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The Black Scholar

Journal of Black Studies and Research

ISSN: 0006-4246 (Print) 2162-5387 (Online) Journal homepage: http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/rtbs20

A Love Letter to Black Feminism

Treva B. Lindsey

To cite this article: Treva B. Lindsey (2015) A Love Letter to Black Feminism, The Black Scholar,
45:4, 1-6, DOI: 10.1080/00064246.2015.1080911

To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00064246.2015.1080911

Published online: 19 Oct 2015.

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recognized a specific need for exploring the illuminates a new chapter in racial terror terrain of Black feminism in the second and subjugation. I thought of their robust field of inquiry solidified around dis- hanging bodies. and histories and Black women’s stories and the sharpening of futures. 4. 45. challenging. the grave reality of an anti. ideas. O deaths of Sandra Bland and Kindra Barbara Smith.1080/00064246. and structural vio- Jones. decade of the 2010s. the guest editors wood.org/10.2015. and standpoints about how both of these Black women’s of Black women. Undone and enraged Champan. womanist. and radicalizing intel- Black state and state sanctioned violence. and pleasure. Hull. and methodologies authored by Black feminist scholars in the TREVA B. thought and praxis. subjugation and resiliency. The stories of Bland. LINDSEY ivory tower. Although the academy was lives ended while in police custody. Lamia Beard. theoretical and praxes-based tools derived live.1 The rapidly growing number of inquiry. emotional. I finished this introduction to our claimed in But Some of Us Are Brave3 the Downloaded by [Flinders University of South Australia] at 14:18 15 March 2016 two-part special issue on new directions in existence of Black Women’s Studies. Yvette larly. Kimberlee Randle King. We must think and write to survive.2 #BlackLivesMatter. experiences. victims of anti-Black The guest editors of this special issue state violence in the twenty-first century. and thrive. Ty Under. India Clarke. No. Black women and girls. also signals a distinct chapter in this ne week after the suspicious and brutal tradition. I late to the brilliance that is Black feminist thought of the nearly 200 documented lynch. Our work must account for pain by Black feminist. Aiyana by the physical. Penny lence confronting all Black folks. As we unapolo- mark this moment and demand that we getically and audaciously declare that ALL #SayHerName. Pearlie Golden. stories. theories. and too many more contemplated our roles as scholars invested victims of fatal anti-Black state violence in the Black feminist tradition. Introduction from the lived experiences of Black women. we also acknowledge One of the many important interventions of the significance of continuing to build upon Black Feminism is the emphasis on telling the the tremendous legacy of our Black feminist stories of Black women. http://dx. and particu- Proud. At the core of the foremothers through our intellectual pro- intellectual tradition founded and sustained duction. lectual production through centering the and the numerous unanswered questions voices.1080911 .doi. which commenced in the 1980s and continues into the twenty-first century. Shantel Davis. Mya Hall. a Black feminist studies. Black feminist studies ings of Black women during the Jim thrives as a formidable site of scholarly Crow era. girls. rupting. trans* and gender Smith. © 2015 The Black World Foundation The Black Scholar 2015 Vol. non-conforming people. The gradual institutionalization of key con- A Love Letter to Black Feminism cepts. Tanisha Anderson. and Patricia Bell-Scott pro- Chapman. and gender pro. 1–6. gressive scholars is both the documenting of oppression and resistance. Miriam Carey. When Akasha Gloria T. Black women.

