Wednesday, May 8, 2013

In Search of The Black Female Superhero

Happy Mothers Day, Mom. I Love You

Back in the day I was a big fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Xena: The Warrior Princess. My friends knew not to call me when those shows were on. I’d be ensconced in front of the TV watching Buffy and the Scoobies patrol the Sunny Dale Hell Mouth. And who, I ask you who was more bad ass than Lucy Lawless? Perhaps in her case I’m just biased towards women with alliterative names. Lucy Lawless. Leighann Lord. You see, I can always find a way to make it all about me. That’s my gift; my personal superpower if you will. Pardon me while I put on my cape.

My affinity for female superheroes isn’t new. If we go way, way back in the day, I thought my silver bracelets were every bit as powerful as Wonder Woman’s. She had a golden lasso. I had some yellow clothesline. Lynda Carter was cute but I thought the only thing she might have on me was her invisible jet. But even that to me was just a matter of time since I was carefully saving and investing my allowance.

And then, of course, there’s Storm. Cue the orchestra and flash the lightning. Storm is one of the X-Men. She is a beautiful, elegant African woman with the power to control the weather. Halle Berry played her in the movies. Personally, I thought the part should have gone to Angela Bassett, and by Angela Bassett, I mean me. But alas, I was not in the running for the role. 

So, there’s Storm and then there’s ... and then there’s ... hmmm ... Um, where are all the Black Female Superheroes? It would seem Storm is also Highlander. Can there really be only one? In frustration, but not really expecting an answer, I asked my Dad if he knew of any Black Female Superheroes and without missing a beat he said, “You mean besides your Mother?” When I stopped laughing, I realized he had a point.

When I was growing up our house was the Hall of Justice and it was easy to believe my Mother had special powers. With super strength she went to work every day, while also running a household, and taking care of her family. My Mother had the power to transform. She was daughter, sister, wife, mother, aunt, teacher, nurse, cook, disciplinarian, friend, and now insanely proud Great-Grand Mother.

My Mom didn’t need Buffy’s wooden stake to battle demons. The exorcising power of her black leather belt did just fine. My Mother didn’t need Wonder Woman’s truth lasso. She could tell if you were lying just by looking at you; aided of course by the all-seeing, all-knowing eyes in the back of her head. Xena’s war whoop was a whimper compared to my Mother calling after you in her mixed Jamaican/American accent. And whoa be unto you if she had to call your name more than once.

And so it would seem that my search for a Black Female Superhero begins and ends with she who bore me. But does it? For most of my life I thought my Mother could do it all. But the truth is she is only human and doing it all comes at a price. The years she spent being everything to everyone has left her exhausted. Now that she is on what she calls "the down side" of her mountain, she doesn’t always have the energy to do some of the things she might like to do just for herself. As she often says, “The mind is willing, but the body is weak.”

And so now without preamble or ceremony our roles are slowly reversing. There are some days (and by some I mean all) when I feel like the Greatest American Hero; like I’ve been given powers I didn’t ask for and have no idea how to use. I fear I will be John Conner at the end of Terminator 3, when a panicked voice on other end of the phone says, “Who’s in charge?” And John reluctantly says, “I am.”

This is nowhere near as easy as Buffy, Xena, Wonder Woman, Storm, or my Mother made it look. It occurs to me now that some of the most admired superheroes never asked to be one. They are extraordinary because they rise to the occasion. As we used to say, “She put an ‘H’ on her chest and she handled it.”

I see now that it’s all fun and games until you realize that true superpower is using your talents for others; realizing that it’s not all about you. But it’s not all about everyone else either. The true mastery is finding the balance between helping others without losing yourself. Something that all women, super or not, seem to struggle with. 

Is it even possible?

I don’t know.

And more importantly, can I do it while wearing a cape?

Thanks for reading The Urban Erma. You can subscribe to the blogcast (yes, I made up this word) FREE on iTunes. And, in case you were wondering, in addition to blogging I am also an amazing stand-up comedian. I do "Thinking Cap Comedy." Basically, if comedy were music, I'd be Jazz. Want to see a show? Check out my schedule at @


Anonymous said...

I love your blog and look forward to each of your entries. I have located this link below concerning information of Black Heroines in Media which you may found intriguing.

Leighann Lord said...

Thanks for reading and thanks for the link!