Essence.com Interviews Raqiyah Mays

Words by Abiola Abrams

Do I have your attention yet?

In her book The Man Curse New York 107.5 WBLS radio personality and author Raqiyah Mays explores the complicated legacies of love passed among generations of women. The book, which is described as “self-help fiction,” examines generational curses and love cycles through the story of Meena Butler, a successful woman who tries to break her family’s Man Curse. This “man curse” has prevented the women of her family from marrying. Raqiyah has written for diverse publications and was featured in VH1’s “Future Leaders of Black History” campaign. She was also saluted as a leader for her powerful work as a part of The Limited’s “New Look of Leadership” campaign. Women’s empowerment and leadership is an important part of Raqiyah’s platform, so of course, she was down to dig a little deeper. Let’s see what she has to say about love.

Raqiyah, we have all seen those statistics that admonish successful African American women as “doomed to be alone.” What do you feel is the legacy of love for black women?

The legacy of love for black women and for black people as a whole is complicated. It’s complicated because of slavery and post-traumatic stress from slavery. From systemic laws that were made to break up the black family. I attribute this to part of our legacy when it comes to different types of love.

There’s family love where black women have been the ones who received the love, showing the love and holding families together. For romantic love, our legacy has been difficult. I say it’s because of post-traumatic stress disorder, because of slavery, because of the things that we have to deal with emotionally from seeing our children pulled away from us and our men being taken away from us, killed and whipped, and being forced to raise children by ourselves. Forced to put on that smile and holding it all together.
I think continually seeing that throughout time, on the plantation and in the streets has subconsciously made some black women feel that men might not be there to help them. Some feel they may not find love. Do all black women feel like this? Absolutely not. But there are issues of love as a black community being connected to slavery and traumatic stress disorder.

So once and for all, what’s the Man Curse? Do you feel that there is a Man Curse?

My novel, “The Man Curse,” is a fictional account about a young woman who is working to break the man curse that the women in her family believe has prevented them from marrying. They believe that they are hexed.

I’ve had countless women come to me and tell me that they feel cursed. I’ve had women talk about coming from different families of women that aren’t married that don’t speak of this publically but privately say that they’re cursed. I heard this from gay men, white women, and I’ve absolutely have heard it from black women. Is there a curse? I believe in the power of the mind. I believe if you feel that you’re cursed, then you are. You manifest it, you believe. Do I believe that sometimes like my protagonists in my novel, that if you are taught to believe something about yourself, that you become what you’ve been taught? Absolutely. Generational cycles and ways of thinking about ourselves that I talk about in my novel, are definitely part of and one of the reasons some feel like they don’t deserve love.
The dating site OK Cupid tracked racial statistics and attraction via their platform. Their statistics revealed that African American women reach out the most on their platform and are responded to the least. How do you think this affects our relationships and how do black women deal with that level of rejection?
I think that every woman’s experience is different. Maybe it was just that dating website. I’ve used dating websites before. I have found that it was every other race that reached out to me, mostly white men. How do we deal with rejection? I think it’s about your outlook and your mindset. The right one for you will find their way to you; you will call them to you. When someone is not reaching out to you it’s not about you. It’s about them. They’re just not the right one. It’s about waiting for that right person and also making yourself right. You can look at rejection as a negative or as a positive thing. Say, ‘thank you Lord for not bringing me another deadbeat!’ You can say, ‘I know the right person will come to me when the time is right.’ You can open yourself up in other ways of meeting people. You might meet at a birthday party, at the bookstore, library, or at the museum or somewhere where you’re out not even thinking about meeting someone and just enjoying your life.

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