Baby Girl, Where’s Your Line in the Sand?

Warning: This is a rant.

A popular website that will not be named on this blog decided earlier in the week that the way to get back at Maya Angelou for endorsing Hillary Clinton is to post Angelou’s photo there on the website with the caption underneath “Ho, Sit Down.”

It’s taken me several days to catch my breath.

Okay, young womyn of the hip-hop generation, whoever you are, whatever you call yourselves, however you define yourselves, where’s the line? When is enuf enuf? When is it not funny anymore?

Ms. AngelouNot only is Maya Angelou at 79 years old an icon in our community. Not only is Maya Angelou an elder in the village who has made invaluable contributions as a poet and writer and footsoldier in the Civil Rights Movement. Maya Angelou is old enough to be your great grandmother. Baby girl, Maya Angelou is your great grandmother.

Aren’t mothers and grandmothers, and old women, off-limits when we’re fighting? 

I’ve been wondering lately, young womyn, where is your line in the sand?

Evidently I, and the women of my generation, can’t decide that for you. The late C. Delores Tucker learned that the hard way back in the early 1990s when she tried to launch a campaign against the filth in rap music and your beloved Eminem and Tupac deployed some pretty filthy language in their lyrics to shut her up. 

As someone reminded me the other day, I’ll be collecting Social Security in few years, if it’s still around by then. (Lord willing, and the creek don’t rise.) And as such, you and I are generations apart. What I say is smut, you say is art. What I consider obscene, you consider free expression. What I decry as profane, you embrace as edgy. What I label risky, you label sex positive. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

So, here’s what I have to want to know from you young womyn.

Forget what you want in a presidential candidate. Forget what you think about the black church. Forget what you think about feminism and second wave feminists. Forget what you think about your mother.

What do you want for yourselves? What do you consider to be sacred? What are your values?  What does it take to make you mad, baby girl? (Thanks Song in the Key of Life for showing that some of you get it.)

But why is there no outrage at calling Maya Angelou a “ho” to match the outrage that was launched against Don Imus? Or was it “nappy headed” that was the real insult back then?

You seem to be knowledgeable and articulate about racism, but can you recognize sexism when you see it? Does it make you mad?

Baby girl, do you know when you’ve been betrayed?

Baby girl, do you even know when you’ve been disrespected?

Baby girl, do you know when you’re hated?

Tears in the eyes. Face in the hands. Elbows in the lap. Chest heaving. And, yes, scarf around my head. I sit here asking myself, ”Lord. Lord. Lord. Somebody tell me, where did we go wrong?”

46 Responses to “Baby Girl, Where’s Your Line in the Sand?”

  1. Vivrant Thang Says:

    I didn’t know it was you, Rev. Weems, when you commented! I am so honored that you highlighted my post this way, especially since I had a few choice words :) But I know you can understand my outrage over this.

    In any event, your post has touched me equally as much, if not more.

    Baby girl, do you know when you’ve been betrayed?

    Baby girl, do you even know when you’ve been disrespected?

    Baby girl, do you know when you’re hated?

    Should make every woman take pause. Unfortunately, it won’t.

    Again, I appreciate your comments.

  2. Amanda Says:

    Dr. Weems, thank you. Yes, sexism does make me angry. It is possibly the only thing on the planet that can make me so furious so quickly. Whether you intended this entry to be for a primarily young, female, African American audience, I don’t know. Regardless, this Middle Eastern American gal would like to thank you very much for speaking about how sexism like this makes your blood boil. It does the same thing to mine.

  3. Shecodes Says:

    Hello Dr. Weems,

    I’ve finally been lured into coming to your blog. (I stayed away because I was warned that I would get blasted for not calling myself a feminist, lol)

    But I am hearing you loud and clear. And I am FIGHTING MAD about a lot of things of this nature. It’s why I started my blog, because I don’t want to to simply be mad anymore, I want to DO something about it. I want to change things.

    When I heard about the post concerning Maya Angelou, it reminded me of the jokes against Rosa Parks in that movie years ago. I knew that we had crossed another sacred boundary. Once you revile someone, and start believing that they are less than human, you start treating them as less than human.

    I wrote my latest post: The Purpose and Power of the Royal Rook” to challenge black women to re-draw those lines in the sand — and more importantly, to GET OUT OF THE WAY of those who defend that line.

    I think that the time has come for us to admit that there are some women who are not going to come with us to the promised land. We are waiting in Egypt, wanting for them to come to their senses — but they never shall. We must move forward, and teach our own daughters differently.

  4. Fal Says:

    On some level I think young black women know what sexism is even if it is on a some very it happened only one day level.

    When I work with you black women they tell me how different it is for them to walk down the street by themselves, with their girl friends, and with their boy friends and how different it is for young men to walk down the street. They tell me, “Ms. (my last name) men say all types of things to me as I walk by, I don’t get mad “anymore,” but I know they would not talk to my brother like that.”

    At this point would my student tell me it was sexism, probably not but on some visceral level she knows there are differences and a “very dangerous” difference when you are a womyn.

    I am not for sure if your generation has done anything overtly wrong with the exception of assuming that young black womyn are oblivious to sexism and to assume all the womyn of your generation were fighting against sexism (i.e. There were not many black feminist in the 70s walking around).

    Additionally, young black girls take on a lot of responsibilities and are socialized to do so at very young ages meaning that they come with some sense of womanhood and the consequences of womanhood rather they mobilize around it is another question entirely.

