There are some great perks to living on the West Coast. I never thought, as a die hard New Yorker, that I would ever find myself uttering those words. Most would think it’s the weather but for me, it’s because of the time zone set up. Yes one could argue that you aren’t getting everything on television first, like you do in New York, which does kind of suck. But sometimes that time zone thing works out pretty well. One such instance was during the Women’s March this past Saturday. It was great because I was able to watch the march on television, that was well underway in D.C., before leaving to go to the one here in Cali. It was, overall, an extraordinary showing of solidarity and sorely needed at such a crucial time in our history. In fact, it’s long past due. Speaking as a black woman who has been an organizer around black feminism and black women’s issues for the last couple of decades however, unfortunately what I saw in D.C. was disappointing. As the march unfolded, I began to realize that it had been hijacked by male centered forces from the black patriarchy.
As I watched speaker after speaker emerge, I began to see a pattern unfold. The white women were mainly centered on feminist issues, while the black women were centered on the plight of black males and with, what the Oppressive Black Patriarchy (or what I call the OBP), had deemed as a priority and agenda for black women. I became more and more frustrated as I saw these women who represent the OBP’s agenda in black grassroots circles, gradually take over and push their way, center stage into this march. The vast majority of the black women who spoke didn’t utter a word about the rampant amount of victimization that black women suffer, as a result of black male violence against them, which happens on an hourly basis. They conveniently left out issues of rape, sexual molestation, sexual violence, child molestation, child support, familial neglect, abuse, domestic violence, neighborhood shootings, physical, emotional and psychological harm in relationships, female genital mutilation and rape in war torn areas of Africa as well as the abuse which occurs within male centered political and religious structures, grassroots and otherwise. All of these areas were omitted, along with all of the other oppressive types of situations that black women face as a result of the ongoing patriarchal oppression that exists within black communities around the world and on line.
Of course there were glimpses of it here and there. Like When Melissa Harris Perry spoke about the crazy nonsense and attacks that black women who speak out against the OBP suffer. She spoke eloquently about how every boy and man lays claim to our bodies. She put on blast what she called a “woke fool” for calling black women, “the community’s greatest asset”, while in turn using black women’s bodies. She also called out black “fathers and brothers and dates and strangers pinning, strapping and silencing black women as they struggle and calling them liars if they tell”. Another glimpse was when Angela Davis emerged and finally mentioned the word patriarchy, a word that wasn’t mentioned at all by any black woman there. But the rest of it was a coddling fest for black males, on the part of black women, that made these males appear as if they were victims and blameless and that the only thing black women had to fear was the oppression of Trump, white people and the police. This was a glaring error and a huge omission from the presentation.
The rally began with people like America Ferrera, Gloria Steinem (I loved her running down Trump’s psychological profile) and several other white and Asian speakers. At first I was wondering where the black women were. A bit of angst came over me as I saw Bob Bland talk about how she was an inexperienced organizer and I was thinking, “Oh no. Is this what this is going to be”? I was finally relieved to see Melanie Campbell from the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, take the stage. Surrounded by a group of “real” black women, she ran down names like Sojourner Truth, Fannie Lou Hamer, Dorothy Height and C. Delores Tucker. Not to diminish their accomplishments and contributions, I couldn’t help but wonder though why there was no mention of Ella Baker, Flo Kennedy, Audre Lorde or any of the other black women that stood up against black male tyranny in the black community as black feminists, (the iconic pic of Dorothy Pittman Hughes standing with Gloria Steinem and their consistent raking over the coals of this woman on line by black male misogynists and their mammybot cohorts, a woman they know nothing about, springs to mind). Then I realized she was only mentioning those names because she was focused on black women and the electoral system, freedom of religion and the patriarchal god nonsense. So it became clear, where she was coming from. Then the NAACP spokesperson emerged and I again wondered why she was quoting Hillary Clinton’s “Women’s rights are human rights.” and Sojourner’s “Ain’t I a Woman?”, question. Then I thought it’s probably because these types of black women basically don’t know any other quotes from black feminists. She also quoted some lyrics from the black national anthem but again, conveniently skipped over dealing with the situations that black women have to contend with, specifically, as black women in their own communities and the sexual harassment that goes on even within her organization’s groups, while beaming proudly about the fact that a white woman founded the organization. Her agenda then became clear as well. Voting. I still hoped against hope though, that it would get better. Especially after hearing Toshi Reagon (the daughter of Sweet Honey in the Rock’s Berniece Reagon) and Big Lovely perform.
