Academic journal article The Western Journal of Black Studies

Defining Africana Womanhood: Developing an Africana Womanism Methodology

Academic journal article The Western Journal of Black Studies

Defining Africana Womanhood: Developing an Africana Womanism Methodology

Article excerpt

Introduction

Contemporary media provide a venue to promote an anti-Africana woman agenda which in tuna places constant assaults on African humanity. Stereotypical portrayals of Africana women dominate current popular representations and perceptions of Africana womanhood. While much has been researched about women's representations in the media, few studies have been conducted to investigate the significance of the imagery of Africana women. Instead, Africana women have been reduced to what the images are as representations of reality, and not how Africana women define themselves. Even more noteworthy is the fact that previous research approaches and theories--mainstream feminism and Black feminism--have failed to adequately address the need for an Africana womanist methodology. According to Hudson-Weems, Africana Womanism is an African-centered

ideology created and designed for all women of African descent. It is grounded in our culture, and therefore, it necessarily focuses on the unique experiences, struggles, needs, and desires of Africana women. It critically addresses the dynamics of the conflicts between the mainstream feminist, the Black feminist, and the Africana womanist. (Weems, 2004, p. 24)

Pamela Yaa Asantewaa Reed (2001) points to the usefulness of Africana Womanism as a governing tool to address the struggles of Africana people. Thus, Africana womanism methodology is grounded in an African-centered approach to systematically investigate Africana women phenomenon (Asante, 1998). The objective is to establish an appropriate frame of reference attuned to the historical and contemporary realities of Africana women. This article evolves from my study (see Pellerin 2011) of the perceptions of African American women in rap music videos. It is the aim of this research to detail Africana womanism methodology and to apply this methodology to investigate Africana womanhood.

The essential principles of an Africana womanist methodology must include: (1) a pledge to the wholeness of Africana womanhood; (2) an acceptance of the interconnectedness of Africana women and humanity; (3) consciousness of the Africana woman comes through the Africana family and community; (4) recognition of the centrality of motherhood; (5) acknowledgment that Africana women are inherently tied to the struggle for social justice; (6) the inseparability of the Africana woman and her race; (7) an awareness of the spiritual and moral grounding; and (8) a commitment to the beauty and strength of the Africana woman's body, mind, and soul. Thus, what defines an Africana womanist methodology is holistically engaging in an agency-driven investigation of Africana womanhood in order to conceptualize and unshackle the realities of Africana women.

Africana womanist methodology is constituted to engage in a comprehensive examination of Africana women, therefore a pledge to the wholeness of Africana womanhood is essential. There exists a mounting need to adequately address and reclaim Africana womanhood from the vantage point of the Africana woman, as her history, name, and being has been misinterpreted and distorted. For Hudson-Weems, the Africana women "sense of wholeness is necessarily compatible with her cultural consciousness and authentic existence" (Weems, 2004, p. 69). Therefore, it is vital that we generate a new methodology that equips the researcher with the proper tools to investigate the wholeness of Africana womanhood.

Aligned with the wholeness of Africana womanhood is the need for an acceptance of the interconnectedness of Africana women and humanity. Cheikh Anta Diop (1955/1974) identified Africa as the cradle of human civilization. For the Africana woman, her struggle is a human struggle whereby the assault on Africana womanhood is ultimately an assault on humanity. According to Ntiri, "there is an inextricable relationship between the black woman and her community and that the black community's survival and growth rest largely on its acceptance, understanding, and appreciation of her female self-definition and empowerment" (Ntiri, 2001, p. …

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