    I think it is one thing to ask, why do young black womyn allow men to define their sense of worth, however, it is another situation to ask, why are black womyn both “young” and “old” reluctant to critique Obama or reluctant to defend Dr. Maya Angelou?

    This is where the plot thickens because as a community “we” black folks have always put black men before black women. We believe they are endangered (more so than black womyn) to the point of making black womyn responsible for the success and failure of their men folk (because they got it so hard). So, when you get a black man like Obama who is the Golden Boy Messiah for black people running for the preeminent patriarchal leadership role, any black womyn worth a grain of salt better stand “literally” behind him or risk being called by the black community both male and female a garden tool, female dog, and a race traitor.

  5. jbd Says:

    Q: ”where did we go wrong?”

    A: When the black community (and society at large) started sending young black women the message that while young black men must be protected, young black women’s lives are expendable. We went wrong when we were up in arms about Imus, but no one said a mumblin’ word about D.L. Hughley and Daman Wayans (who seconded Imus’ comments on The View in the presence of a silent Sherri Shephard and Whoopi Goldberg). We went wrong when the black community failed to come to the rescue of a black woman who was gang-raped by 10 black men in West Palm Beach, but we rallied around Generalow Wilson. Young Black women’s difficulty in drawing the line stems not only from what we’ve allowed hip hop culture to get away with in the name of “art” and “sex positive”, but it also stems from the messages we recieve in the black community…and even from (some) older black women.

    I am irate over what “that blog” has done to Maya Angelou. They have crossed the line. But the line was a crossed a long time ago. Unfortunately for young black women, the line only seems to matter when white folk cross it.

  6. Sharon Says:

    It is truly one of the most difficult things to witness, and worse, swallow, when the present generation fails to notice they are riding the crest of the wave of change, a crest made up of so many striving for so long to make the world so different. When that same young generation fails to grasp the momentum behind this present time, this moment, and all the history that came before it…

    And instead proceeds nonchalantly down the path of ignorance, which is its own bliss…and effectively pisses away the gains made before…it can set some blood to boil.

    The women who came of age in the 1990’s thought ‘hooking up’ was how it was meant to be, that all women were supposed to have sex first, and then hope for a relationship later, at the man’s whim. This same group thought that whole feminist thang was so blase, so last century…and fails to realise they don’t make what their male peers make, and that their daughters likely won’t either. The young today live in the blissful dream of diversity, of equality, and worship at the altar of the gods of consumerism and technology. They have no understanding of the world they are about to enter, and the long history of blood, sweat and tears it took to move us just to this moment…and the road ahead is still so long!

    Every generation swings in anti-reaction to the one preceeding it. I understand that, but it boils my blood to see the gains made, the strives forward taken….disdained in favor of some hate-spewing rap artist that tells young women they’ve got nothing on offer other than their body.

    Tell me it wasn’t all for that outcome…

  7. Renita Says:

    @Vivrant Thang: I’m glad I found your website this morning. I love reading smart young women.

    @Amanda: a Middle Eastern sister, you’re on!

    @Shecodes: Here I read you blog, comment when I can, and have your feed on my homepage all these weeks, and you have purposely not bothered to visit my blog based on a false rumor and based on a possible difference of opinion. That speaks volumes.

    @Everyone
    Thanks for keeping it as brief as you can and leaving us all something to chew on and weigh in about.

  8. Fal Says:

    @ Sharon,

    I would encourage you to read the previous post entitled, Lessons Around the Kitchen Table-1

    It deals with some the issues your are voicing, but from the perspectives of young black womyn.

    Furthermore, I think you have a negative view of young black womyn. But I can’t fault you for that because we live in a culture that overall devalues young black womyn and other young womyn of color because of their sexual decisions, choice of clothing and music, and how they view his-stories and her-stories.

    I would also recommend visiting the Black Youth Project website because it shows through data that young black womyn and young black men are not own the path ignorance.

    http://blackyouthproject.uchicago.edu/

  9. Kesha Says:

    Rev. Renita, I was disappointed when I saw the “h” word comment in regards to Mother Angelou. My first instinct is that it was not by a woman. You’d be even more disappointed if you went to cafepress.com and searched through some of the campaign slogan T-shirts people are designing that do not reflect gender or culture well (no matter who is your candidate). That’s a hard question - where we went wrong. I know that I hear more four letter words from young people than I ever heard in my day (and I love young people, got a whole blog dedicated to inspiring and empowering them). I was too afraid to curse back in the day. That would have got me in a bad situation to put it lightly. Maybe where we went wrong is that we started being too nice and we stopped pulling folks aside when they started saying stuff like the above. Maybe the programming starts early with teaching young men and young women not to call each other out of their names, to respect their elders, etc. But not in a “preachy” way - in a way that really makes them understand that we are all connected.

  10. Sharon Says:

    Hey Fal,

    Thanks - I will check both of those out. I love to find rays of hope out there, so I appreciate you for showing me where to look.

    I actually have a rather negative view of the under 30 set in general. I am generation X, and I know my generation was the first to say, en masse, “I’m not a feminist, but…”

    And I was one of them.

    It wasn’t until I got out in the world, particularly in Corporate America, that my eyes got truly opened. My dad, a huge chauvinist (who I of course love - he’s my father), never warned me, even though he knew what I was going to hit in the business world.

    Fighting as hard as I have to claw my way up, and then watching the girls today get caught up in hooking up, and letting men dictate the terms of relationship…or getting pregnant as teens, and wanting to keep the baby, not knowing how that sets them back so many years economically (the US is not kind to the single mom) well it makes me crazy. I also work with a lot of Hispanic girls here in CA, and they bully each other something fierce, which I think traces to a fair amount of sexism at home.

