Illustration created by Deun ivory:

An Ode to Water Carriers: How I freed myself from carrying the weight of the world

By Nakia Hill


I am Black. I am woman. Owning those two identities is what it means to be free. I am a water carrier. The role was inherited at birth. The water I carry from generations is so fucking heavy. Still I uplift the weight of the world, of your world, and my world on my shoulders. It is my nature to care for others. Unload all of your worries, baggage, and vulnerabilities in my lap. I have adapted to discomfort, silence, and have mastered the art of appeasing others. I am fixer. I clean up your mess. I swallow every cuss word. I catch every assumption in between my teeth and spit it out to prevent myself from ingesting your ignorance.

To you, my grass looks greener. To you, the baggage I carry seems light. My struggle looks like rubies because I wear it so well. I refuse to look like my struggle. My scars are mistaken for beauty marks. My chin remains up. My knots and curls are perfection. My melanin stays golden and moisturized.

I don’t have all of the answers like Sway; it’s okay.

I get free by laying down all of my burdens on my prayer mat. I get free by exaggerated inhales and exhales. My movements are freeing even if I am in an all white white yoga class in South Boston. Yes, I am here; butchering every single pose. I too am worthy of soaking up this practice. I am deserving of experiencing tranquility and peace. I get free by wearing my fro in white spaces after wash day knowing that someone may ask like an ass, “Did you cut your hair?”

I am free. in the comfort of my studio apartment where I have built a makeshift holy altar. I pray in private. I cry in private. I worship the most high in my safe space. I found freedom when I tapped into my higher self. I realized that I must nurture me first before I give a piece of me to the world.

Freedom is never returning to that prison cell called comfort. Discomfort is sometimes freeing because it forces you to trust God and yourself enough to persevere.

I get free by being unapologetically me. I no longer seek your validation. I give all the fucks back to you. Freedom lives in acknowledging my imperfections and being okay with not having it together all the damn time. I get free by admitting my truth and allowing myself to be happy.

Freedom lives in being organically me — exclusively.