Always Be a Lady


”I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels. Life’s a bitch. You’ve got to go out and kick ass.” – Maya Angelou (b. 1928), U.S. author. originally published in Girl About Town (Oct. 13, 1986). Kicking Ass (interview), Conversations with Maya Angelou, ed. Jeffrey M. Elliot (1989)

I have had very few times in my life when I simply didn’t feel like “acting like a lady.” But those few times were doozies.

I vividly remember, amongst quite a few others, where I was pulling into a parking space at a pretty cramped small ‘mom and pop’ store that I frequented during my lunch breaks. Things were pretty lean and all I could get for lunch that day was a bag of chips, a Snickers bar, and a cheap fruit drink.

I don’t have to tell you what happened with that parking space. Somebody wanted to do the “political front fender hustle” with me, but I had been sitting there for more than a minute with my signal on  before she pulled into the lot.

Now, people always want to talk about how “loud and brash and pushy” Black women are, and what a bad attitude we have; but some of us nearly come out of the womb from the moment of birth having to fight.

Brothers, sisters, cousins, a child molester, a pedophile, an incestuous relative, an abusive parent, a rapist, a pack of gangbangers, a wife beater, a touching-feeling preacher, some man trying to pimp us, some female trying to turn us into a ho’ or a lesbian, some drunk, some drug addict, a disrespectful and ungrateful child, some [email protected] white male or his female, or even his damned dog.

It’s almost a non-stop thing from the moment we wake up until we go to bed at night, and even then, there are the many nightmares…too many to name. Sleep-fighting. No rest, no peace, no nothing.

I went for it with a sharp twist and turn, and swung into the space only inches ahead of her, simply because I did not believe she had the unmitigated audacity to pull that one on me.

As I got out of the car, confident that I had shown her a thing or two about masterfully handling a small car, she stumbled over to me and started yelling, cursing and waving her arms all over the place, acting like something ‘they say’ only Black women do; and there it was — the “n”-word flying out of her mouth like nobody’s business.

I looked at her like she’d lost her mind and realized I had to make a split-second decision to ignore her and keep walking, or stand there an address it head on. She was carrying on like that parking spot had her name tattoo’d to it.

Normally, I’d have walked away, but somewhere between the sleep deprivation of the night before, the incessant wrestling with four teenage boys who had no appreciation whatsoever for the fact that they had a place to sleep and food to eat that they didn’t have to work for, and the fact that I was eating slim and “on the fly” to make sure they had healthy meals every night, I snapped. I really did.


I ran right into her oncoming path like a freight train, and was more than prepared to let go of the purse, the keys, the shoes, the earrings, and the wig piece I’d had to buy because my hair was already falling out from the above-mentioned stress and depression.

It seemed like I couldn’t get through a simple 24 hours with a plain old somewhat-normal day filled with nothing but peace and quiet. If I could get that, it would be the only thing I’d have had and didn’t get a bill for the same day.


I was running at her dead-on, aiming for a head-on collision and with the idea pre-planned in my mind of just exactly how I was going to bring her down to the ground and stomp the flying eff out of her. I knew she was going to get in a few licks, but I prepared myself for the worst and went in.

Dambit, you don’t just come at me like that after you were trying to take a parking spot that you saw me signaling for before you got there!

I was coming in for “the kill,” and suddenly an arm swooped from behind me from out of Nowheresville. I turned to swing on whomever it was, whatever it was that grabbed me; but much to my chagrin, it was an older Black man whose only words were “YOU be a lady.”

The look on his face told me everything I needed to know.

He had seen the whole thing, and he acted quickly to let me know that I had the ability to be something that that stringy-headed bed wench never could: A better woman.

Respect a Queen

When we use the words “Respect a Queen,” we better make danged sure we’re dressed and acting like one-and not like one of her Court Jesters.

‘There is a kind of strength that is almost frightening in black women. It’s as if a steel rod runs right through the head down to the feet.” — Maya Angelou (b. 1928), U.S. author. interview broadcast, Nov. 21, 1973. “A Conversation with Maya Angelou,” Conversations with Maya Angelou (1989).


PUBLIC NOTE: The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not reflect the view of the Urban Intellectuals, affiliates or partners.

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