    All in all, our situation in general, and I mean that for all women, is something I’d like to see change…and I am just glad the dialogues are happening where these topics can get on the radar, instead of being occluded.

    Thanks again,

    Sharon

  11. wisdomteachesme Says:

    …she said that she tried, but they would not listen….

    “I freed a thousand slaves, I could have freed a thousand more if only they had listened when i tried to tell them they Was Slaves.”

    ~Harriet Tubman (c. 1820-1913)

  12. KariC Says:

    I heard about this earlier this week and was hot!
    What About Our Daughters has phone numbers for some of the various advertisers on their site. “Apparently” Verizon has already decided to remove their ads. Here is the info for T-Mobile

    T Mobile Corporate:
    800-318-9270 (PDT)

    If there are other advertisers on their site call them too. That’s how Imus was taken off the air, the people with the money backed away.

    Although this isn’t the answer to the real issue at hand –the way women with opinions are treated– we can at least put a stop to this foolishness.

  13. Stacey Floyd-Thomas Says:

    Womanist writer Pearl Cleage once said:
    While only those with faith and patience get to talk to God, everybody gets to talk to the Devil, and if the deal goes down like it’s supposed to, some people get to talk for him.
    Cleage’s statements recall the story of the infamous, German doctor Johann Faust, who sold his soul to the Devil in exchange for youth, knowledge, and magical power. Clearly, Dr. Weems, this little sister is in a real life – albeit nuanced – Faustian situation. But she’s left with the ignorance of youth, the knowledge of self-hate, and the magical power to curse all that affirms any good thing about herself. She has, maybe unwittingly, bartered her soul and her right mind for whatever social access, peer acceptance, and cool points she thinks she has garnered for cracking the mirror that, if she’s lucky, is her better and older self. She like so many other Genernation Next-ers is trapped within the confines of a market economy where personal identities and dreams are purchased at the cost of one’s moral integrity and social worth. Today, the only thing that gets a Black woman attention is her ability to cut down and undercut another Black woman. That’s the only cache we carry. This is postmodern horizontal violence at its best…a dirty dozen that hurts the one who hurls it more than it can possibly hurt anyone else…most especially Maya Angelou. Nonetheless, it makes me wanna holla (and pull out my weave!)

  14. Angela Says:

    Unfortunately, there are far too many young womyn who do not believe that there should be boundaries. The reality is far too many of their mothers in an attempt to break out of the “chains” of their mothers have all but eliminated boundaries for this generation. I too am part of the alleged generation X and I have watched a lot of my contemporaries parent in a way that is frightening.

    The reality is there is a lack of studying of history…and we all know that “those who do not study history are destined to repeat it…” The womyn of this “Y” generation are clueless and truth be told too many of them don’t care. So that we have stated the obvious what are the solutions?

  15. tamecia Says:

    Just when we earned a little time at the grown women’s table (thank you for the risk in letting us speak), somebody disrespected NaNa Griotess…now some that got to the table recognize that we might have to help others reach it by bringing a booster seat so they can just LISTEN. The truth of the matter is, there are many young women who draw lines, yet they leave the line and get distracted or they draw it in pencil so they can erase it or move it when somebody asks “Who drew it?” What one might forget is that Maya Angelou actually knows Hillary Clinton better than most of us know Barack Obama. At 79, She DREW a line. At 29, I know that creative discourse reflects the highest intellect and honor. Let us not forget that while we tear each other up, the men are fantasizing that there is mud involved, and working it out for each other. (Did I hear correctly that Genarlow Wilson is going to MOREHOUSE? Maybe not, but I get mad on a daily basis. Grrr…) To my young sisters out there, Maya drew a line. Dr. Weems wants to see the line we draw. Pick a good place. Then…USE A PEN!

  16. RevMamaAfrika Says:

    Good morning,

    It is truly sad someone, ANYONE, would refer to Mama Maya Angelou as that name. There are many people I have POLITICAL disagreements with over the years, including Mama Maya, but I would never, ever, refer to her with such a word or any other bad word. Some people do have a mechanical, rigid adherance to biology/anatomy to make political decisions and positions, for them, some things are not dynamic or nuanced to help them make critical analysis on the issues of our time.

    I hope whoever did this apologizes; in the mean time, we must learn from each other’s wisdom, knowledge and experience, young, midlife and older women. We must have the courage to learn how to respectfully agree to disagree.

    :)

  17. Tamecia Says:

    I just realized that it could be understood that I am hating on Genarlow Wilson’s opportunity. I am not. I am concerned about what college this girl, who should be graduating, is going to and if anybody is hooking her up. She might not have been Black, but she was having sex at 15. Somebody should sign a dotted line for her.

  18. Fal Says:

    Okay, I will admit that some of the choices young black womyn make may not be the best; however, I am also very aware of how older black women and I are responsible for many of the choices young black womyn make. This is not to say that other systems of oppression do not affect young black womyn’s behaviors because they do.

    But since on this blog the line was drawn in the sand by so many older black womyn, I am obliged to hold them responsible.

    To begin, I think it is interesting that everyone is assuming the blog that shall not be named is owed and published by young black people. I am pretty sure it is owned by some corporate company. And given the dismal outlook of so many on this blog, it would seem such a grand feat for black youth to facilitate such a blog.

    Furthermore, as I indicated in an earlier post those who have such a negative outlook concerning young black womyn should read the previous post written by two young black womyn to understand the voices and agencies of young black womyn.

