By Arturo R. García Watch One Family’s Effort to Buy Black for a Year on…
Originally delivered Aug. 16, 1967, at the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in Atlanta. Transcript courtesy of the Martin Luther King Jr. Research and Education Institute
Dr. Abernathy, our distinguished vice president, fellow delegates to this, the tenth annual session of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, my brothers and sisters from not only all over the South, but from all over the United States of America: ten years ago during the piercing chill of a January day and on the heels of the year-long Montgomery bus boycott, a group of approximately one hundred Negro leaders from across the South assembled in this church and agreed on the need for an organization to be formed that could serve as a channel through which local protest organizations in the South could coordinate their protest activities. It was this meeting that gave birth to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
And when our organization was formed ten years ago, racial segregation was still a structured part of the architecture of southern society. Negroes with the pangs of hunger and the anguish of thirst were denied access to the average lunch counter. The downtown restaurants were still off-limits for the black man. Negroes, burdened with the fatigue of travel, were still barred from the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. Negro boys and girls in dire need of recreational activities were not allowed to inhale the fresh air of the big city parks. Negroes in desperate need of allowing their mental buckets to sink deep into the wells of knowledge were confronted with a firm “no” when they sought to use the city libraries. Ten years ago, legislative halls of the South were still ringing loud with such words as “interposition” and “nullification.” All types of conniving methods were still being used to keep the Negro from becoming a registered voter. A decade ago, not a single Negro entered the legislative chambers of the South except as a porter or a chauffeur. Ten years ago, all too many Negroes were still harried by day and haunted by night by a corroding sense of fear and a nagging sense of nobody-ness.
But things are different now. In assault after assault, we caused the sagging walls of segregation to come tumbling down. During this era the entire edifice of segregation was profoundly shaken. This is an accomplishment whose consequences are deeply felt by every southern Negro in his daily life. It is no longer possible to count the number of public establishments that are open to Negroes. Ten years ago, Negroes seemed almost invisible to the larger society, and the facts of their harsh lives were unknown to the majority of the nation. But today, civil rights is a dominating issue in every state, crowding the pages of the press and the daily conversation of white Americans. In this decade of change, the Negro stood up and confronted his oppressor. He faced the bullies and the guns, and the dogs and the tear gas. He put himself squarely before the vicious mobs and moved with strength and dignity toward them and decisively defeated them. And the courage with which he confronted enraged mobs dissolved the stereotype of the grinning, submissive Uncle Tom. He came out of his struggle integrated only slightly in the external society, but powerfully integrated within. This was a victory that had to precede all other gains.
In short, over the last ten years the Negro decided to straighten his back up, realizing that a man cannot ride your back unless it is bent. We made our government write new laws to alter some of the cruelest injustices that affected us. We made an indifferent and unconcerned nation rise from lethargy and subpoenaed its conscience to appear before the judgment seat of morality on the whole question of civil rights. We gained manhood in the nation that had always called us “boy.” It would be hypocritical indeed if I allowed modesty to forbid my saying that SCLC stood at the forefront of all of the watershed movements that brought these monumental changes in the South. For this, we can feel a legitimate pride. But in spite of a decade of significant progress, the problem is far from solved. The deep rumbling of discontent in our cities is indicative of the fact that the plant of freedom has grown only a bud and not yet a flower.
Like, late night I’m on a first class flight
The only brother in sight the flight attendant catch fright
I sit down in my seat, 2C
She approach officially talkin about, “Excuse me”
Her lips curl up into a tight space
Cause she don’t believe that I’m in the right place
Showed her my boarding pass, and then she sort of gasped
All embarrassed put an extra lime on my water glass
An hour later here she comes by walkin past
“I hate to be a pest but my son would love your autograph”
(Wowwww.. Mr. Nigga I love you, I have all your albums!..) […]
For us especially, us most especially
A Mr Nigga VIP jail cell just for me
“If I knew you were coming I’d have baked a cake”
Just got some shoe-polish, painted my face
They say they want you successful, but then they make it stressful
You start keepin pace, they start changin up the tempo
—“Mr. Nigga,” Mos Def featuring Q-Tip
Recently, I was invited to speak at a major feminist event.
It was for a cause I cared deeply about, and I would share the stage with some of the best recognized figures in feminism.
And yet…I hesitated.
Less than three years ago, I would have jumped at this opportunity, delighted to be invited, honored to be included, proud to make my contribution. But that was then.
Now, I read the email with a healthy dose of suspicion. Why did they want to invite me? They mentioned receiving my name on referral from another marquee named feminist, which made me wonder why the referral was needed. Did they really need more speakers at this late date? Or did they need to add some color to yet another stage that was sure to be full of white women?
