57 Awesome Quotes by Black Women on Owning Your Weird, Dreaming Big, and Creating Art

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Weirdos, dreamers, and artists have been my saving grace. They have made me feel less alone and misfit-y. They have buoyed me with their words, especially in the form of quotes.

Quirky/weirdo/alt/goth girls of color are having a moment right now. At least they are on my Instagram feed. But, weird isn’t just an aesthetic, constrained to dying ones hair teal or thrifting at Goodwill.

Weird to me is being true to yourself no matter who is watching. It is playing with creative expression. It is giving voice to the stubbornly unnamed. I have been a weird black “girl” when I was wearing a Navy khaki uniform. I know dreamers who serve in the military and artists who swear they are not creative. It is all about the spirit of what we embrace—not necessarily how we appear.

If you are ever looking for inspiration on owning your weird, dreamy, artist self, look no further:

  1. “Don’t wait around for other people to be happy for you. Any happiness you get you’ve got to make for yourself.”

-Alice Walker, Writer

2. “I do have–and I am unafraid to say it–a very distinctive, clear vision of how I want to present myself and my body and my voice and my perspective. And who better to really tell that story than yourself?”

-Solange, Vocal/Performing Artist

3. “People have to start respecting the vagina. Until every man is fighting for our rights, we should consider stopping having sex. I love men. But evil men? I will not tolerate that. You don’t deserve to be in my presence. If you’re going to own this world and this is how you’re going to rule this world, I am not going to contribute anymore until you change it. We have to realize our power and our magic.”

-Janelle Monae, Vocal Artist/Actress

4. “I am not going to die, I’m going home like a shooting star.”

-Sojourner Truth, Activist

5. “If you are living a life that feels right to you, if you’re willing to take creative chances or a creative path that feels like it’s mostly in keeping with your sensibilities, you know, aesthetic and artistic, then that’s what matters.”

-Tracy Chapman, Vocal Artist

6. “For some people it’s never enough. You are never going to be enough, you are never going do enough, so fuck ’em.”

-Samantha Irby, Writer

7.”I was never interested in the bit where {fairy tales} became amazing, and everyone was like, “you’re so amazing.” It was the falling and getting up, and the falling and getting up, and what changed between each fall and each rise … that was the real story for me.”

-Helen Oyeyemi, Writer

8. “If you copy, it means you’re working without any real feeling. No two people on earth are alike, and it’s got to be that way in music or it isn’t music.”

-Billie Holliday

9. “I believe that telling our stories, first to ourselves and then to one another and the world, is a revolutionary act. It is an act that can be met with hostility, exclusion, and violence. It can also lead to love, understanding, transcendence, and community. I hope that my being real with you will help empower you to step into who you are and encourage you to share yourself with those around you.”

-Janet Mock, Writer/Activist

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10. “The thing that makes you exceptional, if you are at all, is inevitably that which must also make you lonely.”

-Lorraine Hansberry, Playwright

11. “For a long time, I wanted to be a different person. I wanted to have my shit together, I wanted to have perpetually clear skin, fucking remember to moisturize. I wanted to not talk too much, slow down and not stutter. I didn’t want to have ADHD. I wanted to be a normal person. And I think that craving and the editing of myself hindered me, so I just stopped editing. And that was all. The embarrassment of being me still stands and exists all the time, every moment, but it’s also learning the acceptance part and also being down to see where me takes me is the part that set me free.”


12. “Art hurts. Art urges voyages – and it is easier to stay at home.”

-Gwendolyn Brooks, Writer

13. “I had something I was trying to say and sometimes the message is an easy transmission and sometimes it’s a difficult one but I love the power of saying it so I’m gonna do it whether it’s hard or easy.”

-Faith Ringgold, Visual Artist

14. “Sometimes you’ve got to let everything go – purge yourself. If you are unhappy with anything… whatever is bringing you down, get rid of it. Because you’ll find that when you’re free, your true creativity, your true self comes out.”

