Black Women’s History, Day by Day

Debbie says:

I am completely in love with Prof. Susurro’s Black History Month project at Like a Whisper.

Every day, she’s bringing us mini-biographies of black women, including (so far) Melba Tolliver, the first black woman to anchor a network news channel’ Lou Jing, half Chinese, half African-American actress in China; Josefina Baez, a street theater and stage performance artist, Afra-Latina from the Dominican Republic; Marisa Richmond (pictured below), an African-American transwoman who holds public office in Tennessee; and Aud L. M. Secard, a Haitian business owner and Haitian rights activist in Chicago. I knew a little about Tolliver, nothing about the others.

Marisa Richmond

But that’s not all. On February 2, Susurro wrote about “Why the Blog Celebrates Black Herstory Month”:

When we, N. Americans as a nation, discuss Black her/history, I think we often shrink it down to key figures in moments that ultimately celebrate dominant narratives. In other words, instead of highlighting the long term struggles of groups across time, we pinpoint leaders and events that tend to highlight what a good country the U.S. is for abolishing slavery or embracing civil rights or making millionaires at of illiterate former slaves, etc. And even women’s history is guilty of this dominant construction of the past in which black women working on traditional women’s rights issues are highlighted over those who are thinking intersectionally about them or whom the movement abandoned for causes that expressly abused or otherized black women and their rights. The exception to this rule is often the canonization of a handful of fiery speakers who came in direct conflict with society from a place of extreme rage, Turner, Malcolm, Sojourner, etc. And I would argue that while most of these people came through the rage of daily dehumanization to use the power of what they learned to change the world, the narratives surrounding them often stop and start at the moment they are raging, reinforcing dominant stereotypes about who black people are and how they communicate. You can see the same day in the spikes this blog gets on the rare occasion I lose my temper on the blog rather than the years of writing that address women’s issues from an analytical and historical framework

Participating in BHM then is less about conforming to compartmentalization that permanently otherizes black his/her/story but rather takes a moment in time when people who would otherwise not consider us are doing so and uses it to educate about the women and girls, critical moments, unsung movements, collective action, and ongoing needs of black women and girls that are otherwise ignored even in February. For me, as long as black women and black women’s history is largely absent from daily discourse, refusing to take hold of this moment and shape it in the hands of black women for the interests and advancement of knowledge about us is a mistake. Silences surrounding our herstories will ultimately be filled not by us but by those who claim we are always tangential without our corrective voices. Worse we lose our collective power to not only celebrate groundbreaking black women everyone already knows about but also to insert the names, voices, and moments that so many do not. For me, BHM is critical intervention that occurs in a concentrated form to bolster existing year-long commitments to address women of color not a capitulation to the idea that all of black history can be & should be addressed in the shortest month of the year.

There’s more. Read it all.

Just in case that’s not enough, Susurro also found time to poke at Vanity Fair‘s February feature on “Young Hollywood,” showcasing a group of (don’t tell me you’re surprised!) white actresses. Susurro gives us pictures and short bios of thirteen young actresses of color. I hope (against hope) that the folks at Vanity Fair are paying attention.

She’s a fabulous writer, she does good work all year round, and this is a particularly wonderful series. So don’t miss a day. I won’t.

Thanks to onyxlynx for the pointer.