Here is the transcript of my speech from SlutWalk Los Angeles, June 4th 2011. Thanks everyone! It was an incredible event and I was honored to be a part of it.
Whether you are here to reclaim the term Slut or ho or bitch, we are all here to bring awareness to the injustices that women face every single day.We are here to speak up and Slutwalkers…. People are listening!
Somewhere down the line, those in positions of power began to think that a SLUT means it is okay to violate.If we reclaim the term, and people are allowed to honor their sexuality through their sexual actions, then we can create a united front where being a slut is no longer used as an excuse for sexual assault. Not at home, Not in the office, Not on the streets and Not in a courtroom.
This movement is about giving voice to women and men who have been assaulted, yelled and prodded at for simply expressing themselves.This movement is about saying… we have had enough.
We have the benefit of walking in a beautiful city that is made of up women from all over the world and we must honor them as we walk today.
And as you strut your glorious bodies and shout aloud with your strong voices , I want you to think about those who are unable to stand here with us out of fear or discomfort.I want you to think about how this movement and sexual justice effects those from different ethnic, racial, and socioeconomic backgrounds.
We must decolonize our minds and social movements in order to fully give justice for women and men who are not part of the norm.
We must expose the myriad of ways white supremacy and patriarchy has assaulted our concept of self and self-esteem.
As my girl bell hooks says, we must embraces a diversity of women and men and our varying forms of beauty. We must see self-love as a radical political agenda.
So on this day, take the time to recognize that there is not a universal women’s experience of sexuality and sexual violence.
We will not heal unless we acknowledge and fight the affects of assault on all of our communities.
So when you walk today, and when you reflect at home, remember to think about and honor those women and men who didn’t have the freedom to be with us today.
We can only make change happen if we acknowledge, respect and fight for the diversity of those around us.
Last week I had the pleasure of being interviewed for Persephone Magazine on my work as a professional feminist, founder of Refuse The Silence and leader organizer of Ain’t I A Woman.
With all the excitement from learning I got accepted into the University For Peace, I completely forgot to post it. So here it is:
Morgane Richardson is shaking it up. As a self-described “fourth-wave feminist” who takes on issues of race, gender, sexuality, sans the theory and terminology, Morgane is making an impact wherever she goes. As the founder of Refuse the Silence: Women of Color in Academia Speak Out, she has created a space that allows women who have experienced the isolation of liberal arts institutions to come and speak their truths. She has been featured in publications such as Bitch, More,Feministing, and numerous others. She has organized local campus communities as a Posse Scholar, created the social media firm Mixtape Media, and most recently created the conference series Ain’t I A Woman: Race in the Feminist Movement, which had its first panel in Brooklyn, N.Y., and is currently gearing up for a second series in Los Angeles, as well as a speaker for the upcoming SlutWalk in LA. She is a force of nature, speaking on her experiences as a woman of color, a queer woman, and a feminist, all with some serious chutzpah. Please welcome to Persephone the fabulous and amazing Morgane Richardson.
Persephone Magazine: You are the founder of ”Refuse the Silence: Women of Color in Academia Speak Out,” a site dedicated to collecting the stories of WOC students and alumni in elite liberal arts schools. What motivated you to start this space, and what was the process like?
Morgane Richardson: Refuse The Silence came into my mind and into my life about six months after my graduation from Middlebury College.
I was very active as the president of women of color on my campus, and I felt almost as though I was abandoning the women of color who were coming after me when I graduated. I knew that there were many things that still needed to happen in order for women of color to have a safe space, and I was seeking a way to do that as an alum.
The key was that I didn’t want someone else saying what the issues were for us. I wanted to provide women of color on these campuses with a space to share their own experiences. More than that, I wanted their stories to literally be the change, or create the change, in academia.
Once I had the idea in place, it was quite easy to put it all together. My partner and I have a digital media firm, so we were equipped to get Refuse The Silence up online and start spreading the news to others. The hardest part has been getting people outside of the feminist and academic worlds to know that this initiative exists, and that just requires more time and resources.
The process has been as rewarding as it is challenging. I think any organizer will tell you that it is difficult to be the head or founder of an initiative, especially when there is little funding, as is the case with Refuse The Silence. In a perfect world, Refuse The Silence would be my full-time job and I would be able to get basic healthcare and funding in order to support everyone involved. This would really allow us to dedicate all of our time to watching this project grow and reach out to all the women who need to know that we exist for them.
