A Note to Black Women
January 6, 2017
On January 21, 2017, Black Women’s Blueprint Will March on Washington.
On January 21, 2017, Black Women’s Blueprint will march, or move as we are able, in public protest. We make such a declaration after weeks of internal dialogue, debate, and inquiries received from Black feminist friends, elders, comrades and allies far and wide. We march as Black women, as immigrant, queer, trans, low-income and struggling, young and old, educated, wise, workers, fearless and indignant women, as survivors and many more. We deploy our intersectional identities, our subversive and transgressive identities which have for centuries been used to categorize and marginalize us, to now mobilize. Until racism and white supremacy, the practice of sexual assault, groping and rape, the stripping of civil and human rights, ethnic scapegoating and exclusion, blanket deportations and torture chambers like those at Guantanamo are obliterated, there can only be a resounding cry for justice out of each of our mouths.
Until the devastating manifestations of white supremacy, patriarchy and misogyny are no longer the standard, some of us will not sit still. Until the setting loose of officers who shoot and kill young Black boys and men in cold blood, while Black women and girls are raped and sexually violated both inside and outside the system ends, how could we not deploy our own voices alongside others in the name of truth and freedom? How can we not answer the call by our Black elders and trust our ancestors will give strength to our feet as we stand in collective grief, in righteous indignation and demand equity and peace now and in the next four-years? As an old rabbinical saying goes “If not now, when?”
As many of us take time to heal, others will emerge to march, and we here at Black Women’s Blueprint respect and celebrate a diversity of tactics of resistance. Both acts are indeed forms of resistance. We also wish to synthesize and reframe what many of us experience as the healing power of visible and engaged resistance. We ask those of us, our sisters, to work through states of shock, anger, despair, and fear, to ensure that our choices to not march are not coerced by trauma. We understand that as Black women, many of whom are living with PTSD from various acts of sexual violence, the election of a self-proclaimed sexual predator to the highest office in the land, left many reliving all manner of violently lived experiences. Many across race, gender, class and other identities were triggered. For this, we invoke the name of the great Recy Taylor who survived the 1944 gang rape by 7 White men before Black women had a right to demand justice, and still said: “I was not going to keep my mouth shut about what they did to me.”
We invoke the name of Ida B. Wells who denounced racism in the 1913 Women’s March on Washington and marched like a “sword among lions” whether they, the White organizers, liked it or not. She was preparing a blueprint for us, with us, by us. We each understand, sisters, the perils and labors of being a sole Black face in a sea of White faces; of being relegated to the back of the line or to afterthought. Because of this, we resist the notion that the labor of showing up and the inevitably of invisibility is so much of a burden that we are no longer able to claim the space that we believe to be our birthright by virtue of our humanity. We are magnificent, and this upcoming March which didn't begin with an intersectional framework, but is now led and co-chaired by a Black woman and other women of color, will happen.
This is not new. We know what Ida did with her rage. We know what Ella did with her rage. We know what Fannie did with her rage. We know what Rosa did with her rage. Rosa did not give up her seat on the bus even as the bus was the vehicle for the original, and ongoing indignity launched against her. She did not get off the bus. She stayed—not to be a sacrificial lamb but to be a warrior.
We feel the same way about the invitation to this particular march - it might have been originally claimed and named by White women (a form of violence borne of White entitlement to be sure) but we believe in the power of our demands and the strength of our convictions to take back what is already ours—where we are already sitting. Simply put: we cannot afford for a protectionist or isolationist impulse to dictate our movement strategy or to comprise the grammar of future Black feminisms. We cannot wait to be given permission by or be discouraged or paralyzed by emerging norms of Black feminist comportment when it comes to building (or, more to the point, not building) alliances. We cannot afford to allow the PTSD engendered in the viscerality of White feminist violence to tear us from our core commitments, from ourselves, and from any hopes of a reconciliatory future in which women of all races link arms in the necessary fight against patriarchy. We need to be brave. We just gotta do it. We will find and build our sites of refuge.
What Is at Stake?
As exclaimed by the late great Audre Lorde "I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own." When did we last march and when did we last act in unison, in massive civil disobedience for women prisoners, for girls, women survivors of police brutality or campus sexual assault? Will we wait until we are once again humiliated with so called anti-poverty initiatives that only aim to undermine our potential or when “welfare-queen” is once again our name or slut is again the rally call to walk as young women and girls are blamed for being abused? How many more of our girls have to disappear or be trafficked, sexually exploited or found dead in motel rooms or alleyways?