    Once again, if literature is correct there were not many black womyn walking around in the 1970’s under the banner of womyn’s rights or call me a “black feminist.” Older black womyn like young black womyn now were most likely to support black men over black womyn. The Million Man March consisted of black men rallying in Washington, but was organized largely by Black womyn. The most virulent attacks against Anita Hill came from Black womyn. When the Color Purple was produced in the 80’s showcasing a black man beating a black womyn, black womyn as well as black men were looking to be-head Alice Walker.

    All of this is to say that older black womyn must take “some” responsibility for how young black womyn behave. Not the type of responsibility that ask “where did we go wrong” because that once again makes it sound like older black womyn did everything they could to make sure sexism and misogyny was eradicated.

    Where did we go wrong? Y’all went wrong when you assumed that all of you or even most of you were fighting against male chauvinism in the past and that’s not true. So when a website calls Maya Angelou a garden tool because she is anti-Obama than we learned from you how to respond to womyn who do not support black men . . . she’s a race traitor and a garden tool.

    We learned from all of you!

  19. Shecodes Says:

    Dr. Weems,

    Accept my apology. I have not been involved in blogging long, and only learned about yours 3 weeks ago on Professor Tracey’s site. I had no idea that my blog was in your feed… and I am here now, ready to be of service in any way that I can.

    So while my absence may have spoken volumes, the only thing it was intended to say is that I wasn’t feenin’ for a feminist fight. Let my presence speak equal volumes, because I know that we are on the same side.

    P.S. And I am here because I believe in what you are saying, not because you promoted my blog on your site. :-)

  20. wisdomteachesme Says:

    it’s not that deep.
    i’m sure that many black women thought that sojouner, tubman, pauli murray, chisholm, ella baker, and All the others-were not quite wrapped tight either when they started using their claimed voices. i’m sure that they were called names and that everyone did not join in with them. that does not make them a ‘garden tool’ nor ‘a race traitor’.

    and those women that chose not to join them-were not their responsiblity-just as ’some’ of these younger back women that are living now, are not our responsibilty. You can’t teach someone that does not want to learn!
    at some point of a womens life-she has to take responsibility for herself -her thoughts-her actions and non-actions.

    if some of these young women do not know the herstory of black women,,,that is not the fault of those that spoke the work, did the work, and then wrote it all down and made it plain for a runner to Read! It is not the fault of those of us that picked up those written works and preceded to carry on with the spreading of the herstory.
    there will always be many that walk their own forged paths and not the path that was created for them to walk-again, that is their decision.

    you learn what you want to learn-you change when you want to change-you blame who you want to blame-and you take responsibilty for yourself-when you want to.

    don’t point any fingers this way–there are always 4 pointing back at you.

    I’ll say it again= tubman said, she tried to tell them, but they would not listen…
    and i bet she kept right on walking-helping the ones that did go with her and leaving the others behind where they stood ….blaming and name calling.

    it’s not that deep.

  21. Ruby Sales Says:

    Wow, wee, Renita, another powerful sermon and loving lesson. Our daughters have learned so much from Black men, white men and white women that it is hard to see us or recognize our common struggle and challenges. We might be mother, but we too are Black and female. Where is the love toward each other from both generations?

    There is a real danger in not telling our story of struggle to the seventh generation. The danger is that we allow others to write our history, to say who we have been to each other, who we are with each other now and who others have been with us. Its no wonder that many of our daughters and the public see us through the dehumanizing white lies of bitches, whores, and mammies. This is not to say thatbecause white folk originated these lies that Black men and even some Black women did not internalizethem.

    The young sister without realizing it is drawing on this same old slander of Black women. Fal, I agree that older women share a great portion of the blame. But, so does your generation. None of our hands are clean, We cannot change this, but we can write a new story together that moves us beyond bad history and non redemptive anger and name calling. The good news is that we are not entrapped by the past, we can chart a new course.

    What’s the organizing plan? Are we ready to build a new active sisterhood that helps move us and our community through the 21st century? Time is ticking. We are almost at the end of the first decade of 21st century.

    Ruby Sales

  22. MzP Says:

    That anyone, regardless of race, gender, or age would refer to any female of any race, gender, or age using such a derogatory term is distressing to me. That it was directed at Maya Angelou is downright disgraceful! That some of our “Baby Girls” and “Baby Boys” have either not been taught or choose to disregard the fact that, whether etched in sand or cyberspace that the elders whose shoulders you stand upon are to be respected – AT ALL TIMES – is even more distressing. “At all times” regardless of where your line is drawn in the sand in any arena (political, economical, educational … ) I’ve reread the previous post written by our young black womyn and, as it relates to this post, I’m struck by the sentence: “ In most cases, younger black women know the shoulders they stand upon whether they acknowledge the names of the shoulders is somewhat irrelevant if they are acting upon the sacrifices that were rendered.” We, the elders, must make sure that our young womyn (and men) who choose to move from the children’s table not only ‘know’ but understand that acknowledging the names of the shoulders you stand upon is very relevant less they forget their herstory (history). Thank you, wisdomteachesme, for calling out their names and you, Dr. Weems, for continuing to make your shoulders available.

  23. jbd Says:

    @Ruby Sales: I agree that the finger pointing between the generations ultimately gets us no where. However, I do think that the finger pointing we see here on this post (from older folk and younger folk) is indicative of what it will mean to build a “new active sistahood” between older and younger generations of black women.

    Admittedly, as a young sista, I’m often weary of working and sharing ideas with older women. Now, before folk start bashing me over the head with accusations that I am ungrateful and don’t know my history, please know that it’s quite the contrary. I can say with certainty that there is nothing that I cherish more than spending time with and hearing the stories of older Black women. I am a fanatic reader of biographies and autobiographies of black women for this very reason.