PM: What were the most obvious issues or obstacles that you confronted in your own academic experience? What were the reactions from your peers and administration?
MR: When I first graduated from college, I was most disappointed with the administration and what I thought was their inability to change the issues that so many students of color face; by that I mean Middlebury’s inabilities to not only speak on blatant issues of racism (swastikas on students’ doors, professors calling out students to explain the Black, Latino, Asian experience, etc.) but to create an environment on campus that did not tolerate such hate.
After almost four years out, my awareness has changed a little, and I think the hardest part was not the administration but living and working with the students that I went to college with. I now recognize that many of the students in these institutions held preconceived notions of who we were as people of color, and in some case students on scholarship. So the hardest part was combating those ideas, feeling unwanted and feeling as though we had to be the voice of all students of color on campus. There was very little time to just be a student and make stupid mistakes… many of us felt that we had to put our activism first and collective identity first and lost the opportunity to be less uptight and a little more reckless.
The professors and heads of student organizations that I have worked with have been incredibly supportive of Refuse The Silence and have made sure their students are aware that it is available to them. I give them a lot of credit, because it takes courage to not only recognize that there is a problem but to research ways to help. I do wish that administrators were more involved, and yet I also recognize that I haven’t reached out to them as much. As one person, it is difficult to do all the things that require Refuse The Silence to be incredibly successful on all elite liberal arts colleges around the United States.
PM: Do you think Refuse the Silence can be translated for the experiences of women in, say, community colleges or state schools? What are the reasons for focusing specifically on “higher ed” private institutions?
MR: There are certainly issues that are specific to private schools of this nature, such as often being the only student of color in the classroom, and I wanted to make sure that those were addressed. Yet I recognize that many of the issues that we hear from women of color are not exclusive to elite liberal arts institutions. Hate crimes, sexual assault, eating disorders, and the like happen all over the world in colleges and universities.
My intention was not to separate the two but to speak on what I know and give voice to those in the community that I have been a part of. My hope is that one day so many people will want to be a part of Refuse The Silence that we can grow to be adopted on all college campuses across the United States, and even internationally. In fact, I am always thinking and dreaming about having Refuse The Silence for women in community colleges and state schools, but I also have learned to take it one step at a time, or else nothing will get done.
Video still from Refuse The Silence. Image courtesy of Refuse the Silence.
PM: You define yourself as a professional feminist, and on your site talk about the feeling of being “invited to their venue, even inviting us to speak, but being neglected to provide a microphone so we can be heard.” Can you talk about WOC’s representation or lack of in the larger feminist community, academic or otherwise, and how feminism can be better at including voices beyond the ones it has become easily accustomed with?
When I say that women of color aren’t given a microphone to be heard, I mean that people are often speaking for us. I was referring primarily to academic institutions, but I do think that this exists across the board, in the feminist community but also at home and in the workforce. People often feel comfortable speaking about race at a distance without asking for those directly affected to speak and share their stories and experiences. I think this largely exists because we live in a society that is still terrified of speaking on race, as many have never been given the vocabulary to do so. Unfortunately, many others simply think that race is no longer an issue.
Those at the forefront of the feminist community can greatly assist women of color’s voices being included in the movement by creating a space for us to speak out. We can organize more events with women of color activists and scholars, and we can have more conversations on race, class, and identity. We can also support organizations and initiatives founded and run by fellow women of color feminists. I think if we had any more specific answers than that, we really wouldn’t be where we are today. We must continue to figure out how to help by first acknowledging that there is an issue. Not enough people believe that there is a dire problem for women of color, even within the progressive feminist movement.
I, personally, have broached this issue by refusing to wait for someone else to give me a space or permission to organize on the topics that I deem important.
PM: What do you think are the largest obstacles facing young feminist are right now? What about the positives?
MR: Though it may sound cliché, I think every obstacle that we face as young feminists is a positive one. How can you learn if you have nothing to fight for and/or against? But for a solid answer, I think that the feminist community is working hard on creating an environment where all people can feel comfortable in finding a space to take action on the injustices they see in the world.
