It is the end of the Fall semester and I have been reminded of the power of Black Feminist pedagogy after experiencing my graduate and undergraduate students archival project presentations. Quick background, the course was an Africana Women’s Studies Intro to Women’s Studies class with a total of six black female students. For their final projects they were asked to develop creative presentations/performances that would bring items from Audre Lorde’s or Alice Walker’s archives to life.
We started off the course reading Ntozake Shange’s For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf aloud to get ourselves settled in our own voices and various historical narratives of Black women and girls in the U.S. I believe this class was a spiritually chosen collective in that this semester four of the six students had first hand experiences with bell hooks, Gloria Steinam, Sapphire, Barbara Smith (they had lunch with her), a Bessie Smith play, AND Alice Walker’s and Audre Lorde’s archives.
This class took big risks and had hard conversations and in the end they created poetry-in-motion through a short film highlighting a collective started in 1977 by literary greats including Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, and June Jordan called The Sisterhood. They performed an imagined re-enactment of Alice Walker asking the orishas for guidance finding her spiritual foremother, Zora Neal Hurston. They taught an alternative “sex-esteem” sex education workshop that centers self-love using Lorde’s definition of “the erotic.” They performed an interpretive dance performance/motivational workshop called, “The House of You,” that was created to help the audience “get out of their heads and into their bodies” so that they might feel their deep connection with themselves and the people around them.
It was powerful because when the course started more than half the class had never heard of black feminism or womanism and by the end of the course they were the teachers, performers, and artists that we started off reading. I never pretended to have all the answers and that really frustrated my students, but I trusted that the lesson was in the journey and in the end they confirmed that Black feminist dialogic pedagogy is where it’s at.
Below are two definitions of sisterfriendz created by two of my students:
1. Sisterfriends-(a person or people) “For me, “Sisterfriendz” is the epitome of sisterhood. There is a unique sisterhood within womanhood. Any woman can and does experience womanhood, but very few understand the joy of sisterhood while simultaneously exploring womanhood. At a very young age, my mother taught me that womanhood is accepting the physical, mental, and emotional/spiritual changes that I will experience as an individual. It is a personal journey that leads you to a very personal outcome. For many people, it is considered “their chi” –their center, source of strength. Sisterhood is what we allow other women to experience with us. It is the invitation to other women to connect them to “our chi” that we can feed or be fed power, courage, strength, and wisdom! It is the power to not face things alone.”
2. Sisterfriendz-(a description of a relationship)- a relationship between women where the boundaries–companion, sensual, sexual, partner etc.–are determined solely by the women in the relationship.
Another student filmed the Crunk Feminist Panel Discussion, from the Black Women as Public Intellectuals Symposium, and she used the clip of CF’s discussing why they are black feminists in her short film on The Sisterhood connecting the Crunk Feminists to The Sisterhood through the concept of “sisterfriendz.”
Finally, a fourth student posted her final blogpost to our class blog and included the all time favorite “Miss Celie’s Blues” sung by the character Shug Avery in the movie The Color Purple. I leave you with this phenomenal last piece of our class quilt.
Happy birthday crunktastic and happy holidays to the CFs and friends of the CFC.