"Academic women and men engaged in the production of feminist theory must be responsible for setting up ways to disseminate feminist thought that not only transcend the boundaries of the university setting, but that of the printed page as well. It is also our responsibility to promote and encourage the development of feminist theory by folks who are not academics."
- bell hooks Talking Back: Thinking Feminist, Thinking Black
I have self-identified as a Black feminist since I was eighteen years old. It was the summer after my first year of college. My racial consciousness skyrocketed my first year of college because of numerous racial incidences. And those experiences made me open to and receptive of wider notions of social justice and anti-oppression work: something that I'm still broadening to this day.
But I will always remember reading my first bell hooks book as a monumental turning point in how I viewed myself and the world. She was the first person who gave me the words to articulate the knowledge I implicitly had: that women are treated differently than men. She taught me that Black women are treated differently than Black men. She explained my every day experiences through a sociological and historical lens. I was blown away and I knew I had to learn more.
Since then I've become rather heavy on Black feminist theory. I study Black feminist theory in undergrad. I plan on pursuing my PhD with a research focus on Black feminist theory. I have completed numerous research projects on Black feminist theory. I am widely read on Black feminist theory. And I am at the point where I'm able to create theory of my own.
And it is important to me that my understanding of theory works in tandem with a grassroots understanding of how Black feminism is applicable in my every day life.
Black feminism is the way in which I understand and elucidate upon my own experiences. It is what I study but it is also how I live. It is the sisterhood I find in my sorority. It is the confidence and joie de vivre in which I approach life. It is the love I have for fellow Black folks. It is my activist work within and outside of the university. It is me smiling when I glance at myself in the mirror.
Black feminism is self-love. It is self-love within a political context focused on creating and perpetuating distrust and hate and insecurity. It is also a love for community and a love and commitment to justice. It is liberating in that it allows us to focus on those in the margins.
I have gained a greater capacity for love since I became a Black feminist. I have gained the knowledge to become more intentional in how I live and to be more resistant to negative and oppressive outlooks.
I often think about how much easier my life would have been had I been introduced to Black feminism at an even younger age. Many of the inner battles I had would have been easily resolved. Much of the current understandings I have about how Black women's lives are commodified and exploited and minimized would have made situations I've faced less confusing and inexplicable.
Not everyone is going to pick up a theory text. But I don't believe one should have to in order to be introduced to a transformative way of living that goes beyond hetero-patriarchy, white supremacy, and capitalism: forms of oppression that intimately impact all of our lives.
As my knowledge of Black feminism grows, I keep this in mind as I want to be that person who is a bridge to introduce Black girls and women to Black feminism. I want to be the real life embodiment of Black feminism that can introduce someone to better living without them ever needing to read a book.