artists. humanely. and activists inheriting the Infinite points of entry into the current state incomparable legacy of warrior sistas like and future of black feminism exist. the Politics of Empowerment. and dynami. practice of Black feminism occurs outside of nation. sexuality. include more of the ground-breaking work of duction. artists. familiar era of anti-Black racial terror. the still missing acknowledging the richness and expansive. issue. We strove to illustrate Nigeria (214 of them now impregnated via a range of scholarship extant in the field while rape by their captors). and womanist. Consciousness. Black Feminist with one another and other Black feminist. All the Woman Are reach of Black feminist thought and praxis. and represent struct in the midst of this new. ability. race. Johnson. Thought: Knowledge.000+ Black women missing in the United thought. DC. ethnicity. We know that lars leading and shaping conversations on some of the most significant theorizing and gender. The scholarship presented here Black feminist/womanist/gender progressive connects to a herstory of Black feminist scho. Unlike a more traditional approach States alone. But Some of The list of names we amassed could fill a Us Are Brave: Black Women’s Studies. this special issue strives to. We thought about the voices These pages inherit the challenge set forth of Black feminists on the frontlines of the by our black feminist and womanist fore. Words of Fire: An Anthology of African work from some of the folks whose work American Feminist Thought. White. All the Blacks Are Men. undocumented theory and practice they con- cally explore. Recognizing the power of collective Although we recognize the space limit- Black feminist voice. the ivory tower. Relisha Rudd of Washington.7 We attempted to find here could not and does not seek to cover words to capture our pain over the kidnapping the numerous exciting areas of contemporary of the 276 girls in the village of Chibok in black feminist thought. religion. contextualize. class. we seized the opportunity to solicit in an effort to uphold the justice-centered 2 TBS • Volume 45 • Number 4 • Winter 2015 . and spirituality. Our work Marsha P. but painfully the lived experiences of black women. we lamented that we could not legacy of black feminist intellectual pro.”5 scholars. and activists.6 We Echoing the powerful and evocative words invoked the names and stories of Black from Ntozake Shange’s For Colored Girls trans* women being killed at an alarming Who Have Considered Suicide When the rate in 2015 and looked towards the work of Rainbow Is Enuf. #BlackLivesMatter movement and the yet- mothers to carefully.4 These herstoric Our most life-affirming and revolutionary and groundbreaking anthologies/collections/ work often happens in spaces of collective Downloaded by [Flinders University of South Australia] at 14:18 15 March 2016 texts are the foremothers of this special thinking. The new anthology––a fact not lost on us as we Black Woman: Anthology. and gender-progressive scholars. Black trans* and gender non-conforming “let her be born and handled warmly. Homegirls: A thought about future opportunities to work Black Feminist Anthology. These are the terrorizing con- to guest-editing with a formal Call for ditions under which we must write and create Papers. we offer it to the ations. Sister Outsider: inspires us and reminds us of the power and Essays and Speeches. and the ness of twenty-first-century Black feminist 60. scholars.

I sat in awe reading their words inists been on” in terms of theorizing for and feeling their love for Black feminism. and yet the uniqueness becomes apparent through previewing the of this special issue arises from a thematic interconnectedness of thinking among all interplay. Joan Themes of silence. erasure. Brittney Cooper asserts the address specific erasures using a Black femin- importance of Black feminists developing ist lens. forward. Nevertheless. which also include Kristie addressed in nearly all of the pieces. if This love emerged through historical and phi. epistemic foundation of Black feminist Each of the contributors wrote pieces that thought by skillfully attesting to a “Black fem- moved me. Cooper beautifully ist theory and methodologies. we centered these themes across Susana Morris. In the second part. Had evolved persist in the twenty-first century. explorations of the (mis)appropriation of visible the importance of Black feminist Downloaded by [Flinders University of South Australia] at 14:18 15 March 2016 Black feminist theory and the devaluation of theory (BFT) to the history and future of the labor of Black feminist scholars. Lindsey 3 . Although intentionally collaborative. another. Both compel us to Bow Down. We begin with Cooper’s demand losophical excavations of Black feminism’s for new theory and will conclude with core theoretical interventions. How each affirms the necessity of new theoretical inter- piece complements and converses with one ventions anchored in current political and another struck me as we finalized the material realities. and quently. Morgan. the I read these pieces as a multi-authored body broader picture painted by the fullness of of work invested in mapping Black feminist what is to come through an extended futures. established this volume seamlessly connect with one and emergent. and Jessica Johnson provide us with and outlaw/outsider-hood became salient as Black feminist FIYAH. Each article makes a significant con- journey into new directions in Black feminism tribution to the field. I not worked on the issue as a guest editor. Conse- Dotson. They complement did not work on these articles in analog or one another and collectively articulate a digital community. In the later volume Dotson content. Erasure implicitly and explicitly is eight contributors. imperative at the core of Black feminist ourselves with the formative ideas and the thought. subjectivity. Kristie erasing cultural and ethnic specificity within Dotson urges us to revisit and re-familiarize Black identity through using Black women’s Treva B. the issue. The first four articles in need for Black feminist theory. Tanisha Ford. you will. different entry points. will cogently remind us that the problems/ I did not imagine the synergies and connec. personal narra. Brittney Cooper. Contributors such as Joan Morgan For example. The guest editors strove to render ism. I What is striking is that these do not function would not believe that the eight contributors as competing assertions. Morgan emphasizes the danger of new theories. dehumanizing condition under which BFT tivity extant among these eight articles. as a liberatory tool. Dotson’s identification of the past as a route tives reflecting on the power of Black femin. Tamura Lomax. Kaila Story. justice. and Black intellectual production and to chal- thoughtful and necessary ruminations on lenge claims of BFT being retrograde from how to enliven and reinvigorate Black femin.

