We are mamas, daughters, sisters, and aunties. We are teachers, social workers, community organizers, and researchers. We are activists and changemakers, taking on the crucial social and environmental issues of our time. What we have in common is that we are Black women working to achieve a just society. And we are under attack. Today, one only has to read the latest headlines to see that hate and violence are on the rise in the United States. And Black women are disproportionately targeted, as a toxic brew of racism and misogyny saturates American life. We know this from personal experience.
One day, my mother dialed zero for the operator. As a Black woman living in Reagan’s 1980s era, isolated and economically struggling while surviving physical and sexual violence, she knew could not count on her predominantly white neighbors to stop her from committing suicide. My mother was past the stage of suicidal ideation and well into a solid plan to kill herself after my father had beaten her for confronting him when he sold off her land in Florida. It wasn’t until years later that I understood the manifold losses my mother sustained as a result of my father selling her 2.5 acres of land north of Miami.
Baltimore, Maryland - For Baltimore-based childbirth educator and doula Ashlee Jaye Johnson, finding the right working space was crucial to give her startup the consistent effort it needed. It’s not so easy to find that with a child under 3 years old. “It would have been really expensive to send my child to a daycare or something like that,” Jaye Johnson says. The average cost of full time childcare for an infant in Baltimore City is upwards of $200 a week or $10,300 a year, according to the Maryland Family Network. “And also I just prefer for her to be closer to me.” But Jaye Johnson was already finding traction for her business, Birth Class in a Box.
On July 29, Louisiana reinstated a controversial abortion ban, which led to the immediate cancellation of procedures in the state. Following the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade in late June, a number of states across the country have moved to outlaw abortion, and in Louisiana, women in poverty will bear the worst burdens of the newly reinstated ban. These women are the true experts regarding the fatal risks of taking away reproductive freedom in the state — not anti-abortion politicians. The politicians gutting abortion rights likely don’t understand the pain of holding a friend as she sobs on the bathroom floor, assuming it’s the worst menstrual cycle of her life, only to discover that she is experiencing a missed miscarriage and her life is at stake. But I do.
Francia Márquez Mina, a 40-year-old Black female activist from the predominantly Black and forgotten region of the Colombian Pacific coast, is shifting the terms of political debate in the second 'Blackest' nation in South America. Francia, the first Black woman to run for the Colombian presidency, is leading a collective effort by women, LGBTQ+ communities, Black youth, peasants, and the poor in general to transform Colombia's insidious patterns of violence and socio-racial inequalities. According to Infobae , as many as 54.2% of Colombia’s population face food insecurity, 42% are under the poverty line, and 10.8% of children are under chronic malnutrition. The country has one of the largest internally-displaced populations and the longest armed conflict in the hemisphere.
When Lajuana Phillips was shot and killed by a police officer in late 2018, she was a mother of three children, a daughter and a cousin who was described by family as “a hard worker,” according to an online memorial. But Phillip’s death received little media attention. There were a few local stories when she was first identified by police, and others detailing the circumstances that led to her being shot at six times. But that was about it. Phillips isn’t alone. Crystal Danielle Ragland, who was killed in Huntsville, Alabama; Latasha Nicole Walton of Florida; and April Webster of South Carolina, to name a few, also received little news coverage after their fatal encounters with law enforcement. Most people fatally shot by police get little to no attention from national media outlets.
Increasing outrage from critics over what the New York Times’ Brent Staples called the monument’s “lily-white version of history.” The proposed monument, wrote another critic in a similar vein, “manages to recapitulate the marginalization Black women experienced during the suffrage movement,” as when white organizers forced Black activists to walk at the back of a 1913 women’s march on Washington. Historian Martha Jones in an op-ed in the Washington Post criticized the way the planned monument promoted the “myth” that the fight for women’s rights was led by Anthony’s and Stanton’s “narrow, often racist vision,” and called for adding escaped slave, abolitionist, and women’s rights promoter Sojourner Truth. Although the New York City Public Design Commission had approved the design with just Anthony and Stanton, Monumental Women did indeed rework the monument, adding a portrait of Truth in June 2019. The sculptor would later make additional smaller changes in response to further criticism about her depiction of Truth, including changing the positioning of her hands and body to make her a more active participant in the scene.
In 1870, abolitionist Julia Ward Howe issued her Mother’s Day proclamation: a call for mothers across the United States to end war. It was five years since the end of the Civil War and the passage of the 13th Amendment, which banned chattel slavery with one notable exception: involuntary servitude is allowed as punishment for a crime. Nearly 150 years later, Howe’s dream of ending war has yet to become a reality. And the 13th Amendment has become more significant as, over the past 40 years, the number of people being sent to prison has skyrocketed. But accompanying these soaring numbers have been calls for abolition of another kind — to abolish prisons.
The black woman’s experience in America provides arguably the most overwhelming evidence of the persistent and ongoing drag from gender and race discrimination on the economic fate of workers and families. Black women’s labor market position is the result of employer practices and government policies that disadvantaged black women relative to white women and men. Negative representations of black womanhood have reinforced these discriminatory practices and policies. Since the era of slavery, the dominant view of black women has been that they should be workers, a view that contributed to their devaluation as mothers with caregiving needs at home.
Black activist groups marched on the National Mall and Justice Department in Washington, D.C. on Saturday to raise awareness about the injustices black women face. The march’s goal was to “denounce the propagation of state-violence and the widespread incarceration of Black women and girls, rape and all sexualized violence, the murders and brutalization of transwomen and the disappearances of our girls from our streets, our schools and our homes,” according to a statement.
As the new school year approaches, The Real News Network will continue to explore the intersections of equity, race, and access to opportunities for quality, safe, and supportive public school environments. In early summer 2018, we attended a town hall event hosted in partnership with Not Without Black Women, the University of Maryland School of Law, and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund in advance of the release of the LDF’s new study Our Girls, Our Future. The two organizations held this discussion during Say Her Name Week 2018, a national week of action targeted at ending violence against all black women, girls, and femmes.
At first glance, tennis star Serena Williams and the late activist Erica Garner don’t have much in common. They lived different lives on different ends of the socioeconomic spectrum. But as black women in America, they both shared horrifying stories due to complications from childbirth. Our country spends more on health care than any other high-income country — but still holds the worst record for maternal mortality in the developed world. This maternal health crisis is driven by the high rates of African-American women who die while pregnant or within one year of the end of a pregnancy. Black mothers die at three to four times the rate of white mothers due to pregnancy-related complications. While existing health disparities can add to the risk, one recent study found that racism is a major driver of the gap.
Black History Month is an opportunity to reflect on the historical contributions of black people in the United States. Too often, however, this history focuses on black men, sidelining black women and diminishing their contributions. This is true in mainstream narratives of black nationalist movements in the United States. These narratives almost always highlight the experiences of a handful of black nationalist men, including Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X and Louis Farrakhan. Contrary to popular conceptions, women were also instrumental to the spread and articulation of black nationalism – the political view that people of African descent constitute a separate group on the basis of their distinct culture, shared history and experiences.