I also instantly felt guilty. Was I projecting? Over reacting? After all, this was a short notice event. Isn’t the cause more important than my waffling feelings about mainstream, movement oriented feminism? Why was I instantly suspicious of their intent? Can’t I give people the benefit of the doubt for once?
The emotional see-saw over my decisions to participate in feminist focused events has been my constant companion for close to a year or so now, but it took on a new dimension when Jessica Valenti decided to leave Feministing. That night, I was at a cocktail meetup, when one of my friends grabbed my hand and asked if I heard the news. I’m a lot more removed from the blogosphere at large these days (our transformation is all consuming at the moment) so I hadn’t seen or heard about the post. My friend, who is another African American woman, told me to take a look as soon as I got home. “Basically,” she said, “it was all about her this whole time -she got hers so fuck us!”
So Jessica Valenti’s official departure from Feministing (and Renee’s subsequent response) is why I was actually spurred to write this post, but the problem goes back far longer than just that.
by Latoya Peterson
Our multi-talented homegirl Jessica Yee just edited and published her first anthology. Called Feminism for Real: Deconstructing the Academic Industrial Complex of Feminism, Yee and her contributors (including myself and Andrea Plaid) keep it raw by illuminating the some of the issues people of color (particularly Indigenous people) encounter when entering feminist spaces. In honor of International Women’s Day, we are going to share short excerpts of some of the essays in the book.
Jessica Yee: “Introduction”
[W]e’re not really equal when we’re STILL supposed to uncritically and obediently cheer when white women are praised for winning “women’s rights,” and to painfully forget the Indigenous women and women of colour who were hurt in that same process. We are not equal when in the name of “feminism” so-called “women’s only” spaces are created and get to police and regulate who is and isn’t a woman based on their interpretation of your body parts and gender presentation, and not your own. We are not equal when initatives to support gender equality have reverted yet again to “saving” people and making decisions for them, rather than supporting their right to self-determination, whether it’s engaging in sex work or wearing a niqab. So when feminism itself has become it’s own form of oppression, what do we have to say about it? […]
[I’]ve lost count the amount of times I’ve been asked by others and asked the question myself, what is now the main title of this book, “But what is feminism, for real?”
The responses I received when putting this very question out there to create the book demonstrated resoundingly that people did want to talk about this notion of “the academic industrial complex of feminism” – the conflicts between what feminism means at school as opposed to at homer, the frustrations of trying to relate to definitions of feminism that will never fit no matter how much you try to change yourself to fit them, and the anger and frustration of changing a system while being in the system yourself.
Krysta Williams and Erin Konsmo: “Resistance to Indigenous Feminism”
E & K: What does it mean for an individual to be considered “liberated?” What does it mean for indigenous communities to be “liberated?” I think the pictures we think of as Native women are very different than the end goals expressed in a lot of feminist literature. In other words, there needs to be more space given to community-based solutions and the hard work that everyone, especially women in our communities do every day.
In academia (and in general) there’s still the problem of tokenism. Including one article or person of colour, or Indigenous person into feminist curriculum is not enough. This needs to be fully integrated into all women’s studies curriculum (which is still inherently racist).
E: One crucial element that non-Indigenous academia needs to accept is that no matter how much you read the journals of Columbus, a Native Chief, or through interviews of Native people, you do not have the blood memory that we have within us. Sorry, if this ruins your PhD on Native people but you don’t have the blood memory experiences that I do and so the internal “validity” of your research will never compare!
K: Internal validity has never been so literal…It also needs to be said that including folks after the fact just doesn’t cut it. White supremacy exists within institutions and this can’t be changed by just putting Indigenous bodies in chairs. There are structural changes that we have been calling for since forever!
Shaunga Tagore: “A Slam on Feminism in Academia (poem)
your ideal graduate student is
someone who doesn’t have to experience community organizing
because you’ve already assigned them five chapters to read about it
your ideal graduate student is
someone who can’t talk about positionality or privilege
without referencing some article
your ideal graduate student is
able-bodied and -minded enough
to be given luxury of enjoying sitting in a corner reading 900 pages a week
(with their fair trade starbucks coffee in hand and their lulu lemon track pants on ass)
your ideal graduate student
IS NOT ME
so WHY did you let me through these doors in the first place
if you were just gonna turn around and shove me out?
to fill some quote for affirmative action?
to appear like a progressive program without putting in the effort of actually being one? Read the Post Feminism For Real: Deconstructing the Academic Industrial Complex of Feminism
By Guest Contributor Aaminah Al-Naksibendi, originally posted at Anishinaabekwe
Note from Cecilia, owner of Anishnaabekwe: This is a guest post by Aaminah Al-Naksibendi. She is a Michigander, mother, daughter, sister, artist, writer, activist, truth teller, rebel and NDN. I asked her to write a guest post because of my utter exhaustion around what happened to me this week. So I thank her with all my heart for helping me to speak and share this story when my voice is drenched in sorrow, depression and dealing with the effects of racism in the 21st century.