-Tina Turner, Vocal Artist

15. “My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.”

-Maya Angelou, Multi-hyphenate

16. “I embrace the label of bad feminist because I am human. I am messy. I’m not trying to be an example. I am not trying to be perfect. I am not trying to say I have all the answers. I am not trying to say I’m right. I am just trying–trying to support what I believe in, trying to do some good in this world, trying to make some noise with my writing while also being myself.”

-Roxane Gay, Writer/Critic

17. “I wanted to be a superstar. They thought I was the class clown. But I was like, ‘I’m going to be a superstar.’ So when I would get in my room, it was like, if y’all don’t see it, I’m going to create it myself.”

-Missy Elliott, Vocal Artist/Producer

18. “I’m always rebelling. I don’t think I’ll ever stop.”

-Grace Jones, Everything

19. “Should” has so much shame in it. There’s nothing good. ‘You know what you should do?!’ It’s awful! As I get older, I’m having fun being me for the first time. My ability to be present has gotten better.”

-Traci Ellis Ross, Actress

20. “The function of art is to do more than tell it like it is—its to imagine what is possible.”

-bell hooks, Scholar/Writer

21. “I found God in myself and I loved her . . .
I loved her fiercely.”

-ntozake shange, Playwright

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22. “There’s an idea that you need to be a perfect feminist, you need to be a perfect womanist, you need to just not say this or that, and I think it really is kind of honoring yourself and what your internal compass is.”

-Jessica Williams, Actress

23. “When I dare to be powerful—to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.”

-Audre Lorde, Writer

24. “I’m free. I just do what I want, say what I want, say how I feel, and I don’t try to hurt nobody. I just try to make sure that I don’t compromise my art in any kind of way, and I think people respect that.”

-Erykah Badu, Vocal/Performing Artist

25. “You could either go the traditional way or the other way. I went the other way.”

-Macy Gray, Vocal Artist/Actress

26. “I’m just a loud-mouthed middle-aged colored lady with a fused spine and three feet of intestines missing and a lot of people think I’m crazy. Maybe you do too, but I never stop to wonder why I’m not like other people. The mystery to me is why more people aren’t like me.”

-Flo Kennedy, Activist/Lawyer

27. “The more I wonder…the more I love.”

-Alice Walker, Writer

28. “I used to be afraid of that practice, of constantly trying different things and being all over the place. But I think that, as a young artist, it helped me, so I don’t mind oscillating between all of these different forms now.”

-Mickalene Thomas, Visual Artist

29. “I don’t think life is about the I-could-have-beens. Life is only about the I-tried-to-do. I don’t mind the failure but I can’t imagine that I’d forgive myself if I didn’t try.”

-Nikki Giovanni, Poet

30. “People ask me a lot, Do you have any regrets? Heeeck naw. If I hadn’t done all the things I’d done, I wouldn’t be the amazing human being I am today.”

-Chaka Khan, Vocal Artist

31. “You can’t have relationships with other people until you give birth to yourself.”

-Sonia Sanchez, Poet

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32. “Create the highest, grandest vision possible for your life, because you become what you believe.”

-Oprah Winfrey, Oprah

33. “Feminism is freedom. It’s the freedom to be who you are and not who someone else wants you to be…And science fiction? People ask me–Why have you stuck with science fiction? First of all I say I’m not sure I have–I go wherever my imagination leads me. But second, science fiction is wide open. You can go anywhere your imagination can go.”

-Octavia Butler, Writer

34. “I thrive on obstacles. If I’m told that it can’t be told, then I push harder.”

-Issa Rae, Producer/Actress/Director

35. “I’m a black woman who is from Central Falls, Rhode Island. I’m dark skinned. I’m quirky. I’m shy. I’m strong. I’m guarded. I’m weak at times. I’m sensual. I’m not overtly sexual. I am so many things in so many ways and I will never see myself on screen. And the reason I will never see myself up on screen is because that does not translate with being black.”

-Viola Davis, Actress

36. “This is the world you have made yourself, now you have to live in it.”

