Rise to the Challenge

I have never considered myself to be a womanist, a feminist, yes, but never a womanist. I understand that some Black women like to identify themselves with the womanist term and that’s perfectly okay. I recognize that U.S. feminism is white feminism and that a minority of women in the feminist movement are Black. I choose to call myself a feminist because then I do not have to define to others what a womanist is just like I have always had to describe my culture. I choose to identify as a feminist because I want to be the elephant in the room, the devil’s advocate some might say, that always chimes up to say “what about the experiences of black woman?” “But don’t you think that what you just described can only be applied to a specific class and race of women?” Choosing to reject the term feminist because of the mindset that it only applies to white feminists is like choosing to drink from the “colored fountain” after having won the right to drink from any water fountain.

I cling on to the word feminist because it took me a while to discover the word and it has given me some self confidence in myself as a woman. Before coming to Hamilton I didn’t know that the word feminist existed or what a feminist was. In my childhood I thought that it was unjust for my dad to control my mom’s finances to the point that she had to always ask him for money anytime she needed to buy something despite the fact that she earned more than he did. I grew up an angry child because I saw and felt the injustice around me but did not know how to properly speak up and combat it because I didn’t exactly know who I was. I began to initialize the racism, the sexism, and all the injustice caused by the intersectionality of both. Just like the characters in “Toward an intellectual History of Black Women,” I stopped speaking aloud the sexism and racism because I started to live in a world of denial and speaking of the injustice would make them become real; if I just observed and pretended that it didn’t affect me then I would be alright. I slowly but surely began to resent my Blackness.

After adopting the label feminist to use as a self-descriptor, similar to Maya Angelou, I have risen. I rise despite the teasing due to my natural hair, skin color, and Igbo accent. I rise despite the missed opportunities due to my Blackness. I rise from the grave of silence which I had previously buried my voice so that I can now contest the injustice in my life. I rise to the challenge of accepting my Blackness and still continue to pursue the path of loving my Blackness. I am only 20 years old but I hope to continue rising despite the hardship that I know that I will face due to the intersectionality of my class, race, and gender.

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