debunks silence as an option for how we through the story of Black British feminist. porary material and political realities. The collapsing of boundaries between past. Many search for a Black feminist politics of pleasure. reappear. Tamura Lomax will con. Ford’s piece resonates as particu. lizing of futurity encompasses an unyielding front Black feminist silence in “sacred and humanistic commitment to Black feminist space. She calls out BFT alongside pushing Black feminists to con- our limited lenses for bearing witness to struct new theories that wrestle with contem- Black women’s pleasure as well as the neces. pleasurable. pleasure as an interrogative lens. Asking us to dig deeper and methodology will matter.” Lomax rightfully asks Black feminists thought as a site of resistance. Lomax tors. brings ism and consequently. She notes a ance for liberation is inextricable from a relative silence by Black feminists on religion Black feminist future. silence threads throughout the issue. why Black feminism matters. they intersect. tations of Blacks in the twenty-first century. our to take seriously the role of spirituality and reli. We simul- violence against Black women and the taneously remember. of the authors take us back and remind us Subjection and pleasure. through her Similar to. and misogyny. sity for a rejection of the silencing of Black Cooper begins to chart a map for Black libera- feminists mining for a Black feminist politics tory futures. their pieces illuminate how present. The thematic of futures will of pleasure. contributor acknowledges the existence of a ist activists demand that we #SayHerName rigid boundary between the sacred and and produce herstories of racial justice acti. although from differing and unique 4 TBS • Volume 45 • Number 4 • Winter 2015 . feminism as transnational and diasporic. foreclosing tactic for those studying violence. The contribu- and to engage more deliberately. also Morgan takes up erasure in relation to cul. sexism. but conceptually different from uncompromising trumpeting of the power of erasure. re-energizing Black feminist theory. and vism.8 Admittedly. explore Black women’s lives and represen- Olive Morris. Morgan believes in Black femin. theory phobia. To arrive at a Black feminist future. live. The framing of require incisive attention in Black feminist why it matters aligns with multiple visions of futures. and to “reconceive” Black futures. as sites of inquiry. Cooper. ratives of police brutality and the erasure of Morgan and Lomax show silence as a Black women as victims of anti-Black state shared. will challenge masculinist nar. for example. Ultimately. and dream. is unafraid of calling together Afro-Futurism and Black feminism out moves to silence erotic. contributors attempt to illustrate why resist- gion in the lives of Black women. profane. unveils a dedication to Black futures. Susana Morris. Fur. constitute. and future also drives our collective erasure negatively affects both the study of offering to Black feminist thought. the sacred and the profane. homo. Calling tural/ethnic identity and silence around out those co-opting and misappropriating Black women’s sexual pleasure. Her conceptua- explicit theorizing. thermore. beyond critiques of patriarchy. Black feminist futures. Ford and Morgan take us outside of inform one another in varying and histori- Downloaded by [Flinders University of South Australia] at 14:18 15 March 2016 the United States to critically consider Black cally-contingent ways. no larly powerful in an era in which Black femin. Ford.

design. The standpoints and theoretical possibilities. Nor can we stand Collectively. sketch. concrete answers about the deaths of Black munity “radical womyn of color. and feminist feminism. They also our theories and methodologies expand. The unfolding of her personal outrage about the violent deaths of Black story as means to examine digital subjectivity trans* people. Our new space for queer Black feminism through Black feminist future hinges on whether we her adroit intermingling of popular culture continue to think. multiple jeopardy. “outlaws. Black. cis. some of the work tently forget some important names. and the folks we wanted to contribute to this the uses of the erotic. thought about including a roll call of all of controlling images. and code our seriously as a site for subject formation and stories and perspectives. we ologies for doing the work of Black feminism. treatment of undocumented women of lect that Black womyn and gyrls are indeed African descent. vast range of scholarship humbles me. What I is pushing and creating. or maybe even collective from the future. and genderqueer phrase “the personal is political” receives and non-conforming. We comprise only a fraction of self. can confess is that the roll call lengthens Our status as outsiders or. Some of the work is special issue. Story opens up freedom and justice for all actualize. this field of justice-centered how integral Black women are to the growth inquiry pivots around possibility. the whereabouts explorations of the limitations and possibili. We offer this issue as a love letter to Black femme. perhaps we will have more building and supporting what she calls a com. Nothing about our work feels as a Black feminist project also demonstrates finite or static. In provide us with forward-thinking method- our efforts to survive. It is How we articulate the knowledge produced my sincerest hope that our special issue from these positions varies. have been Columbused? The hackneyed Sister Outsiders. we attempted to deliver a for lazy and surface-level engagement with snapshot of what Black feminism looks and key Black feminist concepts and theories feels like in the early twenty-first century. Lindsey 5 . as Dotson ident. we may in unbossed and unbound imagination. fight for new realities new life from Johnson and from Kaila Story’s steeped in the desire for a world in which usage of autoethnography. standpoints. Jessica Johnson serves as but one entry point into the discus- introduces us to her vision of experimental sion of Black feminist futures.” endows us with unique working towards a Black feminist future. argue that we must use Black feminist legacy of personal narrative as ripe feminist theory and methodologies and that sites for analyses and theorizing. of Relisha Rudd. photograph. live. write. dare not risk complicity. but knew I/We would inadver- Downloaded by [Flinders University of South Australia] at 14:18 15 March 2016 reclaiming and defending. and critical theory. Dare we say. I such as intersectionality. trans. sing.” Her women in police custody. revolutionary. refuses the silencing or erasure of her queer. new policies regarding the ties of digital subjectivities force us to recol. feminist testimony as a way to think about In the new year. She takes popular culture paint. every day. We relish of digital humanities. dance. Johnson and Story tap into a rich Black what is yet to come and delight in the fact Treva B. Breaths of fresh air surround those ifies us. oppositional gaze. and thrive.

