by Joy Doss
Don’t lose this month in rainbow capitalism and unabashed racism because of the privilege of being white while queer. If you aren’t supporting the queer people of color, trans women, and queer sex workers, you aren’t celebrating pride, you are celebrating rainbow capitalism and police brutality.
—Words by Kadence Cole, 2018
Not all superheroes wear capes. Sometimes she wears/wore stilettos, falsies and wigs, a maid’s uniform, an afro, the tatters of a runaway slave or “the mask that grins and lies.” But when you think about it, behind or at the center of almost every major movement there is a strongblackwoman. Black women are oftentimes expected to be the saviors of all things from elections (see: Alabama) to our families to the Black community at large. It is tiring being strong, not being allowed the luxury of vulnerability or weakness. And it’s thankless, more often than not. But we press on being both “admirable and ridiculous.” [See: Mama Pope/ Scandal] We throw the brick then clean up the mess; we start it and we finish it.
If you listen to commentary from leaders and activists in the 60s and 70s, there’s an eerie reverb that springs forward into this century. If you close your eyes, you don’t know if it’s then or now. While so much has changed, so much has stayed the same. Black folks continue to be endangered and rightfully distrustful of the police but now there are receipts (thanks to technology) and (arguably) repercussions.
Given that it’s Pride month, it’s only fitting that the first strongblackwoman nod goes to Marsha P. Johnson.
I found this in an old post. It perfectly encapsulates the general sentiment and can be applied across the board (credit/repost Mocada Museum in Brooklyn):
- Pride exists because of a woman.
- Pride exists because of a Black woman.
- Pride exists because of a Black trans woman.
- Pride exists because of a Black trans woman who was a sex worker.
- Pride exists because of a Black, bisexual trans woman who was a sex worker that threw a brick at a cop.
- Pride exists because of a Black, bisexual transwoman who was a sex worker, who threw a brick at a cop and started a riot against the state.
Here’s a look at the very abridged list of some other Black women who have changed the trajectory of our conversations and our country. #sayhername
Alicia Garza/Opal Tometi/Patrisse Cullers Black Lives Matter (BLM)
What started as a hashtag quickly became a full-fledged movement and global organization. Black men, Black women, Black children, Black love, Black families, Black prisoners, Black queer folks…
BLACK. LIVES. MATTER. PERIOD.
Born of anger and frustration in the wake of the murder of Trayvon Martin and the subsequent acquittal of that disgusting pig George Zimmerman, the founders of Black Lives Matter – Alicia Garza, Opal Tometi, Patrisse Cullers – said what they said. Some will try to skew the messaging or distract from the original intent. But it really is basically what it says on its face. Do the lives of other ethnic groups matter? Of course. Are those lives in constant jeopardy, facing the threat of state-sanctioned police violence/execution or being systematically targeted? No. Is their very existence perceived as a threat? No. Tamir Rice was 12. Ahmaud Arbery was jogging and minding his business. Breonna Taylor was sleeping. So here we are. Until there is equal treatment and equal justice under the law, we will continue screaming, “Black Lives Matter!“ at the top of our lungs. However sloganeering and flowery rhetoric is not enough. It will take action – thoughtful strategy, sustainable initiatives – with the BLM organizers leading the way.
From the mission statement, for your edification:
“We are working for a world where Black lives are no longer systematically targeted for demise. We affirm our humanity, our contributions to this society and our resilience in the face of deadly oppression.”
To view the entire mission statement, learn more or donate, visit
Salute to Shahidah Jones here in Memphis resisting, boot stomping and working in the trenches. We see ya sis!
Ava DuVernay | Film Director and Firestarter, Writer, Producer
Ava DuVernay played a pivotal role in centering the humanity of Black folks. With the release of 13th and When They See Us she single- handedly created a global conversation about disenfranchisement, abuse of power and shoddy worst practices in our criminal justice system. We have been having this conversation probably since the original Juneteenth but she elevated the discourse and visibility, bringing real people and real lives to the screen. And of course, it presented us with a reminder of the craptasticness of hewhoshantbenamed aka Cheeto Satan aka -45 as he placed himself smack in the middle of the Central Park Five debacle with a full-page ad in the NY Times. When They See Us was the most-watched show on Netflix for 2 weeks straight, with well over 20 million viewers worldwide.
People of all stripes and nationalities were sickened by this miscarriage of justice, some triggered. While she has had a hand in several other beautiful works centering Black families and Black love, the macro impact of this pair of films will be forever etched in the annals as some of the most pivotal work in cinema.