    However, in my experience, working with older Black women has often meant having to contend with overgeneralizations (”all ya’ll are ignorant”) and oversimpliflications (you all don’t care that you are being exploited) about young black women. Our ideas are often dismissed for fear that we will rock the status quoe boat (the way we’ve always done it) completely off its hinges.

    If building a new active sistahood means working with older women who are convinced that their assumptions about us are true and refused to be persuaded otherwise; If it means working with women who dont’ realize their own contributions and complacency in the demise of young black women; If it means having my ideas dismissed, I say “no deal.”

  24. wisdomteachesme Says:

    when all is said and said…

    This is the principle of synergism. Synergism states that two or more objects working together can produce a greater effect than the objects working independently of each other.

  25. valerie bridgeman Says:

    @ Ruby et al
    “What the plan of action?”
    Good question. does anyone know anyone at the site that shall not be named? We are all only 6 degrees separated on the planet from anyone else. A start would be to engage is a non-violent conversation( one that does not start, however tempting, with “little child, is you lost your damn mind???”). I appreciate all the analyses above, I really do. After that initial contact, where do we publish a dialogical conversation between us old women and young women (okay, and in-betweeners since I’m not quite old enough to be called old by some standards and definitely not young enough to be young). Where do we plan a joint project that changes some portion of the world in which we live? I’m really up for that work…..

  26. Fal Says:

    @ MzP

    To be honest MzP I share your concerns about using such words in reference to anyone, not just Maya Angelou. I just come from a different perspective.

    I agree with the previous post assertion, “In most cases, younger black women know the shoulders they stand upon whether they acknowledge the names of the shoulders is somewhat irrelevant if they are acting upon the sacrifices that were rendered.”

    To be honest did our foremothers like Ida B. Wells, Mary Church Terrell, Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, or Maria Stewart recall the names of historical figures before they acted on slavery, lynching, and suffrage. No, I am pretty sure they did not. They acted on what they saw and what they experienced as black womyn.

    I disagree with your assertion that the only way you remember and “honor” history is through name recognition. If that is the case, many black people including some of the womyn on this blog that do justice work would be in peril.

    The young womyn who wrote the previous post linked to two organizations founded and governed by young black womyn. These organizations were in response to what they experienced when they walked down the street and were harassed by men (The Young Women’s empowerment Team) and in response to the derogatory imaging of black womyn in the media (HOTGIRLS).

    Does this mean they have feminist conscious? Perhaps yes and perhaps no.

    Does this mean they can recount the names of black womyn like Ella Baker, Septima Clark, Ruby Doris Smith-Robinson, and other? Perhaps yes and perhaps no.

    But does it mean that they are committed to justice work? Yes, because they are acting in the legacy and tradition of our foremothers.

    To be honest many black people including black women no little to nothing about women in the Civil Rights Movement, womyn like Ella Baker. But does that keep them from doing justice work on behalf of womyn, no!

    Furthermore, this idea of “respect at all times” is directly tied to the chasm between young black womyn and older black womyn, wanting younger black womyn to recite the names of their foremothers to legitimize their voice and activism albeit seat at the big people’s table is unproductive. It reinforces ageism and the gate keeping status of older black womyn to quail dissent.

    Since we want to recall the names of our fore mothers, I speak Ella Baker’s name because she understood the power of black youth’s voices and activism.

    You want respect. You want them to respect their histories and foremother, than you must also respect their voices, their concerns, their activisms.

  27. Shecodes Says:

    “What the plan of action?”

    I believe the plan of action should be to inflict a heavy measure of pain on anyone who defames black women in this manner. Sorry to put it so bluntly, but people engage in these behaviors do so because there are no penalties involved — only financial reward and higher visibility.

    When people of this ilk get publicly gunned down for their outrageous actions, others will not only think twice before trying that nonsense themselves — they will also be forced to view black women in a different light.

    We can always forgive them after they have apologized and changed.

  28. MzP Says:

    @fal
    Thank you for reiterating my post; that it’s relevant that young womyn and men “not only ‘know’” (as in be able to recite as you have so eloquently done) the shoulders, but to also understand the relevance of ‘acknowledging’ (as in give credit to) the shoulders of the elders you are standing on. I said nothing about those shoulders belonging to infamous historical figures because for many of us those shoulders belong to an auntie, a teacher, or a cook at our school. The point is that We (elders) and You (young womyn) are standing on some sister’s shoulders who deserves to be respectfully acknowledged – at all times. And, I respectfully acknowledge, she may not always be an elder; yours may be the young womyn sitting at the “big people’s table” without the booster seat.

  29. Rev. Angela S Says:

    I do not share Maya Angelou’s political leanings but neither does Oprah (and many, many others) Interestingly, these two women Black women have not engaged in a public name calling or a hair pulling match. Like Valerie and Ruby, I would welcome passionate but civil discourse. I am really interested in what my young sisters are thinking.

    Many of our young sisters acknowledge the shoulders on which they stand, I know this to be true. However I am struggling with this statement: “…the names of the shoulders is somewhat irrelevant if they are acting upon the sacrifices that were rendered.”
    There are countless unnamed Black women working for shalom whose aim is not the spotlight. If they waited for a pat on the head, the strides we’ve made as a people would at the very least be stalled.
    If I could erect a monument to the “unnamed sister” I certainly would. Too often society renders Black Women–regardless of age–invisible. Why participate in our own oppression?

