While it has always been the case that Black women work tirelessly to create the change we seek, on the rare occasion our leadership makes headlines, it is often displayed as if it’s some new phenomenon that needs to prove it is relevant, as was the case recently in Ferguson. Further, there’s the idea that this lack of recognition of Black women’s leadership is part and parcel of our experience, as if Black women are not and have not made great stridesin justice movements.
This glaring omission of our deep commitment to equality movements is holding all activists back from achieving justice. The narrative that has been pervasive since the late 19th and 20th centuries, which pushes the notion that Black women-centered activities should be dismissed without notice, has only served to pit the power of Black women’s leadership against our Black male counterparts and women of color allies, while isolating and making invisible issues of race within the mainstream women’s and LGBTQ liberation movements. This narrative also neglects the true extent of Black women’s work, and the fact that we are the only ones who can actually be counted on to defend the dignity of Black women and the rights of all Black people.
Only when our society acknowledges what Black women are doing and have been doing to advance equality for all—in spite of the disenfranchisement we’ve experienced that comes with lack of visibility, respect, and resources of any kind—will people truly understand why Black lives matter.