Academic journal article The Western Journal of Black Studies

The Cosmology of Afrocentric Womanism

Academic journal article The Western Journal of Black Studies

The Cosmology of Afrocentric Womanism

Article excerpt

Introduction

Africana autobiography is a privileged epistemological source in Afrocentric analysis (Myers, 2003, pp. 127-28) because it reveals intimate and culturally organic perspectives accounting for survival, passion, resistance, soul, motive, triumph, legacy, and vision for the face in a chronological, authentic narrative of life and experience. Broadly conceiving the gente to include memoir, testimony, confession, the speech tradition, autobiographical data culled from biography, and similar life narratives as primary resources, Africana autobiography is a rich source from which to seek and discover cognitive evidence of the ways in which Africana women cosmologically envision their role in the advancement and survival of the race. Cosmological inquiry is one of the central areas of intellectual investigation in the Afrocentric paradigm (Asante, 1992), and it is the basis of the philosophical assumptions related to the deep structure of culture that informs our understanding of metaphysical interrelationships (Myers 2003).

The interest in and emphasis on the cognitive evidence of Africana women's conceptual life-promoting activity and consciousness is based on reading Africana autobiography in order to identify patterns of women's approaches--as mothers/mother-figures, leaders, and pioneers--to sustaining not only nuclear and extended structures of family and local community, but also to anticipating timeless, ancestral, and broad cultural (e.g. Pan-African) roles of spiritual mothering and foremothering. It is a dynamic liberatory exercise to acknowledge the ways and possibilities Africana women have approached the summoning of supernatural, intergenerational, and cosmological visions that fulfill their desire to lead the race into wholeness and prosperity, often knowing that the success of their activism would be a reward for the next or future generations. The cosmology of Afrocentric womanism regards how Africana women conceptually anticipated freedom and wholeness for African people and how they suspended or deprioritized the value of their present existence in order to predict, prophecy, and cognitively secure cosmological favor for the race. In other words, acknowledging the ways that Africana women have and continue to ponder, meditate upon, and conceptualize the timelessness of freedom and prosperity for the race is a vital aspect in framing the cosmology of Afrocentric womanism, and it is conversant with "the spirit that we see in Black women" that Alice Walker intended in her original lexical refinement (Bradley, 1984, p. 24). In this emergent framing of the cosmology of Afrocentric womanism, the African American autobiographical legacy is a rich source from which to model the critical process, but this inaugural model does not negate womanist sources from other regions of Africa and the Diaspora.

A handful of scholars have generically framed Afrocentric womanism as a critical category, but they have not theorized or advanced it. Among the earliest is Fe Fe DeLancey's (1993) work on Sonia Sanchez. After emphasizing the part of Walker's definition of womanism that clarifies the womanist as "committed to survival and wholeness of entire people, male and female" (Walker, 1983, p. xi) DeLancey (1993, p. 35) writes, "Lately, scholars influenced by principles of Afrocentrism have discovered a new paradigm for reading foremothers' lives. Thus we grow more certain that Harriet Tubman, Fannie Lou Hamer, Sojourner Truth, and many unnamed others have always practiced Afrocentric womanism" with a focus on "preservation." DeLancey takes license to categorize all the work done in the name of Afrocentricty, womanism, Black feminism, Africana womanism, etc. as Afrocentric womanism. Joy James and T. Denean Sharpley-Whiting (2000, p. xi) apply the description to Patricia Hill-Collins' (2000) work on Black feminist thought and define it as an approach that "empowers women and men to actualize a humanist vision and develop and emancipatory theory of black female struggle. …

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