Africana Womanism: The Road to Revolution

Kiki.
8 min readFeb 13, 2018

*This article will be continuously updated as I read more*

My most recent quip chronicles my frustrations with both black men in liberation movements and with white feminists as well. A black woman whom is interested in resistance or black man who is not pro sexism and doesn’t want to continue driving division in the community may be asking herself or himself “what methods or movements/ ideologies of resistance can I take that inherently address black women’s gender specific issues and all my possible intersections of oppression?”

My answer: Africana Womanism.

Africana womanism is an ideology coined and detailed by Dr Clenora Hudson-Weems. It has 18 tenets or principles of its ideologies and it is a much more identifiable movement than feminism, black feminism, or Alice Walker’s womanism. Africana womanism is different from feminism and its attempts at black variants like black feminism and Alice Walker’s womanism because it is centered on the whole black family. This means the women, the men, the children, the queer, the genderless, and all possible black intersections like class and colorism. This means that it is inherently inclusive of all black intersections. This is not a movement that excludes those of different sexualities but does prioritize heterosexual relationships, which are most affected by white patriarchy in the ways that sexism drives division.

“We’re all we got.”

The premise of Africana womanism is that the black woman’s reasoning for revolt are drastically different from white women’s and thus are inherently different in the approach needed for liberation of black women, and black people at large

Feminism and its blackified variants currently and through history have focused on things like:

  • the right to work
  • the right to learn
  • the right to fair pay
  • the right to equality with white men
  • the right to be leaders of white organizations
  • the right to vote
  • gender-less division of domestic labor
  • representation
  • trans women discrimination
  • body/ slut shaming
  • sexual assault and abuse
  • domestic violence

These are all valid issues under white patriarchy and they are issues that affect black women whom are under white domination and are emulated/ perpetuated by black men under white domination and even internalized by some black women. Africana womanism does not invalidate these issues. It just adds a Pan-African nuanced perspective on these issues as it relates to black women and black people as a whole. And I think it is a perspective that is necessary.

Pre-colonial Africa was in many ways the antithesis of the culture of the colonizers.

White and Arab men saw nudity as lewdness and created the Jezebel stereotype. White and Arab men used it as justification for rape and enslavement of the savages. These ideas are both rooted in the religions of the colonizers. The colonizers did not recognize the divinity of the woman at all- as they had male gods that miraculously created the world alone and so, man was god… at least way more than woman was. Traditionally African spiritual traditions of the Yoruba, Zulu, San, and Egyptians had both gods and goddesses and the gods respected the female gods. They acknowledged that the goddesses had their own powers, strengths, and realms, and each worked concurrently in relative harmony. Gods and goddesses were also just in punishment of wrongdoing and in helping their followers get justice when wronged. In the event of a goddess being invalidated or disrespected, she took total vengeance. Other African spiritual systems were based around oneness with personifications of the earth and nature. African religious systems were systems of gender equality, ancestral reverence, self-protection,restorative justice, and honoring/ protecting nature.

Oppressor religions like Islam, Judaism, and Christianity women are property, they are breeders, they are livestock, and they are less than men. They viewed women, and the earth as property to be claimed, used, and owned. They taught that blind submission to the oppressor was rewarded with heaven and that turning the other cheek to righteous anger was holy. These ideas definitely transcend into the daily lives and ideologies of the followers and the laws/ social structures that followed.

The idea that a woman was less than is not African in origin and neither is the idea that you should love your enemies and those that do you great harm should be forgiven, it is a disease wrought on the continent… Think of it as social/ political smallpox- only instead of getting physically ill, it is menticidal instead.

Pre-colonial Africa was not a place where women were property, it was not a place where women were subject to systemic sexual abuse and assault, it was not a place where homosexuality was considered dirty, it was not a place with a strict gender binary, it was not a place where women did not work and could not lead, it was not a place where women were limited, and we will never know the depths of the details of what pre-colonial Africa was like because the colonizers willfully destroyed most of it and forcibly and violently assimilated Africans and the Diaspora into these oppressive systems and religions and the mental effects on the Diaspora and post-colonial Africa are apparent- rampant homophobia, religious subjugation of black women, slut shaming, sexual and domestic abuse of black women and girls- essentially all of the gendered political issues that are relevant to today’s society are because of mental warfare on Africans via assimilation into the pathology of their colonizers.

Decolonize yourself, your children, and your resistance.