Some of the biggest things that are hindering us are the history of feminism and the notion that it is a middle class, white woman’s movement from the ’60s. Once we move away from that idea, we can start to organize as a collective and address the issues that are present today, largely immigration rights and combating the (naive) belief that we live in a post-racial society.
Morgane and crew at the first Los Angeles panel of Young Feminists Speak Out. Image courtesy of Young Feminists Speak Out.
PM: What do you feel that we have learned from those who came before us?
MR: There is a huge debate in the feminist community as to whether or not younger generations appreciate all that those who came before us have done. I don’t think it’s fair for one person to speak on behalf of everyone, but I personally think a lot of what we know as people, as activists, comes from those who have lived before us. That being said, there is even more that must be learned on our own through experience. For example, I was trained to deal with racism on college campuses as a posse scholar, but I didn’t know what that meant or how to deal with it until I experienced it myself.
In terms of what we have learned, that’s different for everyone and is incredibly difficult to answer.
PM: You and your partner also did something that most people are scared or seemingly unable to do – you both hopped into a car and lived off very little, mostly the support and help of people. Can you talk about why you both made that decision and what it was like?
MR: It sounds more poetic to say that choosing to pick up and leave was an easy decision, but the reality is it wasn’t at all for me. While I was ready for more adventures and control than my job at the time was giving me, I was afraid of the repercussions that came with not being able to pay off my student loans and lose my healthcare. I was also afraid of what my mother would think. Yet, I didn’t see a future for myself sitting at a front desk answering phones and not making enough to pay for my own housing (I was making less than $20,000 a year). Luckily, I had a partner who saw that it was slowly eating away at me, and she helped me find the strength to get up and leave.
Once we were on the road, it was much easier. You would be surprised at how many people are willing to help two young women living out of their car. We had random strangers offer up their time, really good traveling tips, showers in their hotel rooms, and even blankets to keep us warm as we drove in the dead of winter. We also got our then-puppy on the road, which was a great way for us to focus our (sometimes nervous) energy.
I think the hardest part of the entire journey was when we realized that, eventually, we had to go back home. Coming home was when things got tough… when we suddenly had to be a part of society again. But we have learned that we are, indeed, wanderers at heart and have created a life for ourselves that allows us to do that by starting our own company and learning to let go a little. In fact, we are moving to Costa Rica in the fall to continue on our journey!
“Ain’t I a Woman Event” poster. Image courtesy of Lucy McLaughlen.
PM: Now you are living in L.A. and organizing your own feminist community, creating events like Young Feminist Speak Out: Los Angeles and the Ain’t I A Woman Conference that took place in Brooklyn. Can you talk about how you are reframing these discussions in a way that are more inclusive and what it’s like to organize these events?
MR: Despite what people think, the feminist community closely reflects the energies that you find in a corporation or even at the United Nations. People are striving to be at the top of the ladder and are so involved in making policy changes that I think we often forget to reach out to those who have little to no understanding of what feminism means.
I love the fast-paced, get-it-done energy that New York feminism has, but I strongly appreciate the laid back vibe that Californians have on life. So when I started organizing events on a large scale, I wanted to create a space where we could have the conversations that needed to be had but also have fun while doing it. I think there are some people who can learn in an academic setting, but many more who can appreciate good music, dancing, and socializing all the while talking about ways we can change the world for women. Ain’t I A Woman in Brooklyn and Young Feminist Speak Out in Los Angeles reached out to not only the feminist community but to artists, musicians, and many other people who may have never known about feminism and felt ostracized by the term.
In terms of the discussions that we have, I try to keep it very simple with minimal heady questions. I have found it works to have shorter panels so that people are only given enough time to answer a question but not delve too deep into it; this way, the audience is encouraged to come back to more events but also engage in a conversation with panelists in a beautiful space and over good music once the panel itself is over.
When organizing, I am very anal and require that every single detail is planned out and thought of. I am all about having the right flow and having events look so effortless, so organizing them takes a lot of time. I often feel bad for my co-organizers, but so far all of the events have turned out to be a success, so we must be doing something right!
PM: What other awesome work can we look forward from you in the future?