  30. Fal Says:

    @ All womyn who have taken issue with my comments,

    Once again, I understand the power of naming and calling forth, but I do not think it is the “only way” for young black women to act against oppressions in particular sexism. I want rewrite my reasons why please read my previous comments.

    Furthermore, I find it very telling that when young black womyn on this blog begin to weigh in about how they see older black womyn its automatically seen as being uncivil, creating discord, ripping each other apart, and internalizing patriarchy.

    While on the other hand, it is fine for older black womyn to call young black womyn ignorant, un-greatful, and disrespectful.

    I wholeheartedly agree with Jbd.

    Jbd writes in her comment above,

    “However, in my experience, working with older Black women has often meant having to contend with overgeneralizations (”all ya’ll are ignorant”) and oversimpliflications (you all don’t care that you are being exploited) about young black women. Our ideas are often dismissed for fear that we will rock the status quo boat (the way we’ve always done it) completely off its hinges.

    If building a new active sistahood means working with older women who are convinced that their assumptions about us are true and refused to be persuaded otherwise; If it means working with women who dont’ realize their own contributions and complacency in the demise of young black women; If it means having my ideas dismissed, I say “no deal.”

    “No deal!”

  31. ruby sales Says:

    Fal,
    To put it bluntly, people who are oppressed cannot afford the luxury of generational warfare. We either stand whole together or we fail as a group. There is a fundamental difference between ageism and gratitude that someone held the world together through violence and terrorism so that you can stand right now in our faces to voice your critique. To believe that you deserved that space and to work to create and maintain it when there was no concrete evidence that it would bear fruit is a supreme act of love.

    I am not just talking about Ella Baker or Lucy Diggs Slowe. I am talking about those ordinary Black women who worked for fifteen dollars a week on their knees in white women homes or those Black women who labored in schools throughout the Black community. Or the woman like Ms. Gille in my neighborhood who sold liquor, but gave my brother a dollar for every A that he made and bought him great white shirts. Or my homeroom teacher, Mrs. Armstrong who drove a hundred miles to make me leave the church in my first demonstration when it was clear that white folk meant to kill us. I did not leave, but I loved her for coming!

    What always strikes me about your analysis is that often it feels devoid of love or overflowing with non redemptive anger. Non redemptive anger is the bedrock for racism and all forms of injustice. I believe in anger but restorative anger. This is anger rooted in so much love of justice and others that you cannot bear to leave the world as it is in its sorry state. So, like Ella Baker you commit your life to actively working with people of all generations, sexes and races. She worked not only with Ruby Doris Smith and Bernice Johnson Reagon, but also Bob Moses and Julian Bond. Do you believe that she, Black woman, who worked with Black preachers did not see or feel the sexism that existed in Bob or Julian- not because they were bad folk but because they were not perfect, and they were influenced by the notions of maleness and femaleness. Miss Baker always found the highest possibility and space in others and organized from that point.

    Although, Bob and Julian might have been excellent on race, they probably needed to work on parts of the white maleness in them. The point that I am trying to make is we, all, as James Baldwin points out have isms in us that we need to eradicate. This understanding gives us a different starting point for doing social justice work. It requires us to work to change ourselves as much as we try to change the world. There is a fundamental difference between self righteousness and righteousness.

    Miss Baker did not allow the ageism of young folk who thought that we discovered the Movement and in our ignorance, we dismissed many older Black folk who laid the foundation for the southern freedom movement. We did not even know their names. I am still learning them.

    If we focus merely on our differences or failures, then we miss a primary and essential point. Black folk and our allies won. That’s right, we won. We brought down one of the most powerful, oppressive and violent government without firing a shot. And, our victory resonated throughout the nation and the world. It certainly changed the landscape of the University of Chicago where many Black women and men not only study but teach and hold administrative offices.

    This conversation reminds me of one I had with my sister who always held forth on what my mama did wrong. I told her that I bet when her son came of age, he would have a list for her. He did. And, while a great deal of what he said was true, it lacked proportionality. He failed to balance what she might have done wrong with what she did right.

    Lucy Diggs Slowe, Ella Baker, Clara Maul, and Mrs West had organizing plans. What is yours? We need you both in the academy and in the field. Ella Baker was an intellectual that hung out in the intellectual and progressive smokey and seductive salons in Harlem and the Village. She also traveled the backroads of Mississippi and Alabama selling NAACP memberships and bringing The Crisis Magazine.

  32. Renita Says:

    Thanks Ruby!!!!

    The scholar in me senses that there’s a book somewhere in all of this.

    The grassroots minister is sitting her wondering how I can bring all of us together for a face to face gathering.

    One rule: to get to sit at the kitchen table, you must agree either to help snap beans, shell peas, shuck corn, peel peaches, make biscuits from scratch, or braid someone’s hair– while sitting yelling lovingly at each other from across the generational divides.

    Until I can figure out how to make either happen, we’ll have to settle for this tiny little space in cyberspace to air our differences. Proceed.

  33. Rev. Angela S. Says:

    Whenever, you call that ingathering Dr. Sis. Pastor Renita, I’m all in.

    I remain interested in my young sisters’ thoughts, longings and dreams, as well as any sister who has weighed in on this topic. I continue to be nonplussed by the lack of trust and fury of my young sisters. Young Sisters, keep talking. Be as angry as you need to be. I’m not looking for uniformity of thought and opinion. But there is a way to speak across of divide. Dr. Weems points this up–lovingly. Not the maudlin sappy stuff that masquerades as love either, but the kind of love that struggles and transforms each of us. Here is my pledge: I will hold on to you as tightly as Jacob held on to the angel at the Jabbok. Though we wrestle, I will not let go until we bless one another.
    So please, whatever we do, let’s not get so frustrated that we shrink from this. This is the difficult task of reconciliation. We are so worthy of each other’s consideration.

