Black Women’s Strength in Living with Chronic Pain
The current featured article for ANS is titled “’Be Strong My Sista’ – Sentiments of Strength From Black Women With Chronic Pain Living in the Deep South” authored by Lakeshia Cousin, PhD, APRN, AGPCNP-BC; Versie Johnson-Mallard, PhD, WHNP-BC, FAANP, FAAN; and Staja Q. Booker, PhD, RN. We welcome you to download this article at no cost while it is featured, and share your comments below in the ‘comments’ section. Here is a message that co-author Staja Booker shared about this work:
After meeting a Black woman on vacation who voluntarily shared her raw experience of living chronic
pain, it was clear that this conversation was a true representation of how many Black women feel living
with chronic pain. But more importantly, we were convinced that the story of aging Black women with
chronic pain had to be shared, but from a perspective that could (1) adequately explain the cultural
context of coping because of the gendered racial socialization that plagues us throughout our lives and
(2) realistically educate healthcare providers about Black women’s nuanced experience of living with
pain and seeking pain care in an unjust healthcare system.
The traditional connotation and expectations of “strength” have been associated with women who identify as Black for many decades. The Strong Black Woman (and its corollary The Superwoman Schema) is a unique cultural phenomenon with both paradoxically endearing positive and enduring negative characteristics. While evidence of the Strong Black Woman was robust in our sample, we also identified that women with a lived experience of chronic pain also submitted to God for strength and code-switched to counter the weaponization, misunderstanding, and implicit bias of being perceived as “strong” in healthcare encounters.
Research now and in the future must leverage the inner strength of the “sisterhood” and spirituality as cultural assets to empower Black communities to effectively manage chronic pain. We hope this work will lead to a greater appreciation of narrative inquiry of underrepresented individuals as rigorous scientific evidence that can lead to innovative and equitable health solutions that transform lives. “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” (Dr. Maya Angelou).