MR: For one, it’s time Refuse The Silence turns into book form, and I am working extremely hard at that. I have sat down with a few different publishing houses and agents in the past few months to really push this project into print from. Let’s cross our fingers that you will all be holding a copy of Refuse The Silence, The Book this time next year.
Snakes: As a positive symbol, snakes represent healing, transformation, knowledge and wisdom. It is indicative of self-renewal and positive change. /via dreammoods.com
While on the Women’s Creative Collective Skillshare Retreat this weekend, I had a dream that I was lying next to three snakes, two rolled into each other on my left and one on my right side.You must know, I am usually terrified of the snakes that have haunted my dreams for years. There have been many times when I have woken up screaming and, quite literally, smacking the covers begging them to leave.However on this occasion, I felt oddly at ease with them being there… perhaps even comforted.
At the skillshare we spoke a little bit about our dreams and, for the first time I took a moment to look a little deeper into what this meant.For me, those snakes symbolized my comfort with the intense love and power that exists within me.They were also a symbol that one more incredible event (after getting accepted to UPeace in Costa Rica and finding a feminist community there) was going to happen in my life to ease the stress that I have been feeling.
And it seems to be happening… A woman has expressed extreme interest in taking over the lease for our Malibu home giving us the freedom to return to our youth and roam the world without fear of feeling bound to this structure!
I know it sounds odd, but those snakes (and the skillshare retreat) made me feel like I can finally breath again.
Okay, enough random sharing. Back to feminist rantings tomorrow!
Though feminists today are discussing women of color’s presence within the movement many of us continue to remain underrepresented and silenced. The feminist community still has a long way to go in giving women of color a space to speak outside of the shadows of their white counterparts.
For this reason, it comes as no surprise that a women of color is speaking out on the disparities that exist in the now infamous, SlutWalk. As Aura Blogando points out in her blog SlutWalk, A Stroll Through White Supremacy, the issues that women of color face go far beyond being called a Slut. Few women of color have the freedom to even protest authority figures without facing some kind of legal and often physical, repercussion. If a Latina or black women were to take the streets in little to no clothes shouting, “respect my rights,” do we really think the media would pick it up? Do we believe that white feminists would follow? If anything, the media would call us crazy and white feminists would blog about it from home.
Hugo Schwyzer, one of the lead organizers of SlutWalk LA, asked me a really good question: Does this critique mean the Slutwalk is irredeemable as a movement? Absolutely not. Despite the lack of inclusion women of color are experiencing, there is still a very serious issue around “slutdom” and the belief that women (and men) bring on rape and sexual assault because of their clothes and/or sexual activities. The key is really to make sure that all voices are represented and that all people have the space and freedom to speak on how this issue affects them to a large audience.
I understand that Aura feels tokenized and that feeling is unfair. I feel tokenized all the time and yet for me, it is a choice. I have chosen to identify as an antiracist activist and thus am often the token women of color speaking on issues relating to race and gender. But, it is still an emotional struggle and I do often wish people would ask me and other women of color activists to speak simply because they think we have something important to say. It’s sort of a catch-22.
So despite the loneliness that I often feel when asked to be a part of or critique these events as the black female voice, I will attend SlutWalk with the hope that my presence will make others think about the implications the term “Slut” has on women of color. I will walk with other women and men at SlutWalk to be an example of change and show feminists that our movement is about providing a space for all people to speak out.
Join me at Slutwalk in Los Angeles, Saturday June 4th 2011. Click on image above for more information.
Rather than allowing others to put a label on what is and isn’t appropriate, Slutwalk is taking a positive step in reclaiming the term and making the word “slut” a part of everyday life. More importantly, Slutwalk is shaping a public conversation around rape culture for those who may not have known it was even an issue.
I have always thought a great deal about weddings.The engagement, the ring, dress, the party and, of course, the honeymoon…It has never been so much about the institution itself; it’s the energy, colors and vibrations around it that really draw me in.
No, I don’t need a lecture from my fellow progressives.I am fully aware of how messed up the marriage system is.In fact, I strongly believe that marriage should remain within the church.Only those who have a faith that is worshipped within those walls should claim the religious title of “married” without it relating to social and economic benefits.
But I digress… For years I have been dreaming up the perfect party for all those around me.As a child, I used to sketch entire wedding layouts in notebooks.My mom would encourage me to show my drawings to her friends, all of who thought I was quickly headed for a career in wedding planning.
