African American Literacies

By Elaine Richardson | Go to book overview

3

“To protect and serve”: African American female literacies

All I claim is that there is a feminine as well as masculine side to truth, that these are related, not as inferior or superior, not as better or worse, not as weaker or stronger, but as complements-complements in one necessary and symmetric whole.

Anna Julia Cooper (1892:60)

No matter how backward and negative the mainstream view and image of Black people, I feel compelled to reshape the image and to explore our many positive angles because I love my own people. Perhaps this is because I have been blessed with spiritual African eyes at a time when most Africans have had their eyes poked out…. So, like most ghetto girls who haven't yet been turned into money-hungry heartless bitches by a godless money centered world, I have a problem: I love hard. Maybe too hard. Or maybe it's too hard for a people without structure-structure in the sense of knowing what African womanhood is. What does it mean? What is it supposed to do to you and for you?

Sister Souljah (1994: x)

Twisted images of Black womanhood have always been a pivotal element of the American economy. That system of brutal patriarchy and chattel slavery has been reduced and metamorphosed into present day forms of structural racism, sexism, and cultural hegemony and still powerfully influences the lives and futures of Black females, their families, and people around the world. Sister Souljah laments the obstruction of African womanhood from the African American worldview. Though many Black females were not born into literal American ghettoes, as were Souljah and I, most nevertheless struggle for self-determination and self-definition against the world's ghettoized image of them. Young Black females often struggle to invent themselves against the distorted images of “money hungry heartless bitch, ” “Jezebel, ” and good ole “Mammy” among others, many of which were created during slavery. Patricia Hill Collins (1991:71) explains:

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