We give ourselves permission to believe in the power of our demands and the strength of our convictions to take back what is already ours. We cannot allow an isolationist impulse to dictate our movement strategy given the political urgency of now. As various communities of Black women, we have always faced innumerable personal, and unspeakable brutalities. We cannot allow the travesties that have affirmed disregard for our existence to continue to flourish while we wither away with resentment and stew in our own rage. Continue to act to eradicate oppression whenever it shows up. This has been our inherited tradition for centuries, practiced in diverse ways around the world, both in peaceful protest and in righteous anger in the face of indignation and in the face of dehumanization.
We think it is imperative that we continue to lead, establish and sustain activism that cripples the very systems that aims to bury us. Having built the physical foundation of this nation with our backs and forced on our backs, with these same Black bodies now repeatedly declared worthless, we demand justice. We demand follow-through on the constitutional promise that each of us should enjoy our lives, our liberties and the complete pursuit of happiness. These are our rights to claim.
Again, we invoke the late great Audre Lorde, and say "sometimes we are blessed with being able to choose the time, and the arena, and the manner of our revolution, but more usually we must do battle where we are standing." So march, heal, meditate, create space, but know your human rights in all aspects; know who your representatives are and be in their faces. Sit or stand, we must continue in the civil rights, the transgressive, the liberatory and spiritual traditions that keep us moving today and have always helped to revive our broken hearts. Most of all, we must fight for and continue to embody with our direct actions, our advocacy, our voices, the basic notion that civil and human rights are our heritage. All of this is ours to claim and so we move to claim it. On January 21, 2017, with and for all of us who can or cannot, we will march.
What Are We Marching For?
We march as a call to the people of this nation and the world to take proactive steps to organize and resist any form of discrimination or violation of human rights today, in the first 100 days and the next four years. End the structural violence which continues to claim the lives of too many women, while crushing the spirits of countless more in our communities.Block any efforts to increase or reinforce current destructive paradigms which would contribute to a so-called “law and order” presidency. End the influx of weapon-bearing State officials making their way into our residential streets, our cars, and other dwelling places everywhere from New York City to Oklahoma City, from Chicago to Waller County, so that another officer cannot aim his weapon, whether that weapon is a gun or appendage to kill or harm another Black body.
We march as Black women in solidarity with other women. We march because this is not just about our individual selves and our individual wants and needs. We march because if not now, when? When another Sandra Bland is found hung in her cell, another thirteen women are sexually assaulted by a police officer somewhere in a U.S. city; when great numbers of us are no longer able to access health care and reproductive services or when Black women again single-handedly increase the prison industrial complex by 800% as we did at the turn of this century?
We are committed to protection and to justice, not only for our young Black brothers and sisters, but also for the human rights of Indigenous peoples, all people of color regardless of religion, immigration, sexual or gender identity and expression. We are all under siege. March to denounce the trifecta of sexism, homophobia and transphobia that sustains the beating heart of misogyny and patriarchy in the United States.
Protect reproductive health and choice as it will also be Black women in danger of losing the right to decide what is best for her and her family and it will be us who will be disproportionately impacted by the lack of reproductive health care, who will lose privacy, dignity and bodily autonomy.
March for pay equity as it is Black women who will continue to be disproportionately impacted by historically racist and sexist economic practices that keep us in states of economic insecurity and devastating poverty.
March to stop sexual harassment in all workplaces, in our streets, our schools and other public and private spaces.
March for better policies to end human trafficking as it is our daughters who represent almost half of the girls snatched off the streets, their bodies to be sold, across the United States.
March to end family status discrimination where it is practiced across the country and march to ensure domestic violence victims are protected, so that guns don’t end up in our neighborhoods, as it is Black women who make up more than a third of domestic violence homicides involving handguns.
March for Recy Taylor whose life is a testament to why we must never again allow the country to slide back into a state where rapists are allowed to flourish and take leadership positions in our towns and cities, let alone our countries
We march because our elders cannot march although they have told us over the last months that their hearts long to, and that their spirits will carry us forward when our feet ache from the immense privilege and burden of continuing their lives’ work.
Let there be an enduring outcry for a country which values Black lives now and which values women’s lives now. Let there be an enduring rally cry and demand for a country and culture that will refuse to allow white supremacy, patriarchy and oppression to persistently shred the notion that liberty and justice is indeed for all. We will march and we hope to see you there alongside of us.