I took classes at FIT in New York City and learned how to make patterns and sew my own dresses.I even applied to intern with Martha Stewarts Weddings (Luckily that internship didn’t work out for many reasons).
I have no desire to prove my love for my partner solely through marriage though up until the age of 16 I thought you were supposed to do it that way.Yet I do still conjure up different scenario’s – a party in the woods with lanterns and decorated tents or on an island with candles and seashells - and run them by my partner ever so often just to nourish that creative side of me.
But two things are different now. One, I’m not legally allowed to marry the person that I love in this state.On top of that, our domestic partnership paperwork looks much more like a contract that tells us which rights are different from a “normal” marriage.The other, there are no women who look like me when researching weddings.
Don’t believe me? Take a look at J.Crew or The New York Times Wedding Section (of course currently bombarded by pictures of Catherine and Prince William). How many women of color do you see in those pictures?
I know that it sounds silly and unimportant compared to the numerous other things we must fight for as woman, especially as women of color.Yet, I can’t get over how uncomfortable it is to not be able to see myself represented in magazines for women.
No matter how much I don’t agree with the institution of marriage, I still want to be able to see those like me sharing their love.I want young women and men who are as obsessed with drawing wedding images as I was to see themselves represented by people who not only look like them, but are depicted loving someone the same way I do.
People in my life often say they wish they could live the way that my partner and I do: On the beach in Malibu or our loft in NYC, running a company (or a few) from the house, having a cute dog and traveling the moment that we want to.
Of course it sounds a lot easier then it really is. You must create the job that allows you to travel and you need support and an emotional (and physical, if you are lucky) place to land in case everything falls through.
But, a lot of our ability to live this gypyset lifestyle is due to the fact that we are open people.A year after our graduation from college, we wrestled with our fear of failing and instead of living a miserable life in an office, we got into a car and drove. We lived there for a few months without much more then ramen noodles, wine and a bag of clothes until we figured out what we wanted to do. In our case, we lived in the car until we realized that we didn’t want to live in the car anymore.
IT wasn’t easy. I didn’t have healthcare (still don’t) and later got sick, together lost about 60 pounds, we were taken for homeless, had no jobs to speak of and had about $700 combined. Despite it all, we found the courage to start something completely unconventional and found people along the way who were supportive of us.
This is where the point is. We found people who let us into their homes, let us take showers in their motel rooms, played with our puppydog, gave us warm sheets and clothes, and entertained us with funny stories, great beer and sometimes even a comfortable place to sleep. People. We interacted with the world around us and found life and a way of living that is forgotten in this country.
Our society is so terrified of living outside of the invisible boundaries and welcoming in those who don’t fit the mold. Even the most progressive people in my life live in fear. They remained glued to the corporate structure, wondering how to live a life where they can pick up and move as they please.
My partner and I put our love first. Our love for one another absolutely, but we also honor and nurture the love that we have for each other’s ideas and dreams no matter how outrageous they may be. More then that, we welcome all those who are in search of a home and in search of adventure, into our lives (and spare rooms).
Perhaps if we stop thinking of the “basic necessities” being making money, paying rent, and eating overpriced organic food, and think of them as helping others, we will suddenly be a world that lives again.
For those of you who have not had a chance to see this incredible documentary yet,
NO! The Rape Documentary is a critically acclaimed film written, directed and produced by Aishah Shahidah Simmons, a survivor of incest and rape. NO! boldly addresses various forms of sexual oppression against women and girls throughout theS world. Produced and Directed over a period of eleven years, seven of which were full time, by Aishah Shahidah Simmons, an incest and rape survivor, this groundbreaking feature length documentary features riveting testimonials from Black women rape survivor stories who defy victimization.
Some riveting and, yes, depressing, statements came out of this film, and I am grateful to have this space to share them with you now:
1. Women of color are very rarely looked at as people who should be protected. 2. Black girls are victimized because older women are too often afraid to break the silence. 3. Men of color are about loving women of color the way that america loves them. 4. How can you have liberation for half a race? 5. The way out is to tell. Someone will listen. Someone will believe our stories. Someone will join.
