Left Out and Pushed Out: How Movement Spaces Build Off of the Intellectual, Creation, Labor and Lived Experiences of Black Women and Femmes
*Posting as two raw trains of thoughts unedited*
“Writing saved me from the sin and inconvenience of violence.” -Alice Walker
For as long as I can remember, Black women have saved me. When the convenient and systematically-positioned, white-supremacist logic teaches us to be silent for the white-gaze, upkeep and re-centering of Black men, I remember Alice Walker and in particular, Jamilah Lemieux, Editor of EBONY Magazine, who taught me how to write through pain. And it was June Jordan who taught me how to break silence with rage and Fannie Lou Hamer, who taught me how to fight.
To make it plain, it is with unapologetic pain, rage and fight, that I commit to telling the Sojourner to my Truth. And it should be explicitly made clear: respectability politics and semantics won’t be tolerated here. When you question why folks write personal narratives and truths on social media, (which, some critique is valid) know that some of us are writing for ourselves or for others as a commitment and continuation of the intellectual labor that Black women and femmes have provided for humanity and that will get all of our Black-asses and non-black- asses free.
Here I am in the middle of a conference and full-stop. I am charged to write about how movement spaces build off of the intellectual, creation, labor and lived experiences of Black women and femmes and simultaneously leave of us out of our founding narratives and push us out of the movement for Black lives.
As an experienced organizer, who has worked in a number of capacities around social justice, anti-capitalism and liberation work and in the Black community (but not limited to), I get invited to attend and present at conferences and events often. Understanding how anti-blackness (and trickled down displacement and gentrification) works and has permeated the state of Oregon, I can begin to process how it is possible for us to not be present in some spaces (and there are multiple, reasons for this, I acknowledge). However, what I understand (because I’m aware of how systems manifest) but absolutely refuse to tolerate is how conferences can be framed around words, terms and theories such as, intersectionality, reproductive justice, people of color, foundations, additions and developments of feminism, Black feminism, Womanism, misogyny and misogynoir, and not include Black women as the creators of such scholarship and as conference attendees. The anti-blackness is becoming unbearable for me in organizing spaces and I’m not sure that there are many places left for me in Portland.
While the aforementioned is a word in itself. I have another. As many of us Black women and femmes know, we show up in this world with multiple identities and multiple intersecting identities all of the time. My numerous identities and the violence thereafter have led me to take a break from spaces or leave to never return due to sexism, patriarchy, misogynoir, gendered-colorism and fatphobia. Of course, the reader might ask, as we are taught to invalidate and question the pain and trauma of Black women and femmes, did you address these issues with the organization? Yes, I did. However, individuals and organizations were not in a place where they have been willing to work on their shit as it relates to broader and rooted capitalist white-supremacy. It happened. Over and over again, until I exploded or couldn’t take the shit anymore. Mind you, my request (the often anti-black ask) of perfection that is always placed on Black bodies, was not an expectation but rather, the ask was to at least hear me, at least try and at least, be accountable.
When I share my experiences with folks or hear about myself around the way regarding organizations that I have left, the sentiments are always rooted in racial shaming for not “sticking things out.” You know, for the race. Those sharp statements act as absolute truths about how uncommitted I am to the work. In my experience, this usually means, you’re not committed to propping up Black men. But not only is this shaming racial, the shaming is gendered. (Cis) Black men get to beautifully illustrate portraits and laundry-lists of reasons as to why we must organize ourselves (as Black people) outside of whiteness and white-supremacy (which I agree with). Conversely, Black women and femmes are shamed, blamed and often experience violence from removing themselves from organizations that do not include them and patriarchy, sexism and misogynoir is excusable and unaccountable. It pisses me off.
At first it was an organization committed to social justice with no justice in sight; then it was socialist organizations with no commitment to anti-racist and anti-sexist work and ending white-supremacy; and then it was a Black socialist organization with no Black feminist or Womanist and anti-patriarchy and misogynoir commitment — here I am, again, leaving another organization that isn’t committed to how racism and systems are gendered. Honestly, it sucks, and all of this reminds me of how binary white-supremacy is. What I mean by that is: Black men often think that we feel more safe around them because we are all Black (even though we are often left out of narratives around anti-black racism by the state) and that sexism and patriarchy are secondary side-projects to “the larger issue.” But the truth is just because we are all Black does not mean that I am obligated to feel safe.
Black men’s dedication to erasing gendered-white-supremacist-capitalism and other forms of violence, affirms Black feminist thought that says, if Black women and femmes want to be free, we must do it ourselves. When I don’t want to be in spaces with white folks due to whiteness and white-supremacy, I feel similarly about Black men ( and all men) not because of our shared blackness, but due to gendered-white-supremacy that all men perpetuate and benefit from.
I’m sick and tired of focusing on “racial justice organizing” and “liberation with a gender ‘framework’” from Black men (and internalized oppression from some Black women, femmes and POC) who push narratives that re-center cishet Black men and guess what, you will deal with your shit (as we all must, to get free) or, all of your “work” will be fucking trash. I refuse to choose my race over my gender, sexuality, ability, size and more. And guess what? You will deal or I will leave your fucking organization every single time. Run and tell that.