Red for Gender’s Feminist Conversations on Caribbean Life just posted a fascinating essay on black feminisms by Georgia G.P. Love, “A 4 AM Conversation with Annie John.” She starts with her childhood reading of Jamaica Kincaid’s Annie John and explores how this and other projects by black women help “unsettle binaries and position intersections.” Here are excerpts:
Annie John by Jamaica Kincaid may have been the dark rabbit hole that led me tumbling unconsciously into a world of black feminisms. At 13 years old when many of my classmates had decided it was “nasty” and “weird” because of its explorations of sexuality and intimacy between women, I remember devouring it and feeling an intuitional ease with Annie.
It was set in the Caribbean, the region where I grew up, and her persona and life mirrored mine with her melancholic disposition, stable family home and top tier education all with their lessons about womanhood and separation from inherited legacies. Here I am 22 years later engaged in my own feminist crisis of faith and I return to Annie as I move into a kind of dark night of the soul.
When Audre Lorde says “the erotic has often been misnamed by men and used against women”, similarly blackness has been libeled and used against black women. Images of black as savage, unfeminine, undesirable and inadequate. From the vantage point of their blackness womanists/feminists astutely pointed out that feminism can’t be a single issue movement as long as we live multi issue lives. The organizers of the Black Feminisms Forum have deliberately pluralized feminisms because black women are night women who often push forward in several different ways with only the moonlight to guide our feet. Black women may never get their due for their contributions to feminism, because as Doreen St. Felix said in her article about Rihanna, to be a black woman and genius, is to be perpetually owed.
Black women help us unsettle binaries and position intersections in social and personal identities as an analytical cornerstone. From this cornerstone we can explore blackness in its breadth and variance in our feminisms. Black women quickly learned that light-less conditions often require patience, to allow our eyes to adjust so we can see. With our hidden secrets tucked in our darkest places to guard our erotic power, it’s our nimbleness in unchartered dark territories, where uncertain futures have been our only birthright and our willingness to engage places of unknowing which fuel our rage against racism and misogyny. We’ve dived into social and intellectual black holes in order “to make our lives and the lives of our children richer and more possible. Within the celebration of the erotic in all our endeavors, [our] work becomes a conscious decision—a longed-for bed, which [we] enter gracefully and from which [we] rise up empowered.” [. . .]