There were then reps from Astrea speaking about LGBTQI rights, the Mayor of D.C., a black woman who, astonishingly, referred to herself as a “chick mayor” and conveniently left out the rampant amount of violence suffered in D.C. by black women daily. She talked about how women overall are criticized and left out of electoral politics and health care for low income women, LGBTQI rights and climate change, everything under the sun except for the specific issues that black women face. At a woman’s march, from a black woman mayor, especially in what has been traditionally known as “Chocolate City”, that was completely lacking.
I’m still in the middle of getting dressed, when I hear Ashley Judd do what seemed like grabbing the mic from Michael Moore and I was like “Good! Shut the hell up! This is a WOMAN’S march”! He was allowed to go on and on and even said “brothers and sisters” instead of “sisters and brothers”, while wearing a red 49ers cap, (with all of the domestic violence on that team and in the NFL, it was a symbolic trigger to women survivors) and I couldn’t believe it. Especially after he said he supports Keith Ellison, as a Muslim, to be the DNC chair. How are you pushing a person who sees women as second class citizens, within the confines of his religion, to be the DNC chair at a march for women? I looked at the TV screen to see the legendary Nona Hendrix standing behind Ashley as she ran down what feminism is really about. I felt good again. In fact, Ashley was speaking the way black women should have been speaking. Without her head up the ass of males and the patriarchy but speaking as real feminists and womanists should, about misogyny and the lack of equal pay for black women and rape and pussy grabbing and pussy for pleasure and sexual violence. I was like finally, some serious radical feminism actually entered this march.
That high of mine was quickly deflated though, as a Muslim woman spoke about their plight as Muslim women. Why they think they will ever be free under a patriarchal religious construct makes not one bit of sense. If you really want liberation, then take those shrouds off, get rid of the patriarchal made up male god worship and be women that say “No more”. The contradictions in their stance at a woman’s march is just too obvious and insulting to women who are really about true liberation for women. I am not saying they deserve violence or discrimination. Not at all. I am saying however, that they are conforming to a religious construct that is by definition, oppressive to women and trying to justify it and they need to rid themselves of that patriarchal religion in its entirety, that has them shackled in the first place, just as all women within the confines of religious patriarchy should. Their position will just never make any sense to me. That speech, followed by another male, Van Jones, who wasn’t bad but was still male, made this seem like this was going to be a very male centered event on the part of black people.
It was also insulting to see Janet Mock right after him. Janet is not a woman but is a trans woman. Yet stood up there as if her looks make her representative of all black women and mentioned the black women leaders and icons and our historical figures as if they are hers. This was just beyond ridiculous. Considering the fact that Mock seems to think that women have some sort of a privilege because they have vaginas and because they are actual women (black women clearly didn’t get the memo on that one) and then, as she said on Oprah’s show, that if trans women have the look of pretty black women, then they are somehow protected from violence. Also considering as well, her stance to defend the institution of sex work when black women and girls are dying in it, I don’t understand this person being included in a woman’s march. This was a highly problematic choice and considering that trans women are targeting and attacking black women daily on the web and in social media circles like Facebook, I have to question where the decision making was around featuring Janet as some sort of a representational figure of black women. I can accept trans women as allies if they acknowledge women as women and don’t invade our “women only” spaces, uninvited, call themselves lesbians and expect lesbian women to sleep with them, when they aren’t and don’t try to redefine our anatomy and rename us because they feel like it. But they are not representational of black women any more than trans men are representational of men. Even Pepper Labeija knew that. So we need to be clear on what intersectionality really means here, because when it comes to black women, we have no privilege to speak of and having a vagina has only resulted in oppression by the sperm producers, no matter what form they come in or take on.