While the documentary was well received by all, there certainly were some comments made by the audience that had my jaw drop, i.e. most gay people must be survivors of sexual assault. And yet, I was most disappointed by the reality that there were no white feminist to be seen.
My fellow feminists (myself included) always talk about including the “voice of Women of color” into the discussion, but rarely do I see them coming to events that are hosted by and focused on Women of color. Why do women of color always seem to be a side note in popular feminist discourse and have little attention when we are the focus?
In makes me wonder if the event I organized for April 11th, Ain’t I A Woman, would have recieved 300+ RSVP’s if the panel was made up of all women of color.
See… It’s sad that I even have to wonder that in this day in age… and in this movement.
On March 25th 2011, I had the incredible opportunity of presenting at the 2nd annual Women Action Media (WAM!) conference, in Los Angeles on the media’s impact on women of color in higher ed through the lens of Refuse The Silence.
If you were unable to WAM! LA, I have provided the film I presented featurning members of my alma mater, Middlebury College, speaking about their college experience. You may also follow the conversation by logging on to Twitter and checking out the hastag #wamla, or looking at @refusesilence.
Please feel free to continue the conversation in the comments section below as well!
Women’s History Month forces us to look to our pasts in relation to our current spaces in society and see the possibilities for our future. However, when there are a good many of us on the periphery of histories celebrated and remembered, it becomes necessary to actively seek out and recapture our pasts.
For Women’s History Month I’d like to highlight some projects that I’m really excited about because they are actively recapturing histories that have been left out of the discussion. One of the failures of academic study, is the ease that any issue can become so theoretical that it distances us from the communities we’re trying to empower; even when we are part of that community. With Melissa Harris-Perry leaving Princeton to study race, gender and politics in the American South at Tulane and the recently published Feminism For Real: Deconstructing the Academic Industrial Complex of Feminism coming out; I think the necessity of a more inclusive feminist scholarship, outside of distancing academic standards, has been pounding at our door for sometime.
Those of us whose lives are at the periphery of academia and often have to compromise ourselves to take part in discussions about theory, specifically our silenced realities, can’t help but write about this. As Jessica Yee, put it so perfectly in the introduction of Feminism For Real the, “frustration of changing a system while being in the system yourself.” To do this we not only need to write, but create alternative spaces and definitions of what kind of scholarship is considered historically and academically valid. Projects like Mobile Homecoming, the Lesbian Herstory Archives and Of Another Fashion are all projects that work to recapture histories that have been lost because of this exclusion. Further, they are all using hands on, alternative means to academic scholarship that build inclusive communities and work towards altering our future.
Mobile Homecoming is a project started by Julia Wallace of Queer Renaissance and Alexis Pauline of Broken Beautiful Press; both groups which were already working to document unheard voices and “(re)create community.” Their mission statement is, “collecting and amplifying the social organizing herstories of black women, trans men, and gender queer visionaries.” And through this collecting to learn from our pasts to create more inclusive histories. Along the way they are documenting their own experiences that are sometimes inspiring, sometimes disheartening in their real proof of the oppression that exists outside the empowering communities we strive to create. Additionally they are documenting stories for all of us to learn from, empower us and incorporate them as tools to navigate our own lives.
The Lesbian Herstory Archives out of Brooklyn, NY is quoted on their website as, “home to the world’s largest collection of materials by and about lesbians and their communities.” It’s an amazing archive which seeks to collect materials which formal scholarship often ignores, such as pictures, letters and self-published media. The archive also collects other artifacts, to document lives of lesbian women who have been erased by heteronormative scholarship and has a variety collections they are currently working to make available online. It’s an amazing labor of love that speaks to the power of community, with a majority of their collection coming from past and continuous donations.
Of Another Fashion is a project started by Minh-Ha T. Pham who also writes Threadbared, a blog that analyzes the intersection of politics and fashion. The header on Of Another Fashion reads, “An Alternative Archive of the Not-Quite-Hidden But Too Often Ignored Fashion Histories of U.S. Women of Color,” and works to document the presence of these women in our histories. The project is Pham’s work, but also accepts submissions from reader, many of which are submitted by women of color of their own amazing female relatives. The impact of this project is two-fold:
1. It brings the visual history of these women of color out of obscurity and empowers us by giving us their lives and incidentally incredible fashion sense to look to.
