My debut article for The Daily was titled, “My claim to Black feminism,” where in less than 900 words I argued against imaginary bigots/feminists that I had the right to identify as a disciple to an ideology that made sense of my life.
As if I needed an explanation.
I began the article with a Sojourner Truth quote and not one from my mother.
I sprinkled academic jargon, and I provided some historical evidence to add rhetorical meat. As if I needed a watered-down argument to grant me humanity in the eyes of people who still think I’m racist when I say I am a Black feminist.
To be honest, my claim to Black feminism did not live in that article I wrote a year ago. I’ll boldly assert that my claim to Black feminism lives in every breath I take, because my claim to Black feminism is my claim to life.
I once stated that my introduction to Black feminism came from a white, heterosexual, cisgendered, able-bodied, middle-class man who told me that he looked at everything in his life from a Black feminist lens. He told me that he saw the world through a Black feminist lens because of the language he found in the works of Black feminist writers. The intersectionality, self-love and centering of what he saw as radical justice made sense in what he imagined as a more just, compassionate and desirable future.
It is horrific and ironic that I envisioned this man as my Black feminism definer. I could not see the value in the existence and life experiences of all of the women around me who do not have a Ph.D.; however, they will always be the most brilliant and resilient professors of my education. I needed an educator dressed in hegemonic legitimacy for me to see the arsenal of knowledge that comes with just living an experience.
I credited him as my works cited, as if I was not granddaughter to Betty. As if I was not sister to B and Litha. As if I was not friend to Measha. As if I did not have the blood of Black women in my veins and their stories on the tip of my tongue.
As if I did not value the knowledge I garnered in 18 years, as if I did not appreciate the cellular memory of 400 years.
My claim to Black feminism was never supposed to be an article to imaginary people to whom I thought I didn’t make sense. My claim to Black feminism just is.
Yes, Black feminism has historical grounding. Yes, Black feminism is rich with brilliant writers and scholars who provided a framework and critical analysis for this school of thought. However, all of that is supplementary to the standpoint knowledge that just being a Black woman brings.
I can write all of my articles about why Black feminism matters, but unless you can feel me on a deeper level — beyond words and scholarly interrogation — you will never understand me.
I’m fine with that. This column is about centering voices and viewpoints counter to the mainstream noise. It’s about learning how to listen, question and change. It’s about valuing the differences between experiences and affirming them.
That is what Black feminism is about.
My truth is valid without being in agreement with those who do not understand. My truth is mine. There is no way I can gift you with a catchphrase or a neatly packaged opinion column on why my claim to Black feminism is worthy.
I shouldn’t have to. There should never be questions of legitimacy around an identity that centers those who have resisted constant oppressive erasure.
I named this column Evolving because that is my truth. Just as Black feminism is my truth.
Welcome to round two.