My current situation. My library didn’t have either of these, but I was able to purchase them online. First editions, both of them. #bestillmyheart
The most general statement of our politics at the present time would be that we are actively committed to struggling against racial, sexual, heterosexual, and class oppression, and see as our particular task the development of integrated analysis and practice based upon the fact that the major systems of oppression are interlocking. The synthesis of these oppressions creates the conditions of our lives. As Black women we see Black feminism as the logical political movement to combat the manifold and simultaneous oppressions that all women of color face.
Combahee River Collective Statement, 1977
“I am a feminist, and what that means to me is much the same as the meaning of the fact that I am Black: it means that I must undertake to love myself and to respect myself as though my very life depends upon self-love and self-respect.”
— June Jordan.
“Those of us who stand outside the circle of this society’s definition of acceptable women; those of us who have been forged in the crucibles of difference; those of us who are poor, who are lesbians, who are black, who are older, know that survival is not an academic skill. It is learning how to stand alone, unpopular and sometimes reviled, and how to make common cause with those other identified as outside the structures, in order to define and seek a world in which we can call all flourish. It is learning how to take our differences and make them strengths. For the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. They may allow us temporarily to beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change. And this fact is only threatening to those women who still define the master’s house as their only source of support.” –Audre Lorde
If you are silencing marginalized (Black) students in your classrooms, and grading them based on stereotypes and not the quality of their work, Guess what? You’re not a feminist!
Newsflash: Not everyone teaching Women’s Studies is a feminist, nor are they all interested in equality for everyone. This isn’t new information, but it hurts, physically, to see instructors who claim to be feminists hurt our students this way.
Thankfully, there are those of us who don’t mind calling this shit out when we see it, and who do our very level best to ensure that ALL students have a voice in our classrooms.
- Speak up, stand up for myself and others, and always ask questions
- Read black and other women of color feminist zines
- Educate myself, and inform others about why feminism is relevant
- Smash the patriarchy
- DIY, recycle, and buy local
- Be a riot grrrl
- Fight all oppression I encounter
- Participate in consciousness-raising
- Combat rape culture
- Support my local women’s basketball and other women’s sports teams
- Love my body and encourage others to love theirs
- Boycott, resist, and protest when the situation calls for it
- Maintain awareness of the ways race, class, gender, and sexuality intersect
- Analyze my motivations and be proud of my choices
- Volunteer at a domestic violence shelter or as a clinic escort
- Validate my fears and feelings
- Listen, support, and love
I will also be continuing my work as a board member at our local Pride community center, in hopes of smashing the male-centered ideologies that have permeated our local LGBT community.
This morning, I was doing a little research and found that one of the scholars I really admire, Barbara Christian, is no longer with us. I didn’t know. And I’m mad about it. Let me explain. I’m saddened and dismayed by the fact that so many of the black women scholar/activist/artists that I admire are no longer walking the earth. Barbara Christian, Audre Lorde, Lorraine Hansberry, Pat Parker, and others have all been taken from us too soon. All of the aforementioned women were taken by cancer, and although that is not the point of this piece, it is surely an odd coincidence.
But this piece is about my anger. I’m angry that with almost ten years of post-secondary education under my belt, I had not heard of most of these women until recently. Five years of undergrad, not one course on black women’s writing or black feminism. And if you’re thinking that undergrad is ancient history, it’s not. I went back to school as a late twenty-something year old woman. Two years of a master’s in English, nothing about black feminism there either, and the only graduate level black literature seminar my department offered was my last semester there, too late for me to take it. I did, however, take a course on African-American lit, with its obligatory slave narratives and tragic mulattas. No disrespect intended to these narratives, it’s just that I already knew them. Now that I’m doing a PhD, I can focus my attentions on the literatures that mean the most to me: black lesbian fiction, black feminism, and other contemporary black women’s fiction.
My point here is that in most of my post-secondary institutions, not only was black women’s writing relegated to the margins, in most cases it was non-existent. Now, those of you who have attended schools with strong Black Studies or Women’s Studies programs, consider yourself fortunate. A lot of us have had to fight to include black women’s writing in our syllabi, or justify our reasons for wanting to write about it in the first place. Those of you who know me, or have been reading for a while, know that I’ve been reading black women’s lit since I was big enough to pick up a book. However, I was not introduced to some of the scholarly work of black women until very recently, and the only black feminist I had heard of was Angela Davis. So I’m mad that these institutions denied me the privilege of learning about so many wonderful black women scholar/activists and artists when I was beginning my academic career.
I’m mad because I should have KNOWN.
I’m mad because they didn’t want me to know.
Now, in the world that I live in, ignorance is no excuse, and it has become my goal, my duty, as it has of some of my sister/friends, to write about the women who have helped to shape my thinking about this struggle that we are all engaged in. You BETTER know that every time someone asks me about my work I tell them that I “do” Black Lesbian Studies and that I am a black lesbian feminist. I don’t care that “queer” is the “hot” term right now; I refuse to allow you to name me. I don’t deal in theoretical abstractions, I deal in black women’s lit and black feminism because they are always attending to the issues of race, class, gender, and sexuality that are such a part of our lived experiences. The author ain’t dead, I AM the author. The women I write about and the thousands upon thousands of women like them ain’t dead either. They are the authors of their own stories, and I want you to know them, to read them, to understand that these stories are as vital to our survival as the air we breathe.
So I keep searching, and reading, and writing; telling anybody who will listen. And even some who don’t. ’Cause I want them to KNOW.
This is one of the ways in which I use my anger. How are you using yours?