I then see a nun speaking next about biblical scripture (don’t even let me start on the Catholic church) and began to see even more religious patriarchy pushers like Jesse Jackson, roaming around on stage as well and at this point I was wondering what exactly this march was supposed to be about for black women. Because with his abusive behavior towards his wife, all of his mistresses and an out of wedlock child he had while married to her, this gathering of women should have had him cowering in fear in another state somewhere, in a room by himself, hiding under the covers. The question then becomes why he arrogantly felt so comfortable to roam around on the stage at a woman’s march, with his track record. Maybe because the organizers aren’t informed and the agenda was hijacked by the OBP.
Senator Kamala Harris trying to make all of these general issues, women’s issues was problematic as well, as it makes it seem as if all of these issues are the same for everyone and women now no longer have issues that specifically pertain to them. Presenting all of these black women elected reps in the House and the Congressional Black Caucus was nice to see and Maxine Waters calling out Trump on his nominee pics was vitally important. However if they aren't going to hone in on the issues that black women face specifically, then what’s the point? The only one who made a real point regarding black women specifically, was a black woman with a feminist shirt on, who spoke at the very end of that contingent, Ashley Love, who said, “I just wanted to say, all black lives matter, and that includes black women”. She should have spoken longer.
This lead to the grassroots black folks, part of the rally’s line up. Which, of course, in an OBP hijacked women’s march, opens with the voices of black males. One of which begins talking about the oppressive Nation of Islam, (whose leader, Farrakhan, blames how black women dress in the street, for the behavior of black males who rape children when they get home) and the misogynistic Black Panther Party, (with its historic, notoriously horrendous, violent treatment of black women and rampant misogyny, which pushed many black women like Assata Shakur to become feminist and leave) and Michelle Alexander, whose book brought mass incarceration to the forefront but was instrumental in justifying why black males shouldn’t vote for Hillary. One of them then launches into a poem, while referring to black women as “our women”. Sorry Bud but black women are not “your women”. Black women are not property and do not belong to you as a group just because you are black and have a penis. Then he says, the the reason why all of these things he demanded, in his aforementioned list for “our women”, should happen or not happen to them depending, is because... wait for it… they gave birth to him as a man. Why would he say such a thing, you may ask. Because to the OBP, giving birth to black males and coddling them and sacrificing themselves to raise them, for the most part struggling, unmarried, impoverished and alone, is the only function black women have. Then here comes the mammybot, Muslim, bible thumping crew of black women who are talking about not being afraid of Donald Trump. Which was cool but they absolutely had to maintain a male first approach in deference to the black patriarchy and their “most high” mythological male god fanaticism, while yelling that they are revolutionary. No you are not revolutionary if you keep pushing patriarchy and acting like a doormat for black males when you get home. Contradiction City.
To add insult to injury, Scarlett Johansson who of course isn’t black but stood firmly on her position for the Israeli settlements and their oppression against the Palestinians (which is why I refuse to buy Soda Stream), speaks about women’s healthcare around the world. What about the health care of the women in those settlements Scarlett? The next slap in the face came from Tamika Mallory who is in no way affiliated with anything involving the advancement of black feminist issues. She is only there as an advance person for Sharpton and who is a part of the hustlers who capitalize on the death of black males, never addressing police policy or training. Always getting paid. Not once has she ever done anything around the specific issues of black women or black feminism. Her politics are entirely male centered, which is why, when she spoke, most of the names she rattled off were of black males. But this is who has invaded the space of women and acted in the role of key organizer and representative of black women, in an international women’s march. She said, “We have a chance to get this thing right”. However, she is not the right one to do so. The message was coming through loud and clear at this point, that even within women’s marches, where black women are at the helm, black women’s specific issues are marginalized, barely mentioned or deemed as unimportant and divisive.
