I come from a family full of warrior women.
The first time I ever felt a sense of power was in the lap of my Aunt Tia.
I was one of the youngest of my cousins at the time; smaller in every way. God bless my short limbs; I’m still vertically challenged ‘til this day.
That never deterred me though.
I’d roughhouse and play with them all—the few guys we had in the family and all the girls.
Whenever it would seem that they were ganging up on me too much, or about to get the best of me, I’d seek refuge in Aunt Tia’s lap. I remember running to her room, adrenaline and fear shooting through my little body as they chased behind me. But the second I laid eyes on her, that fear would turn into relief as I climbed into her lap.
She’d turn me around to face them and tell me, “We goin’ get ‘em Ree! You ready? Get ‘em! ”
My eyes would light up as my little chest poked out with the courage her words had breathed through my little ‘ole self, and I’d shake my head “yes” while laughing as I watched them near us. We’d wait for the perfect moment (because timing was everything) and then, in a superhero theme song fashion, she’d yell:
In my head I heard this, “dunt-duh-duh-duuuuuuuuuuuhhhh” music, and that’s when I knew it was time to kick some ass. Literally.
She’d grip my legs and send them flailing towards anyone of the kids coming at me. Screaming and laughing, I’d kick harder in whatever direction she sent my legs. They’d fall or retreat, and then jump up attack again. Sometimes they’d make it real close to me, like in-my-face kinda close. I’d feel a rush of adrenaline as I stared them in the eye, and let a kick rip.
I may have been small and vulnerable, but in Aunt Tia’s lap, I was a force to be reckoned with.
Though this was always a fun and playful time for us all, it instilled something in me at very young age:
A person’s physical stature lends no hint to the power that lies within and around them.
I may have been the youngest and smallest in her house at the time, but my size didn’t matter; the only thing that mattered was the moment I was empowered enough to channel my fear into courage, and to merge my power with the power that was readily accessible to me.
Those early years with her had sparked a fearlessness in me and a deep resolve that no matter what or who was coming my way, I always had power in and around me…even if I didn’t immediately feel or recognize it.
My Aunt Tia’s daughter and I grew up as sisters; I mean we dressed alike (even though she was a few years older), were fiercely loyal and protective of one another, and were practically joined at the hip. Despite the aforementioned, we had three things in common that kept us at odds: we spoke our mind, were quick witted with our words, and stubborn as hell.
It’s no surprise that we often bickered and fought.
Instead of running to Aunt Tia’s lap like I did in times past, I would go toe to toe with her daughter. I can’t count how many times my little self would look up at her square in the eye, refusing to back down. And everyone knew that, “once Ree Ree starts, she will not quit.”
So we’d go at it—arguing and hitting each other—all the while making sure that none of the adults heard us and that neither of us got in trouble. Sometimes, when things got too loud, my mom would yell up the stairs and threaten to separate us (we feared that the most) so we’d reduce our yelling to whispering, and our loud slaps to pinches and pushes.
Even when we were at odds, we were united.
If Aunt Tia was the teacher who empowered me to push through my fear and tap into my courage, her daughter was the one to test and sharpen me. When I think back on the memories of my time with them during my formative years, I see what God was doing: planting seeds and preparing me.
As I continue to grow and develop, my big sister and my mother have become my two greatest teachers on the blessings and challenges of the warrior woman, and the path that she chooses.
I believe very deeply that the name a child is given ultimately serves as a nod to their purpose or destiny.
My first name, Syreeta, means “good tradition” (Hindu) and “companion” (Arabic); my middle name, Arielle, means “lion of God” (French); and then there’s my last name, Martin (Latin). Martin, which means “war/warlike” or “martial” and is said to be derived from Mars, the Roman god of war.
A companion with good tradition who is the lion of God and warlike.
It’s no coincidence that I was born into a family of warrior women.
Lately, my greatest battle has been the fight to free and make use of my voice after having undergone one of the most traumatic and transformational seasons of my life.
I may be too old to crawl into my Aunt Tia’s lap, but I’m never too big to crawl into God’s. As my legs are being moved and my power is regained, I hear God whispering. Where Aunt Tia once asked if I was ready as my cousins came barreling at me, God is telling me, “You’re ready,” as my destiny moves at the speed of light towards me.
Slowly but surely, I’m starting to feel that same sense of adrenaline…preparing to cross that same threshold when fear becomes courage…and at 28 years-old, all I want to do is brace my back against God’s chest, legs in position, focus on what’s in front of me, and scream my childhood super hero theme song:
And you know what? I think I will.
– Sincerely Syreeta