  34. wisdomteachesme Says:

    thank you sister sales, you are teaching me Much!

    one thing i feel that you said worth writing down (which i did) and re-reading often, is the part you wrote about how many younger blacks see us through the eyes of white men, white women, and black men-and from negative black women.

    that is some truth for a deposit in the bank of wisdom and knowledge!

    and yes, sister weems, there are so many shoulders that i have stood on, and still stand on to this day! of people that are not in anyones books…other than the word of mouth to spread the good word and works they have accomplished.
    and i for one am humbly honored to be in the presence of such great women and men purposed by God to do what needs to be done!
    Shall We Carry ON?!
    YES!
    tell me what to do…and i’ll do so!

    let me put my degree from Hampton Institute/my 18 years as a public school teacher-my experiences of being a mother, and the great love in my heart and spirit for and from God= to work in this new life that i have been given-teaching/learning on a whole ‘nother level!
    Yea Amen.
    i have many tools that are ready to be used!
    talk to us!!!!!!!!!
    :D

  35. Angela Says:

    As an in-betweener (i’m sure that isn’t a word) with “old school” tendencies– I can’t wait for the when and the where for the dialog– I can snap green beans, clean greens, fry up some mean fried chicken and we don’t wanna talk about my macaroni and cheese. I’m not afraid to roll up my sleeves and get my hands dirty…just like the shoulders I’ve stood on all my life…the ones I know my name and the ones who spirits have carried me this far. I love the fact that as a woman I can be involved in this conversation between womyn who have taken the time to observe and formulate intelligent, passionate responses.

  36. val ann Says:

    First I read the post by Sister Renita and then the subsequent comments from all of you. And I am thinking……

    Thinking how conversations with my younger sisters are wonderful and painful. Thinking how my interactions with the elder womyn are equally wonderful and painful. The wonder comes from those sisters older and younger committed to social justice work - like the young sisters at my college who have decided to form a feminist leadership alliance chapter. Or Faith Pennick who lovingly addressed a friend’s statement that abortion is just “a white woman’s issue and black womyn have more important things to be concerned with” by creating a documentary called “Silent Choices.”

    The pain comes from witnessing sisters younger and older disrespect each other and themselves in a myriad of self-hating ways- calling each other out of name, ridiculing those who think differently than we do, and in the refusal to work together to heal the rifts we have created……

    So I am down for sitting around the kitchen table and opening up a few more “leaves” - room for all. I know, from teaching some really wonderful young black womyn that they are quite excited about finally being able to shell some peas, snap some beans, and chop up some onions. They are asking the questions, offering up their insights, and listening to the womyn around the table offering up their recipes for social justice. And addressing whatever other issues the sisters bring to table.

    Thank you Sisters Renita and Ruby for your enlightenment and love enough to tell us the truth!

  37. Shecodes Says:

    I am in my mid-thirties… so I’m not sure which generation that I belong to in this group. All I know is that I often tend to agree with the older generation, but have the energy and fire of the younger generation.

    I am incredibly fortunate to have been able to sit at the table of quite a few brilliant women, including my own mother, the Rev. Dr. Eve Fenton.

    All my life I have snapped the peas, shucked the corn, washed the pots, and set the table. The women in my life have discussed the world’s problems and proposed solutions to those problems.

    However, for the most part, most of us stayed at the table, consuming our delightful meals in the relative safety of our kitchens. Meanwhile, the world outside became an increasingly dangerous place, with very real and very dangerous enemies encroaching right to our doorsteps.

    I feel that something is seriously missing. In my heart, I feel like a volcano ready to explode… at a certain point, the younger generation must get up from that table, open that front door, and go into battle. Their fury and fire is a gift from God — it was placed there in order to deal with the madness that is outside of the window of those warm kitchens that we congregate in.

    If we stay inside that kitchen too long, we will misdirect that anger to the women who least deserve the least — the women who are our teachers, caretakers, and nurturers.

  38. Rev. Angela S. Says:

    Amen.

  39. pioneevalleywoman Says:

    Greetings, Rev. Weems!

    I just checked the site, for those who don’t know, it rhymes with “gossip,” and it seems the essay criticizing Mama Maya is down.

    From What About Our Daughters, to Shecodes on Black Women vote, we were out en masse!

    I didn’t get a chance to respond to the post on “gossip,” but I made sure I called some of their advertisers to give them a piece of my mind!

    How dare they use such a word to describe one of our elders!

  40. deborah Says:

    I’m just wondering if things have changed as much as we think they have. Someone can quickly and (relatively) cheaply publish comments to one million people in less than four minutes. Twenty years ago (a generation ago), those comments would have died around the kitchen table or in the backyard.

    We need to be ruthless with people who want to use words to hurt. Dialogue doesn’t do any good unless all parties see the need for it.

    Honestly, I don’t know that we are all looking for the same outcome. Shared history without an eye to the future does not create sisterhood.

