In a recent article for Essence.com, The Write or Die Chick voices her support for Harry Belafonte’s stance regarding a dearth of activism among black celebs and younger generations in general. The piece particularly takes black women to task for their strides (or lack thereof) to take up the mantel of foremothers like Dorothy Height and Coretta Scott King:
There are plenty of women who volunteer for, evangelize and perpetuate the same rabble-rousing agenda that our grandmothers and mothers in activism did decades ago. They exist. They care. They do the work. You probably have some in your community because they pop up on the news from time to time and are the face of making things right in the modern-day. I’m not saying they don’t exist at all. Just not on the scale and magnitude that they used and need to.
While the look, shape, and scope of black women’s activism may have changed, it seems disingenuous, if not inaccurate, to argue that the scale and magnitude have downsized. Perhaps we make a mistake when we expect activism to be highly visible or publicized. We aren’t fighting the same causes under the same circumstances that the women who preceded us did, and organizing around those causes is done online or one-on-one more than it’s done via rally or door-knocking or taking-it-to-the-streets. There are occasions that call for vigils and marches and picketing, but the most significant change is often done on paper, in boardroom meetings, in fundraising.
Earlier this year, for Women’s History Month, The Root amassed a list of the country foremost black women activists. They are bloggers, health advocates, legal and policy analysts, youth leaders, and social justice proponents. That list only begins to scratch the surface of black women’s involvement in social, political, health, and educational policy change. Consider Melissa Harris-Perry (and at least one-third of her weekly panelists on MSNBC, who are minority women, chosen to speak about the causes they study and champion every day). Consider the writers and organizers of the Black Youth Project website, out of University of Chicago’s Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture. Consider Esther Armah’s Emotional Justice Movement or the countless scholars like Joan Morgan, Dr. Tracy Sharpley-Whiting, and Dr. Blair M. Kelley, who actively work to help our culture reshape its attitudes toward women, toward history, toward politics..
Sure, this is still only a small sampling of women activists, but the scale and the magnitude of their work is certainly comparable to the women who’ve come before them–in fact, in many cases, because of those women, their scope can and has been much greater. And these are only the visible women–the ones about whom we’re aware. If there isn’t enough “visible” activism going on in your community, fair enough. But just because it isn’t highly visible doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.