Sunday night I slipped into my best jeans, favorite black boots, and a plain black shirt. I grabbed the leather jacket that I hardly ever wear even though I love the Africa patch that’s permanently attached. Pops handed me his brand new black baret. I had the look. Felt like I’d start educating folks on the Ten Point Plan as soon as I walked out the house. Moms grabbed the camera and the BB gun that looked like a rifle. Now, I looked like I was ready to pay a visit to the state capitol. All Black Panther Party everything. But before she could take the picture, I had to make sure my lipstick was right. Bright. Red. And Visible.

Why was lipstick so important? I never wear lipstick. Maybe the same reason my nails were freshly painted. Why did it matter that the colors were bright? Nudes and earth tones suit me just fine. Even if no one paid attention, even if these things weren’t important on a regular day, they were so necessary that night. My statement was simple: I will not deny my womanhood for the movement.

Do I think lipstick and nail polish make me a woman? No. But lately femininity, feminism, womanhood, and sisterhood have been heavy on my brain and so I find comfort in subtle symbolism. I spend the majority of my time working within a male-dominated industry. Maintaining respect from others and embracing womanhood/femininity can be a battle. And even if you don’t become hypersexualized to find a place, or hypermasculine to gain respect, it’s still possible to lose your voice for the sake of “the culture.”

It’s nothing new. I’ve written many papers on intersectionality. I’ve spent a lot of time reading the works of Assata Shakur, Joan Morgan, and Patricia Hill Collins trying to make sense of it all. I don’t have answers and I don’t have balance.

But I am very aware.

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  • African Mami

    This was a good read that ended prematurely, I was thirsting to read some more.

  • I agree with African Mami! Great words, but I want more. Perhaps more details on how women like Assata and Elaine Brown had to sacrifice personally. Maybe more commentary on how the Panthers advanced the Black power movement at the expense of women’s empowerment.

    I realize that these things were addressed, but it feels like you have more to say on the topic! Go in mama!!

  • Dee

    Agree…I was just getting settled in to read what you had to say about feminism and the role it plays in hip hop culture. Will be looking for the deeper piece to be published soon.

  • Thanks for reading! There will definitely be more.

  • sloane

    this was was a good start, i became immediately engrossed because i identified with it…i don’t ever feel uncomfortable about being extremely feminine and having a strong personality, being aggressive, and kick-ass when i need to be, but it’s been pointed out to me, subtly and not so sublty that i should be, because femininity is not associated with that kind of toughness or strength. i’m looking forward to reading more from you, particularly about intersectionality and how you reconcile the different facets of yourself.