an honor that I couldn’t fathom, standing on top of the shattered glass of ceilings that she elegantly broke through, and I couldn’t stop myself from crying when she acknowledged that she was standing on the shoulders of all the women who have worked to secure and protect the right to vote.” That feeling ran deeper than joy or pride; it was so much more than that. I can only summarize it in my mother’s words, “You may finally have a seat at the table.” 

This election has caused me to revere the wonderful women in the public eye that have paved the way for myself and my peers. On an even smaller scale, I have found myself feeling especially grateful for the wonderful women, especially the women of color, who have continued to guide me and have lent me their shoulders to stand on so that I could see the horizon of something better and brighter than their wildest dreams. 

My mother has always encouraged me to see the world for myself and take every opportunity handed to me. I recognize that she has spent my whole life building me up, making sure that I loved myself and believed in myself enough for three people. She has been doing that with no foreseeable goal, no matter how much I loved myself and she loved me, this is a hostile world for a young Black girl with a big mouth, bright eyes and lots of ideas. Last night, Harris was a glimpse into a world where I could thrive without having to work as hard. Thank you to my mother for continuing to push me to do my best. 

To my Godmother, my second mother who is one of my biggest fans, the largest proponent of me learning French. Je t’adore. To my grandmothers, aunts, my teachers, my professors, my older cousins who have all served as strong Black women and pillars to a support system that I acknowledge I could not live without, thank you for fighting to ensure that I knew that I had everything I needed to embark on a journey to earn everything that I wanted. Thank you for lending me your shoulders to stand upon so that I could see the future while the rest of the world was so intent on grounding me. 

I can’t help but think about the thirteen wonderful women who make up the Balch staff, my mentors and the two women of color who will edit and publish this column of mine, who continue to inspire me on the daily. I have had the fortunate opportunity to work under two amazing women of color in Balch Hall, and having the chance to watch them advocate for their interests alongside my own has endowed me with a sense of inner strength that I find priceless. 

I am fortunate to be surrounded by a diverse and strong group of Black girls at Cornell, all who know exactly who they are. They continue to show me the many impactful ways that one’s magic can manifest itself on Cornell’s campus, and for that I am grateful. They have empowered me to speak my mind. Despite the hostile environment that Long Island can also be, I am grateful for the support system of women and girls I have there. Without them, I often question where I would be. 

My cousins and god sisters who have gone on to work jobs, raise kids, make lives for themselves while still making time for me, I hope to be half as amazing as you all are. Thank you for lending me your ears when I needed them and taking the time to set me straight in terms of boys, hopes, dreams and aspirations. I appreciate your ability to be curt when I need it and comforting when I can’t handle another lecture.

To my younger cousins, who I continue to look to in trying times because in their eyes I see nothing but hope and joy, you are my example of unbridled, limitless, Black girl magic. When I look in the eyes of these wonderful young ladies, I can’t help but to be hopeful because they will grow to be nothing short of amazing. I can already say that I will have an architect, a doctor and many other young professionals that I can rely on very soon. To these wonderful Black girls, I can’t wait to watch you take this world by storm, and I gladly lend you my shoulders to stand on so that you may see the world like those before you. Only this time, thanks to Saturday night, you won’t need to be lifted quite so high.

 
Catherine St. Hilaire is a junior in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations. She can be reached at cas529@cornell.edu. Candid Cathy runs every other Monday this semester.