and black feminism. All the Blacks Are marshal with ACT UP. 4–5. and Meridians: Feminism. Audre Lorde. She has published in journals such as African American Review.com/2014/ 2. Say Her 10/blacklivesmatter-2/ (accessed July 22. NJ: Rutgers University Press. 1982). Johnson co-founded the Street Transvestite Action 3.. ed. was a key figure in the and Barbara Smith. women’s participation in religion and to develop- 1984). Lindsey. Home- of oppression. Revolutionaries (S. and Smith. 2011). and a well-respected activist and All the Women Are White. 6 TBS • Volume 45 • Number 4 • Winter 2015 . 2015).A. Name: Resisting Police Brutality Against Black 7. Press. MA: Harvard University Press. Gender. 8. In Anthology of African-American Feminist Thought these particular pieces. Lomax and Morgan detail (New York: The New Press. we will get free. Kimberlé W. Her first book. 1995). Bell-Scott. Johnson was a well-known Men: Black Women’s Studies (New York: Feminist and celebrated drag queen. Treva B. Her research and teaching interests include African American women’s history. Akasha (Gloria T. We smile because we Woman: An Anthology (New York: Washington remain that confident that against all systems Square Press. Johnson was a Black gender non- Women (New York: African American Policy conforming. Southern Horrors: Women of Black women creating and leading the and the Politics of Rape and Lynching (Cambridge.) Hull. Us Are Brave. Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge. We love fiercely because we (New York: Routledge. Ntozake Shange. Patricia Bell-Scott. Beverly Guy-Sheftall.). Silence has multiple functions for Black fem- 4. were not meant to survive. 2014. 1970). We laugh girls: A Black Feminist Anthology (New Brunswick. Transnational- ism. Crenshaw and others.” by Alicia Garza. For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When The Rainbow Is Downloaded by [Flinders University of South Australia] at 14:18 15 March 2016 Enuf (New York: Scribner. 1990). #BlackLivesMatter Movement: The Feminist Wire. the dangers of silence as it pertains to Black Sister Outsider (Trumansburg. The Black tinues to grow. black popular and expressive culture. NY: Crossing Press. Hull. and The Politics of Empowerment devaluation. that the Black feminist community only con. October 7. and Sexuality Studies at The Ohio State University. GLBT and HIV/AIDS activist through- Forum/Center for Intersectionality and Social out 1970s until Johnson’s suspicious death in 1992.. http://thefeministwire. “A Herstory of #BlackLivesMatter Move- ment. PhD is an Assistant Professor of Women’s. Words of Fire: An inists––not all of them rooted in foreclosure.T. Crystal Feimster. But Some Of Us Are Brave: Stonewall Riots. But Some of ing a Black feminist politics of pleasure. Marsha P. Feminist Studies. chronicles the history 1. Policy Studies. Toni Cade Bambara. 5. ed. 2000). 1975). Barbara Smith. 2015). Con- our arsenal against dehumanization and sciousness. Patricia Hill because Black feminist joy is a weapon in Collins. Notes 6.R. entitled Colored No More: New Negro Womanhood in the Nation’s Capital is under contract at the University of Illinois Press. Race.