I grew up in Michigan, adopted by a white family. As a young girl I attended NDN pow wows, African American cultural festivals and the Hispanic festival in our West Michigan city. My parents attempted to raise us with multi-cultural friends, in multi-cultural public schools, and attending multi-cultural churches. As a woman, I had a long relationship with a fellow NDN who had gone to school with and remained friends with my brother. We had a son together before we separated.
When my son was about 7 months old, I started dating a Zhaganaash man whose family lived in Benzie County, up just north of Traverse City. For many reasons, I was not really liked by his overbearing mother, but we attempted to build bridges and visited up there several times before we married in December and his family refused to attend and cut communication with him.
Needless to say, those visits up north were very uncomfortable in many ways. But one thing that was especially difficult for me was the complete lack of color. My fiancée talked about wanting to move up north. We loved the wooded areas, the idea of living just outside a small town, and the literally Crystal-like water of the lake – cleanest water I have ever seen. But the idea of being surrounded by only white people made me really uncomfortable. I wasn’t Muslim at the time, and I am pale (and as a baby my son was blond and pale too) so I was able to “pass” as white and no one recognized us as NDN. I didn’t experience personal racial attacks while visiting (except by my fiancée’s mother of course) and out in the community, though there was one time when a shop keeper asked my fiancée “what” I was and he answered that I was Irish like him. I do also recall overhearing jokes about Blacks, “wetbacks”, and NDNs. Even so, my discomfort stemmed more from the complete lack of color, and not being able to imagine raising my son not only completely outside his own culture, but also without the benefit of a multi-cultural environment and amongst people who were clearly hostile to people of color.
There was one time, only one, where I saw any other color in that town. It was when a Black girl accompanied a white foster family who was visiting the town on vacation. We ran into them when we went to have lunch in a little burger shack near the lake. The little blonde children of the family were in bathing suits, and the Black girl was in sloppy cut off shorts and an oversized none-too-clean t-shirt. When the family’s number was called to pick up their food she got up to serve everyone. I didn’t hear the mother or father say that wasn’t necessary or even thank her, and they certainly weren’t jumping up to help. I lost my appetite and that was the day I declared there was no way I could live there. My fiancée insisted that since they were only visiting their cabin in the summer, that family didn’t represent the year-round residents, but I will never forget what it represented to me. Between that and his family, I never again was able to bring myself to visit.
When my NDN sister Cecelia told me about moving up north, my first thought was discomfort but of course I didn’t want to spoil her plans with my misgivings so instead I congratulated her. I wanted to believe that things have really changed in the last dozen years and there would be more color in the north. Read the Post NDN in the North
By Special Correspondent Thea Lim
Note: Much of this post is based on generalisations drawn from my own narrow experience. Any corrections to my observations are very welcome.
After three years of toiling in sphere of feminism, anti-racism, non-profits, community-based organisations, queer politics and environmentalism (…), last January I decided to go back to school to do my MFA in Creative Writing. This decision came with much hand-wringing and anxiety about whether or not I should keep on doing work that seemed to have some kind of concrete impact on the world around me, or if I should just throw in the towel and examine my belly button for three years. In the end the belly button won – I figured that in life, you gotta do what you love. Or at least you should spend three years here and there doing it.
But after coming to terms with my return to superbougiedom, I had another hurdle to consider. How was I going to manage in the world of mainstream creative writing? The only real exposure I’d had to collaborative creative writing was in workshops for people of colour. Or for women of colour. Or for queer women of colour.
In the end, like Bill on True Blood, I decided it would be good for me to go mainstream. After all, great literature is about being able to uncover what is universal in human experience – even as the universal is cushioned by very specific experiences. I figured it would be good for me to be able to write for people of colour, but in a way that was accessible to white folks; or at least not unnecessarily hostile towards the Dominant Culture. (Kinda like what we do here…)
And I have been pleasantly surprised. While my graduate program is mostly white dudes, there are still lots (read: more than one or two) other writers of colour. But more than that, I have been continually surprised and moved by my co-writers interest in, and openness to my point of view, even if it differs from theirs.
So where’s the problem?
It’s the reading list.
While everybody has heard of Junot Diaz and read at least one of his short stories, few people seem to have read The Brief Life of Oscar Wao, despite the fact that it won the Pulitzer the year I started my MFA. I have never heard mention of Jhumpa Lahiri or Sherman Alexie. So far, I’ve only seen Toni Morrison turn up on reading lists for courses in African-American Lit. The Colour Purple is too polemical to be considered during an art-based discussion (I am told). When I mentioned Edwidge Danticat in a class (despite the fact that this is the most annoyingly well-read group of people I have ever come across) I was met with blank stares.