Then Angelique Kidjo sings, “A Change Is Gonna Come” and they don’t even introduce her. I doubt that most people even realized how important that moment was. Her name wasn’t even on the graphic. Major oversight. This last contingent of women that spoke after her, rattling off names like Elijah Muhammad were completely out of place at a women’s march. They aren’t in the least bit concerned about black women, outside of working hard at recruiting them for their various Hotep hustling groups and getting them to be laying up underneath some black male to struggle in poverty with and to be blamed and shamed by. These handmaidens, maintain the OBP and are the reason why black women continue to be battered and find it so difficult to get the black male’s foot off their necks. They also, of course, could not possibly have a woman representative from the labor union, 1199 and SEIU, not with a black male at the helm. So the black male president only talks about everything under the sun, from immigrants to the environment, instead of focusing specifically in on black women in the labor unions and their historically, unfair treatment in the work place in unskilled and menial labor and service jobs as well as the issue of equal pay. Unreal. I continued to hope against hope that bell hooks or Alice Walker or somebody with an ounce of real black feminist knowledge would emerge from backstage. I found some relief finally when at last Alicia Keys read some Maya Angelou, made a speech about being women and not being controlled by men ANYWHERE, equal pay and mother energy�. It was getting so patriarchal I was about to be sick. She and the all woman band saved me from doing so.
The last straw for me were these “ Mothers of the Movement” who were up there with Janelle Monae and some other black males singing “What You Talkin’ Bout?” in regards to police violence. Janelle’s nod to Hidden Figures and her opening speech was great. They initially were chanting “Say her name” but what gradually became obvious was that they couldn’t come up with any more than five black women’s names who were killed at the hands of the police. Then Jidenna, a hypermasculine beard wearing, black male, of course, changes up the whole call and response, running roughshod over Janelle and suddenly, the chant morphs into “Say HIS name” as they went on to demand that the crowd says the names of black males. I was really going to flip if they had mentioned Alton Sterling, who was a child molester and a batterer of black women, because this was just too much at this point. #SayHerName is an actual hashtag that was created because black women who have been killed, remain invisible and unknown to the people who are out here addressing only the killing of black males. I honesty could have done without that travesty on that stage. I saw Cher up there and honestly at that point, would love to have heard what she had to say instead. I’m Just saying.
They even had a supposed trans woman up there yelling the name of trans women victims, without even inviting the mothers of any black women that were killed to say the name of their daughters. This was another slap in the face to black women from the black patriarchy as this trans woman who is really a male, was Chern Biko a so-called activist who raped a trans man because he wanted to force her to be pregnant. So the question really was, What the hell WERE you talkin’ bout? Certainly not the plight of black women victims of police violence and murder victims. It was an outrageous display and it only continues to prove that the black male plight and the OBP agenda, is what matters most to the black community overall. After watching that, I was so pissed, that when Angela Davis began to speak about heteropatriarchy she literally saved me from having to buy a new flat screen. Thank you Angela for saying it was a WOMEN’S March and actually saying the words “feminism” and “misogyny” and “intimate partner violence” and the names Assata Shakur and Ella Baker. Any time you need Maxwell, who sang at the end and actually spoke like he had some sense and respect for the theme, to bring black people back to the point of a women’s march, you have a serious issue between the black grassroots feminist movement and the organizers of this march.
The OBP and it’s handmaidens are alive and well, even at a women’s march. The OBP will not even begin to think about feeling challenged if we continue to allow the patriarchy to hijack our movements with their agendas, in whatever package they come in. Where are all of the true voices of black women feminists? Maybe they will be at the next one. Maybe we will have to form our own. Maybe they were at the various plenary sessions that weren’t filmed for broadcast. But there is no excuse as they should have been front and center. Because this idea that maintaining the black patriarchy instead of dismantling it and allowing mammified women, still duped by a male god concept and black male superiority, to speak for us and for sperm producers to represent us, is not going to cut it. Sorry, but as a black woman I can say that, white women had their issues but they were not the problem for me at this march. Black women have GOT to get it together and fast. I was glad I was leaving the house at this point and headed to the Cali march because I was burning up with frustration and anger and in desperate need of some fresh air. The black women’s movement is, without question, very much in need of the same.