Speaking My Truth

 Andrea Little Mason & I at ProDoula’s “Speak Your Truth” 2017 Conference. 

Andrea Little Mason & I at ProDoula’s “Speak Your Truth” 2017 Conference. 

It’s been three months and I still don’t quite have the words to unpack and process what I experienced in Kansas City.

I am an African-American woman. I am a mixed race, African-American woman. I have light skin, hazel-green eyes, and curly hair.

I was blessed to have the opportunity to attend the “Speak Your Truth” ProDoula Conference 2017 and hear the wisdom shared by Andrea Little Mason aka Dr. Doula.

Just to give you a little background, my whole life I have been questioned about my identity; my blackness, my roots. “What are you?” “You’re not black. You’re mixed.”

I didn’t grow up in a deeply rooted, deeply cultured environment. I was exposed to my Puerto Rican & Jamaican culture (however, not deeply), but not that of my black history. I don’t believe it was known to be able to be shared. The communities (we moved quite a bit) I was raised in were predominately Hispanic and Asian. How awkward is it to always be the new girl; not white, not Asian, not Mexican (Yo soy Boricua), and not black enough for the black kids. Where did I fit in? Where did I belong?

So imagine now, coming to a conference with the only intention to hear this beautiful, black woman speak on black issues concerning birth in “our culture”. Knowing full well, if she weren’t there, neither would I be. My heart and head were overwhelmed. But, “Dear God, I’m here.”  Heart and mind wide open, with my guard up, to protect them both.

This woman. This woman has forever changed me. She spoke life into me that night. Into us. I was honored to stand on a stage beside several amazing black women before over 100 non-black women and for a moment, we were the only people in that room. She saw us. Who we are. Our hurts, our struggles, our strength, our courage, our hearts, and in that moment our tears.

There was a moment in the beginning when Andrea Little Mason said, “You are the answer. You are what they were praying for.” In that moment I heard the story I’ve heard many times about how my great-grandmother, dying from cancer, held on until she could meet me. She held this little blond-haired, blue-eyed baby in her arms and said, “I’ve been waiting for you.” She passed a month after I was born.


The evening ended with Q&A. Somehow I managed to be bold enough to ask “What would you say to a black woman who has always been told she’s not black enough?” She saw me. She saw right through to the very core of me. And she told me everything my heart needed to hear. She embraced me and loved on my pain. A salve to my soul.

I’m still processing that night back in Kansas City. I’m still healing. But, “I am the answer.” It will never be lost, stolen, forgotten, or surrendered again. I’m very unsure of my roots, of my history. But, I will be certain to find it and be sure to pass it on.

This is me speaking my truth.


Tenaj Ikner

Labor Doula serving the Pasadena foothills and surrounding cities.