  41. RevMamaAfrika Says:

    Whew! What a powerful discussion! I’m a country girl, old school style. I’m old enough to remember pulling and picking cotton (I kid you not.) Not only do I know how to cook and clean collard greens and smoked turkey necks, I can snap peas and beans, bake curried chicken, a mean pot of oxtail soup and then whole grain cornbread! How’s that for soul food? :)

    Seriously, the generational divide that has occasionally appeared in this discussion disturbs me. For example, I attended an event yesterday, a film festival by a local men’s organization that deals with men’s violence against women and their responsibility to end it. There was a film about the “n” word. Need I say that whenever someone voiced an opinion “agreeing” with using the word, admitting to using the word or not seeing the word as a big deal, it was a much younger person under 25. It struck me that we have to keep in mind that the “generational” divide has existed for many years, even before hip hop, text messages and emails. My parents, grandparents, etc., definitely disagreed with my politics, clothes, music, big Afro, etc., back in the 1970s and 1980s. While a “generational” divide may be a natural occurence, can we also begin to see that the bitter “generational” divide we see today has in many ways been manufactured by a free market capitalist economy? Where are the jobs in our community for young people? Where is the wholesome, fun recreation for young people? What is the status of our public schools AND can we be honest about how vouchers and charter schools have deliberately undermined our public school system? What about the many other things that distract us all from time to time? Lastly, Sis. Fal, I feel ya; some of the most bitter, nasty, disrespectful, petty discussions I’ve had with my sistas have not been from your generation but from mine. (I’m 50 years old.) I may disagree with younger sistas on some issues, but I try to respect everyone’s right to have an opinion and some people will just have to come to whatever understanding when they come to it. But the sistas of my generation, especially the church sistas who know so much, they have been the ones to call me names and/or roll their eyes when I’m vocal about classism among people of African descent, domestic violence/violence against women, calling out particular brothers publicly, speaking out against homophobia and for gay rights, talking about reproductive justice (not just abortion), etc. If there’s a meeting on this, gathering all us sisters to the table, count me in! Thanks so very much! :) :)

  42. TammiD Says:

    Along with Shecodesnot sure where the early thirties generation fits but what happened to respecting your elders’.

  43. Lady Lauren Says:

    Ladies,

    Thanks so much for… well. For BEING here. I admire your willingness to articulate your emotions and share them, to raise your voices TOGETHER.
    First of all, let me say that I can’t understand a black woman’s plight: I’m as white as they come. I would never, ever equate my experience of the world with people whose history is so different from my own; while we share similarities as women, I don’t know the weight that you carry and so would never judge the way that you carry it. (My great-grandparents came from Ireland in the early 1900s.)
    That said, just because I can’t claim to know what it’s like doesn’t mean I can’t revere what it is to be a black woman. I may not “get” it (it would be presumptuous of me to pretend that I did), but I know that white women and black women can teach each other A LOT. I respect tremendously the ADDITIONAL struggles of being a black person in a white-dominated world, on top of the sexism half of the population faces on a daily basis.
    But as a strong woman (who’s trying to see if that strength means faith, for the first time in my life), in regards to female degradation… it’s everywhere. All the time. Every minute of every day. The way women are lit in ads, dressed (next time you see a poster with men and women on it, reverse the way each party is dressed, and imagine how odd it would be to see fully-clothed WOMEN and half-naked MEN– how upset would men be if that happened??), the ways that our sense of self is appealled to to get us to buy things that will mask what we truly look like, the way we’re taught to respect ourselves based on what others think of us… it’s upsetting, and depressing.
    But most of all, we see women’s sexuality as the OPPOSITE of the sacred and powerful force that it is, and when we want to insult a woman, we go for her sexuality first, and that is DISGUSTING to me. But maybe the reason that the outrage is absent in this case isn’t that no one sees it; maybe it’s that we as women are so heartsick and tired, and we feel, deep down, like it’s everywhere… maybe it’s just easier to pretend it doesn’t bother us because we feel so powerless to change it. Because if this case were to bother us, then every time we felt subtly cut-down through the degredation of another woman, we’d HAVE to get mad a million times a day. If we see it once, then we see it always, and then we’re forced to ask ourselves: what do I do now? Will I help change it, or will I hide from it and thereby let it continue?
    Sometimes it’s easier to put your head in the sand and pretend it isn’t happening at all… but if there’s one thing I know I have that’s part of me because I am a WOMAN, it’s courage. Not bravado, not force, but COURAGE. And I see that here as well.
    MY line in the sand is stepped on every day. I KNOW it. I FEEL it. And I will try to help change it, whether it works or not, because I choose to try rather than pretend it doesn’t bother me.

  44. lj Says:

    the only thing scarier than a young woman who’d call an elder woman a ho is the presumption that this young woman is intending to help vote in the next president. the very stately, dignified and distinguished Maya Angelou is fighting a good fight, and will undoubtedly finish her course w/a crown of righteousness. i can’t even linger at a place of outrage on her behalf. i am too busy being petrified by the reality that i will be living out my old age in a society run by the up and coming careless and unconcerned young people of today. we have got to come up w/something to help them, and we have got to do it quickly.

    i run TALK (Think, Admit, Learn, Know) Sessions for teenagers and young adults that are designed to address issues of anger management, conflict resolution, character building and healthy communication. if any of you out there can gather them up i will moderate a series of TALK Session for them for free.

  45. SunRae Says:

    i am not quite 30, but i am quite sure that such a comment startled me, shook me up, left a frown in my brow, a question of frustrated confusion in my voice.

    as you said at Hampton, Dr. Weems, prophets are not celebrated until they are dead.

    in this case, there are sisters of my generation and those below us that will not understand or embrace the love given by our beloved, tenacious, and strong elder mothers until they become one with the earth again.

  46. Sis. LeTava Mabilijengo Says:

    Perfect. ‘nuf said.

Leave a Reply