by Vanessa Alves
What should be included in the black woman’s agenda?
I believe that the Black woman’s agenda should include a diverse meaning of what it means to be a Black Woman.
Too often growing up I have had to navigate the world’s narrow view of a Black woman and have often felt dictated to about its meaning; whilst being completely ignored. Our agency removed by not actually including us in relevant discussions, depictions and culture.
This was made worse by my peers as it became very clear that I did not fit the ‘idea’ of what a black woman is, should be or could be.
I could deal with the rest of the world and its ridiculous standard but somehow, I wasn’t able to shield my heart from those who were supposed to be my sisters and yet considered me ‘other.’
One of the ways this happened was through my aspirations; this was often used against me. I did not grow up in an affluent area; it was one of the most deprived in South East London. A girl educated in a state school and raised in a single parent family meant that going to university were in terms of statistics, quite low. Even finishing secondary school with descent GCSE grades was a maybe. I was more likely to get pregnant or be in a gang. Sound familiar?
I, however, was blessed with a mother that taught me that what the world says and what you believe are two very different things. She encouraged me to dream and one of my dreams was to go to university. For some, this was reprehensible. Back then I thought it was out of jealousy, but now I understand it was out of confusion, interwoven with fear. How could I ever think to exist outside the parameters that have already been set for us? How could I dare to dream that I could leave London? This forced me to construct my own circle and a few of us banded together over our ‘otherness’ and our desire to be and experience more.
The second way this has happened was through the lens of America; and the strong cultu
re of African-Americans has dominated most meanings of Black womanhood. Now please, do not get me wrong – I have often looked to Black women in America for the stories and examples I needed to build up my self-worth over the years. To be seen is a powerful thing. However, there was and to some extent, still an absence of other examples of Black womanhood. We all know about the tropes that our womanhood falls into in popular culture. This is true even for us here in the U.K. There have been great strides in diverse story telling but, as a Black British woman I sometimes still feel we are un-known entity on the global stage. We have existed and our own culture has flown under the radar for a very long time. There are now more of us stepping up and out into the big bad world but there is certainly more room for us and more Black women in the diaspora across the world to be visible. We must know that when we meet a sister, from anywhere in the diaspora, that she is a blessing not a point of contention.
We have taken great strides in the stories we tell and there is more celebration of us as individuals rather than a homogenous group. It is also true, that we as a sisterhood have a lot more work to do in accepting each other and our presence in the world, as well as close to home.