-Nina Simone, Vocal Artist

37. “Someone yelled at me once, ‘You never write about yourself.’ People used to get so mad at me for that. But my definition of myself is completely up for grabs. I’m everywhere, just like we all are.”

-Suzan-Lori Parks, Playwright

38. “My purpose is to inspire people to get to know themselves, and then they can get to know the world in a different way. When I see art that I love, I get this tingly feeling, almost like you’re in love. The flutter in your chest. That spark is what changes a person. It’s the whole point of existence. I would love it if my music could make anybody feel like that.”

-Santigold, Vocal Artist

39. “I will not have my life narrowed down. I will not bow down to somebody else’s whim or to someone else’s ignorance.”

-bell hooks, Scholar/Writer

40. “We danced too wild, and we sang too long, and we hugged too hard, and we kissed too sweet, and howled just as loud as we wanted to howl, because by now we were all old enough to know that what looks like crazy on an ordinary day looks a lot like love if you catch it in the moonlight.”

-Pearl Cleage, Poet

41. “I ain’t good-lookin’, but I’m somebody’s angel child.”

-Bessie Smith

42. “I feel very connected at a fundamental level to every other person I’ve ever met. I know that it sounds really hokey and strange, but it’s a familial relationship to the true sense of that. The ‘human family’ to me really is a concept that I live with every day.”

-Sarah Jones, Playwright

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43. “I do not feel inhibited or bound by what I am. That does not mean that I have never had bad scenes relating to being Black and/or a woman, it means that other people’s craziness has not managed to make me crazy.”

-Lucille Clifton, Writer

44. “I’m not going to give you one story, because I’m more than one thing. Whatever I feel like painting, I just paint it. For me, nothing is off-limits.”

Nina Chanel Abney, Painter

45. “At certain times I have no race, I am me. When I set my hat at a certain angle and saunter down Seventh Avenue, Harlem City, feeling as snooty as the lions in front of the Forty-Second Street Library, for instance. So far as my feelings are concerned, Peggy Hopkins Joyce on the Boule Mich with her gorgeous raiment, stately carriage, knees knocking together in a most aristocratic manner, has nothing on me. The cosmic Zora emerges. I belong to no race nor time. I am the eternal feminine with its string of beads.”

-Zora Neale Hurston, Writer

46. “I always thought of my mother as a warrior woman, and I became interested in pursuing stories of women who invent lives in order to survive.”

-Lynn Nottage, Playwright

47. “A violinist has his violin, a painter his palette. All I had was myself. I was the instrument I must care for.”

-Josephine Baker, Dancer

48. “I cannot tell the truth about anything unless I confess being a student, growing and learning something new every day. The more I learn, the clearer my view of the world becomes.”

-Sonia Sanchez, Poet

49. “We must reject not only the stereotypes that others have of us but also those that we have of ourselves.”

-Shirley Chisolm, Congresswoman

50. “It is important to redefine what sexy is. To redefine style . . . It is important for women to be [in control], especially when gender norms and conformity are pushed upon us. Women automatically are told that this is how you should look. This is how you should get a man. This is how you should get a woman. You need to fit into all these boxes to be accepted. I don’t subscribe to that way of thinking. I don’t think we all have to take the same coordinates to reach the same destination. I believe in embracing what makes you unique even if it makes others uncomfortable. I have learned there is power in saying no. I have agency. I get to decide.”

-Janelle Monae, Vocal Artist/Actress

51. “I have fallen in love with the imagination. And if you fall in love with the imagination, you understand that it is a free spirit. It will go anywhere, and it can do anything.”

-Alice Walker, Writer

52. “I want to say, one of the things that drives me is the fear of failing. But the good thing about being the kind of artist that I know I am, is that even if the ground fell out from under me, I would still make art.”

-Mickalene Thomas, Visual Artist

53. “Do not live someone else’s life and someone else’s idea of what womanhood is. Womanhood is you. Womanhood is everything that’s inside of you.”