2. It recaptures these histories in wholly alternative ways, by depending on submissions from women of color involved in the growing feminist dialogue through social media websites. The project gives these women a space to not only submit a picture, but give some background of the women in these photos, which actively builds this formerly unseen history.
Additionally amazing photos of women of color in sassy outfits or with high bouffants, sometimes at Manzaner Internment Camp, sometimes on the steps of Howard University; these photos are all inextricably tied to the politics their times.
These projects are all labors of love from feminists seeking to document our forgotten histories and create new ways of looking at our futures. In celebration of Women’s History Month, please look into these projects or participate in them, as all of them are dependent on community support to thrive. In a recent interview (linked below), Melissa Harris-Perry said, “my vision is not so much a focus on elite scholarship but to learn about the lives, struggles and efforts of the most ordinary women.” She was discussing Southern women of color, but I think this is an idea we can use to encompass all ‘ordinary women’ who have been silenced in our documented history.
Here’s a list of links to articles and projects mentioned above:
1980 Angela Davis ran for Vice President on the Communist Party ticket
1983 The Color Purple, a novel by Alice Walkerpublished in 1982, won the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize, making Alice Walker the first African American woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction
Toni Morrison became the first African American winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature
1984 Leontine T. C. Kelly became the first woman bishop of any major American religious denomination, the United Methodist Church
Vanessa Williams became first African American selected as Miss America; when she resigned after a scandal involving nude photographs, Suzette Charles, Miss New Jersey, became the second African American Miss America
While I am grateful to be considered an “expert” on the subject, I was a bit conflicted with some of the content that came out of the piece.
This article presented an incredible opportunity to reach black women and share with them the important conversations happening within the feminist movement. Unfortunately, by the fifth paragraph, the article came to focus on the difficulties of (interracial) dating and why black men feel threatened by black women.
… One of those “issues” [Black women are discussing in the movement and through social media] primarily has to do with the dissatisfaction and hurt some black women feel from black men whom they say do little to protect and provide for them, while at the same time exploiting their resources and support without getting much in return. “Black men act as free agents in the presence of opportunity, not as people who place race concerns and race priorities in the forefront of their thoughts,” says an an online fact sheet describing BWE in detail.
Normally, I would move on from this so as not to offend any authors or commentators, but I feel that it is critical to discuss just how powerful the black feminist movement is and not overshadow it with talks of relationships.
The black feminist movement has grown out of a need to bring feminism to black women in a world where our voices were (and, some might say continue to be) overlooked by white women in the feminist movement and men in the black liberation movement of the ’60s. Women in this movement realized the need to speak to others in their community by sharing their personal stories in order to enact change.
Today, there are dozens of phenomenal black feminists and antiracist organizations, activists and individuals (see list below) who are giving voice to women of color in academia, politics and the media. The birth of social media has allowed the black feminist community to join forces with fellow feminists, scholars, students, antiracists, and more to continue learning, growing and fighting for justice with one another (i.e. intersectionality).
The media, specifically pop culture magazines and the music industry geared towards people of color (i.e. Essence, Madam Noire, BET) and articles like the one mentioned above, need to stop piting black men and women against each other and discuss the societal issues that have brought us to this point. While the dating scene is interesting and an important conversation in its own right, the fact that we ignore underlying political issues (i.e. institutional racism and sexism!) ceases to advance the plight of black men and women.
Furthermore, these media outlets fail to recognize the difficult paths men of color must go through as well. It should go without saying that racism isn’t easy on anyone.
Sadly, our society has defined the way that we view black men and women, telling ‘women’ to scream and be “loud-mouth bitches who do all the work” and ‘men’ to be “irresponsible violent husbands and fathers who can’t take care of themselves,” instead of telling us how to come together.
The young black feminist movement is fighting for that unity and intersectionality. We are not looking for more ways to separate ourselves or mask important conversations under the label of marriage, and interracial relationships (those concepts are ancient and need to be redefined for each individual person and outside of the church… but that’s another blog).
Note: There are so many more but I would never finish this post if I listed them all. If you want more names, please send me a message. If you have information to add, feel free to leave it in the comments section below. I will gather them all together and place them in a new post.