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ActivismRaceSex & Gender

it’s time for black women’s history month

March 25, 2019
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When Solange released When I Get Home at midnight on the 28th of February, she turned that split-second between Black History Month and Women’s History Month into something ethereal and infinite. That in-between moment, even in its brevity, contained multitudes and universes where Black women didn’t have to decide between being Black and being a woman: where Black women could just be Black women. It was that moment that prompted the question: where is Black Women’s History Month?

If you are not Black and women-identifying, please understand that your #AllWoman does not work in these streets. It has no currency here because we are tired of watching your introspection-robbed knee-jerk racism whenever Black women decide to engage in anything that centers and affirms us. We no longer care to share solidarity or space we never receive.

BWHM is long overdue. By virtue of lack of visibility — and a laundry list of other things — the Black woman continues to be the unsung hero of every story she helped to shape and every context she played a part in improving. What Black women need is a month — to start — where we don’t have to live in a constant state of having to prioritize the struggles linked to either Blackness and womanhood. Black women should not have to choose either because that is not how our experiences work. Yes, Black women’s history resides in Black History Month and Women’s History Month but those occasions can never fully give us the visibility we deserve. We cannot simply claim our scattered pieces of each month because, at the intersection of race and gender, exists an identity dogged with experiences shaped by not being prioritized in both communities. When we are forced to choose, we do the work for Black men in regards to racism and white women when it comes to womanhood. No one does the work for us.

Peel back the hundreds of years in accumulated layers of historical revisionism and the picture of the Black women’s history is vivid, complicated and unbearably human. It is also unyielding, especially in the face of abject tyranny. This is not because we are inherently “strong” or built to withstand abuse; it is because we have a perspective that allows us fewer blind spots to the marionette-like mechanisms of white supremacy. White women leverage their whiteness to carve power and Black men leverage their masculinity to do the same. Both groups walk in the energy that securing the socio-political status of white men is the key to freedom and listen, that is not the case.

Black women do not have whiteness or masculinity to leverage, thus we cannot be lulled into a false sense of security regarding the possibility of one-day ascending the hierarchy of oppression. We understand that the hierarchy itself needs to be abolished entirely. Those are the battles Black women have undertaken since the beginning of time immemorial. A dedicated, month-long deep-dive into Black women’s history will unveil lessons learned from the legacies of Black women, some of which who ascended to power and made great strides for their kingdoms. That made little difference to the preservation of their legacies because, according to those around them, their power could not erase their Black womanhood.

African Queens in Egypt, Benin and Angola all suffered attempts at the erasure of their legacies by male family members. Those are some of the dynasties we actually know about on the African continent alone. We deserve to know more about ourselves and we deserve the space and time to luxuriate in it. We are not a monolith — give us a month every year and we will fill it to the brim just to consolidate that fact. We are global. Everywhere. Strewn across time and space with millions of backgrounds and contexts. We span across gender, sexual identity and various body compositions. Our bodies are ground zero for the cultural and sociopolitical conversations around the normalized tyranny we walk through every day. 

There is a hypervisibility attached to us that does not ensure the benefits like it does for, say, white men. It is a weird hypervisibility that omits or downright erases our existence from our identifiers and creations. For instance, Black women sit at the apex of culture, shaping aesthetic and influencing mannerisms. It would be disingenuous to remark on our creative generosity without stating in plain English that the culture is TAKEN from Black women. It cannot be bad taste to love ourselves when “taste” is dictated by the very people who need us to thrive, survive and stay current. We are and have been currency, to everyone but ourselves and that needs to change.

I wanted to spend this essay listing every Black woman I could think of that would strengthen my argument. Every forgotten name that was really committed or completely erased. Every Black woman that was never given her due during her lifetime. I wanted to include them all but honestly, any Black women can strengthen my argument. If you do want to read up on the many examples of why we need a month, read up on all the Black women AFROPUNK has covered over the years. Even our microcosm of the internet has covered the wide spectrum of Black womanhood and  its unabashed exploration has shined a light on our collective oppression under white capitalist supremacy, to the point that people love to exclaim “Listen to Black women!” (Whether they actually end up listening to us is a whole other story.)

That constant exploration creates a space for womanhood to comfortably grow, shift and expand. We expand spaces meant for us so we can grow knowledge on our history, be it the under-read slave narratives that preserve the true nature of slavery. We expand to give more space to those who have been persecuted by others and even fellow Black women. We honor the fallen Transgender Black Women who were robbed of their lives because the space that White Supremacy allotted for Black womanhood is almost non-existent and stifling enough to convince some of us that some belong to our collective and some don’t. Essentialism has us self-imposing faux limitations that were not determined by us and the space given to dismantle those limitations is the ultimate environment for decolonization.

When I began ruminating over the endless reasons why there should be a Black Women’s History Month, my first reaction, to be completely honest, was “why the f*** not?” That seemed like reason enough for me, especially in a world where we need a Harvard reference just so our trauma can get a first glance. What emerged instead was this essay, because I will use any excuse to dedicate page inches to Black women. We all already have a solid idea of why Black women deserve a Black Women’s History month. Anyone who offers reasons as to why not will probably spew excuses that strengthen my argument further so I welcome all the vitriol they can muster. The point for me is to not ask for permission; I am merely letting y’all know that I’m ready to go, whenever.