See also: Queen Sugar, A Wrinkle In Time, Selma
Fannie Lou Hamer | Civil Rights Movement
There is a lot of attention paid of course to Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks and Medgar Evers Jr. However, Fannie Lou Hamer was a force to be reckoned with. She famously said, “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired” then proceeded to turn the Mississippi Democratic Party on its ear when she challenged them at the convention. It was a moment and she was a mood. She brought the realities of being Black in Mississippi out of the shadows into the light as she outlined the atrocities they suffered on their quest to be fully vested American citizens. She’s likely one of the most under- recognized leaders in the Civil Rights Movement though she was just as important as Medgar Evers and Martin Luther King. What people may not know is that she was the co-founder and vice-chair of the Freedom Democratic Party, which she represented at the 1964 Democratic National Convention mentioned above. Ms. Hamer also organized Mississippi’s Freedom Summer along with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). And, she was a co-founder of the National Women’s Political Caucus, an organization created to recruit, train, and support women of all races who wish to seek election to government office.
Listen to/read her speech here:
Then watch her 2:00 interview that explains it all then and now: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nhu_uxRR2og
Ida B. Wells | Anti-Lynching Campaign
Born a slave in Holly Springs, MS, Ida B. Wells Barnett was a feminist, a journalist and abolitionist. She was also one of the founding members of the NAACP. She comes from a legacy of activism as her parents were active in the (then) Republican party and the Freedman’s Aid Society. They also helped found Shaw University, which is now Rust College. She moved to Memphis where she wrote about issues of race and politics in the South, eventually becoming an owner of the Memphis Free Speech (later shortened to Free Speech). Additionally, she wrote several searing articles and firsthand accounts of discrimination in the Living Way and Headlight.
Much like many of the other movements, the catalyst for the Anti-Lynching campaign was the resonant trauma of the lynching of the three Black men who owned The People’s Grocery. After the inevitable run-ins with White store owners and an attempt to destroy the store that left the assailants with a few bullet holes, they were arrested. However, they never made it to trial as they were taken from their cells and lynched.
This was supposed to send a message but Ms. Wells used the power of her pen and her newspaper to send a message right back. This would not be tolerated and she would not be silenced. She began to travel the South gathering more intel on lynchings. In May 1892, Wells published an editorial where she debunks “..that old threadbare lie that Negro men rape White women. If Southern men are not careful, a conclusion might be reached which will be very damaging to the moral reputation of their women.” Not coincidentally, Wells’ newspaper office was burned to the ground, and she would never again return to Memphis.
Yet she persisted. In 1892 Wells began to publish her research on lynching in a pamphlet titled Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All Its Phases which she followed up with greater research and detail in publishing The Red Record in 1895. It was a 100-page pamphlet describing lynching in the United States since the Emancipation Proclamation.
The life of Ida B. Wells is a testimony that the pen is mightier than the sword. She made her voice be known, racial terrorists be damned! She put them on notice and kept them in the bullseye, leaving an evergreen legacy behind her in our city.
Angela Davis | Black Liberation, Black, Power, Black Feminism
Huey P. Newton, Stokely Carmichael, Eldridge Cleaver. These are names many people know but Angela Davis was an equally integral part of the Black Power movement.
As an academic, scholar and activist for prisoners’ rights, she continues to be one of the most salient figures to emerge from the movement. Her indirect involvement in a courtroom shootout and subsequent apprehension and 16-month detainment catapulted her to the national stage.
As a feminist Angela Davis stood strong in both her blackness and woman-ness and basically said, Your problems ain’t our problems Karen. Before Karen was a thing. She waved the flag of womanism, brought into our lexicon by Alice Walker, right in the face of entitlement.
Black women were being marginalized and sidelined in the feminist movement, our issues weren’t a factor. And those issues were in fact distinctly different. While White women wanted equal pay, Black women needed equal access and opportunity. While White women were fighting to be recognized as equals, Black women were fighting to be recognized as human. Different things. Angela Davis used her platform, dedicating to Black womanhood and the intersectionality of race class and gender– womanism. Black women were/are asking, in the words of Sojourner Truth at the Women’s Rights Convention in 1851, Ain’t I A Woman? Her words still ring true today.
Then that little man in black there, he says women can’t have as much rights as men, ‘cause Christ wasn’t a woman! Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him. If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back and get it right side up again! And now they is asking to do it, the men better let them. – Sojourner Truth
Read Sojourner Truth’s speech in full here:
https://www.vox. com/culture/2019/2/1/18206645/celebrating-sojourner-truth- google-doodle-aint-i-a-woman
Angela Davis continues to advocate for the abolishment of the death penalty and the prison industrial complex.
See: Black Power Mixtape (film)
Read: Women, Race and Class by Angela Davis
In the spirit of Patrisse, Opal, Alicia, Angela, Ida, Ava, Marsha, Shahidah, Assata, Sojouner, Harriet, Coretta and countless others, we fight on! Let the courage and strength of these strongblackwomen be an inspiration to you, a window into your soul and a light unto your path. #Persist #Resist