Africana womanism is a movement that acknowledges the status of the African woman prior to the effects of colonization on African bodies and African minds. It is one that seeks to restore this within the black family (not the heteronormative standards that Noteps on the internet use- but the extended black family). It is one that rejects the isolation, male centralism, and euro-centrism of the nuclear family model for a more African communal structure. Unlike other black power and women’s rights movements it doesn’t place the black woman in a position to choose between fighting for her rights as a woman or as a black person because both are addressed and restored, multilaterally and intra-communally.

Whereas other movements pit black man and woman against each other as enemies, or paints the black woman as less important than the black man- the Africana Womanist seeks positive relationships with all members of the black family- including men via men addressing and dispelling sexism in self and other men. The eighteen principles of Africana woman as defined by the Africana Womanism Society of Philadelphia are as follows:

  • Self- naming- identifying as Africana, distinguishes self from feminism and black variants, recognizing need for her own movement and name
  • Self-defining- defines her reality through a Pan-African lens
  • Family-centered- focuses on the ENTIRE black family unit
  • In concert with men- having strong relations with LIKE MINDED MEN in the struggle for black liberation and black women’s liberation
  • Flexible role player- acknowledgement that the black woman has never been a subjugate or sat in “pretty carriages”, but has always been an active presence in the workforce, black leadership, and is not always the best person to be domestic
  • Genuine in sisterhood- fellowship with other black women is critical for healthy communal relationships and for support
  • Strength- black women are mentally and physically strong. We are usually bashed for this by the non-Africana who wish for us to be more weak, meek, and submissive
  • Male compatible- seeks MUTUALLY SUPPORTIVE relationships with LIKE MINDED men (this is not a heteronormative narrative most black movements and talking heads use to insinuate that the only way for women to be male compatible is to be “submissive”)
  • Respect- respect for ones self and worth absent of the colonized standards of respectability politics
  • Recognition- recognition of the humanity, capability, and power of black women is key to communal peace and the black woman’s effectiveness in the struggle
  • Wholeness- self sufficiency, self-esteem, completeness.
  • Authenticity- cultural connection to her roots
  • Spirituality- reverence for traditional African spiritual systems, which call for ancestral reverence, and oneness with nature and each other.
  • Respect and appreciation for elders- in line with ancestral reverence in african traditions, caring for the elders is important in African cultures as they become our ancestors.
  • Adaptability- due to the conditions of black women under white domination, the ability to be adaptable and sacrifice one’s own goals/ desires.
  • Ambitious
  • Mothering- a call for all community members to play a collective role in the rearing of the community and the propagation of the race.
  • Nurturer

In this movement, men and the masculine identifying have a role. His role is to be present and active in his family as a provider, protector, and to not follow the rigid and oppressive cultural norms of the white nuclear family on domestic roles. His role is to realize that black women are equal in power, divinity, and capable as he is and to honor that in his interactions with black women.

Africana womanism is a movement that rejects and resists the physical, mental, and systemic violence of white domination on the African and the Diaspora, but it also one that rejects the ways that black men whom are under the influence of white domination choose to hurt, harm, and contribute to the sex and gender based violence towards black women inflicted by white men. Africana men stress the exposure, isolation, and punishment/ removal of men who hurt or harm women and children from their communities.

Whereas rights NEVER “trickle down” (like white feminists and sexist black men want you to believe when they attempt to convince you that fighting for black women specifically will benefit black women)- they always ‘trickle up’ when you are vetting for the least protected entities in your community and Africana men acknowledge that black women and children are the least protected entities in the black community and in the world at large. You don’t get a more educated world by continuing to educate the most educated; you do it by educating the least educated. You don’t get a more economically stable world by giving more money to the rich; you get it by economically empowering the poor. Africana womanism rejects these capitalistic ways of thinking in favor of a more socialist, cooperative, and communal approach to resources, both physical and mental, and inside and outside of the home.

This address racism, sexism, and classism. All the major issues facing black people under the white patriarchal capitalism.

Africana Womanism acknowledges all of the frustrations that black women have with most women rights and black liberation movements. It calls black men to action on the ways that they contribute to black women’s oppression and isolates/ expels black men who won’t or don’t. It seeks to decolonize the minds of black women, children, and black men to create a better, more unified, and mentally/ economically healthy community that is protected from colonizer violence as it seeks to dismantle the systems that oppress us all… which, after all, is the goal.

Every black person should be an Africana Womanist.

For additional reading: See Dr Clenora Hudson-Weems’ writings Africana Womanism: Reclaiming Ourselves and Africana Womanist Literary Theory.

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Kiki.

Pro black. Pro woman. Pro child. I write about and for blackness. I am periodically petty, overly opinionated, and underpaid. https://www.thecookout.club