February is the shortest month of the year. February is also known as Black History Month as well. The achievements of Black Americans are celebrated and recognized in Black History Month. However, the history of Black women has been suppressed and marginalized to the point that it has been overlooked and forgotten. Hence I will use this opportunity as a way to write about the history of Black women’s achievements and literature in America, Caribbean and African countries.
Reading Alice Walker’s short story, ”Everyday Use” opened me up to the fact that there were many Black women out there who reject their heritage. ”Everyday Use” was a short story about an educated and successful woman, Dee visiting her mother and younger sister, Maggie in the rural South. Dee’s visit to see her family was rather surprising considering her beau, Hakim-a-barber and his appearance and her flamboyant attire. She insists on being called Wangero instead of Dee to protest being named after those who oppressed her. But her mother told her that she was named after her aunt, Aunt Dicie, who was named after her mother and he mother. Dee enjoys her dinner while she expresses interest in taking the butter churn and dasher to decorate an alcove table. Then Dee expressed interest in taking the family heirloom-quilts made by her ancestors as a way to preserve them. Her mother said that she meant to give the quilts to Maggie instead of her. Dee said that Maggie isn’t smart enough to appreciate the quilts and preserving them. So the mother gave the quilts to Maggie and told Dee to take one or two of the quilts. Then Dee and Hakim-a-barber leave the house and she tells Maggie and her mother that they don’t ”understand their heritage”. Ironically it is Dee who rejects her heritage because she feels that she is above her family and rejects her given name, which has been passed down four generations of women.
Here is an example of a quilt.
I decided to make February Black Woman’s History Month because I believe that Black women’s history has been suppressed and omitted out of history books for far too long. Black women’s narrative has been suppressed by the European imperialist system and by their own Black traditional scholars and sources. Black female contributions to the societies that they have lived in are oftentimes overlooked due to the sexism and racism permeated. Thus this is why I believe it is important to make a Black Woman’s History Month to shed light on the contributions Black women have made on their society.
Why was Black women’s history suppressed?
The systematic suppression of Black women’s history of the elite and our own cultural tradition didn’t happen overnight. Centuries of denying those of African descent opportunities to educate themselves and learn their history made it easier for the European elite subjugate them. Unfortunately, the underlying sexism and patriarchy in many cultures of those of African descent also lead to the suppression of Black women’s history and narrative.
The reason Black women’s narrative and story has been suppressed by the European elite is because it is easier to subjugate those who don’t know their history. And those who don’t know their history are much more likely to be compliant to the orders and demands of their oppressors. Black women, who don’t know their history, are much more likely to listen to the views of their oppressors when it comes to historical events. After a while, listening to the views of your oppressors about your history only conditions you to think less of yourself and your own origins. In the case, the belief that victors write history has an accurate and often times hauntingly eerily sense of making sense of written history.
Even the Black American historical traditions suppressed Black women’s narrative. Black women’s narrative has been suppressed by Black American tradition due to the underlying sexism in the culture. To many Black Americans, the Black man’s story is the ”Black experience” without considering the intersecting experience of both racism and sexism Black women experience. The whole culture is male centered and often times focuses on Black male writers such as Richard Wright and Langston Hughes much to the exclusion of Black female writers. Nora Zeale Hurston was unknown until her picture was put on the 1974 issue of Black World, an magazine geared towards Black people. Then more and more Black women’s works became recognized after years of suppression. Nonetheless the sexism in the Black collective still undermines the creativity and exuberance that many Black women possess and create in society and in their own communities.
How can we keep Black women’s history alive and going?
I believe that it is best to read works from Bell Hooks, Audre Lorde, Barbara Christian and do research on Black women such as Sojourner Truth who contributed to both abolitionist and Women’s Suffrage Movement. I also suggest reading Patricia Hill Collins’ book, Black Feminist Theory. Reading that book expanded my knowledge about Black feminism and it’s goal in improving the lives of Black women. Most of all, I believe Black women who have such knowledge should pass this knowledge onto their children and grandchildren.
Most of all, we owe it to our ancestors that we learn our history. Our fore mothers didn’t die and sacrifice their lives so that we throw away any opportunity to learn about our history. And learn from the mistakes of the past. The importance of learning our history and heritage will only expand your mind and make us realize that it is up to us to carry on Black women’s history.