-Viola Davis, Actress

54. “I have come to believe over and over again that what is most important to me must be spoken, made verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood.”

-Audre Lorde, Writer/Activist

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55. “To write for PC reasons, because you think you ought to be dealing with this subject, is never going to yield anything that is really going to matter to anyone else. It has to matter to you.”

-Rita Dove, Poet/Essayist

56. “Young folks will call you names and grown folks will call you names. It’s ok. one day you will name yourself, and that name will belong to you. It will not be the ones they ordained: crazy, ugly, attention-seeking, weirdo. I really hate to tell you this, but sometimes you will still get called these things as an adult, except you will actually embrace some of them. You will learn that these are just words. Words that only have power if you choose to give them power. Every once in awhile they will hurt, but you will choose to turn those words into a symbol of beauty.”

-Solange, Vocal/Performing Artist

57. “The function, the very serious function of racism is distraction. It keeps you from doing your work. It keeps you explaining, over and over again, your reason for being. Somebody says you have no language and you spend twenty years proving that you do. Somebody says your head isn’t shaped properly so you have scientists working on the fact that it is. Somebody says you have no art, so you dredge that up. Somebody says you have no kingdoms, so you dredge that up. None of this is necessary. There will always be one more thing.”

-Toni Morrison, Writer

I know there are many weirdos, dreamers, and artists NOT on this list. So, please, share away! I’d love to add some more quotes to my vault :)




Nyanza D









Poolside Maya Angelou

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I used to pretend Maya Angelou was cheering me on during swim class. I was nineteen years old and in my first year at the US Merchant Marine Academy. I could barely swim.  There was one other black girl in the entire school and I had just had my first ever experience of academic probation. To say I was not doing well would be putting it lightly.

It may seem to be easy reaching to say that Maya Angelou is a personal heroine. She has become a standard of national pride, a reoccurring face affixed to Women’s History Month. She even has her own stamp. But, I needed her back then in a way far beyond rote admiration. I needed to imagine her sonorous voice espousing good will as I took my place in the shallowest side of the pool. The Maya Angelou I invoked during that semester was pure victor, miles away from the adversity that plagued her young life. She’d sit in the stands with a good book and look up every time I finished a lap with a smile.

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Two nights a week I would go to open swim hours and swim amongst the students who moved through water like native marine animals. I’d gingerly climb into the deep end and practice letting go of the wall. During swim class, I often swam as close to the tiled wall as possible, its touch was steady reassurance that I would not drown.

I knew I would never pass swim class that way. I imagined a young Maya Angelou daring to speak for the first time in five years since her childhood rape. I focused on the bravery this act took.  And I’d practice letting go of the wall. Ten seconds at first. Then thirty. Weeks later, I could tread water ungracefully for a full minute without the wall’s aid.

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On my last day of swim class, I laid down on a cold locker room bench with hands steepled in prayer. I had passed the class. I thanked God and then I thanked Maya Angelou.

That swim class was twelve years ago and I still remember the utter shame and fright which overtook me every time I donned that navy blue one piece. I know more about Maya Angelou now. I know that she was not the flawless statue of my younger imagination. I know that every time she sat down to write a new book she wondered if she was good enough. I know that she hated disappointing her son and loved unstable men.

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Many Angelou lovers stop at I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and miss the messy, brilliant woman she eventually grew into. I was the same way. But, I no longer need always-triumphant-Maya-Angelou. I’d rather be inspired her humanness. The woman who failed. The woman who let go of unhelpful walls, even a little ungracefully. The woman who dared to live.



So, yeah. I’m very excited about this:

I wrote Issa Rae a gushing email after seeing the first episode of Misadventures of the Awkward Black Girl about five years ago. I’m sure I’d cringe at my praise language now, but even back then I knew this woman was destined to really take over media in a new way.

It is refreshing and awesome to see her at this level, showcasing a black womanhood that isn’t #flawless.

May there be many more creators who follow soon after.