The lady who wrote the press release for Exposed: Humanity Craves Power asked me about female voices – the black female voice. Like most men who might face a similar question, I stumbled through the answer. Not to say that I had no answer or that I needed to invent one, but I found it extremely difficult to verbalize a response. The question she asked me is, “What do you want the black woman to do after reading your book?”
My press release writer’s name is Jewel. She is sharp as a whip, very well-read, and she loves her job. She is African American and not afraid to ask the tough questions. Her inquiries guided me to a discussion about my book’s female characters. Cassandra is the strongest of them. A lawyer with great instincts and an agile mind, Cassandra gives priceless advice that goes ignored. Her younger brother compares her to Kassandra from Troy – the prophetess who warns the Trojans not to accept the Greek’s gift. No one listens to her, and the City of Troy burns for it. The “know it all” men in the book burned as well.
In comparison, the African American voice cries out in our society with the same hundred-year-old cry for fairness and equality. My mother, a former Black Panther, explained that the cry hasn’t changed in fifty years. In her opinion, the time for change is overdue. It shocked me to learn that the change she meant was not the underlying racism as we perceive, but the cry itself. When I juxtapose my mother’s sentiment with the African American female voice, I am stymied. I must admit that I don’t know what African American women want or how they plan to get it. Neither do I fully understand the uniqueness of their cry.
A perfect example of my dilemma is the June 2020 event sponsored by Black Woman’s Voices. This event was a response to Oklahoma’s Governor Keven Stitt’s roundtable on race. The governor’s discussion came under fire because the roundtable “lacked diversity.”
Nondocs.com covers the event in the civics section. In her article Black Women Voices hosts event in response to governor’s panel on race, Annemarie Cuccia fills the report with over a dozen quotes from the women speakers. Here are a few.
“We have birthed nations. We have nursed nations. We have led, and we continue to.” – Rev. T. Sheri Dickerson, director of the Oklahoma City chapter of Black Lives Matter.
“One of the things that was missing was intentional intersectionality. One of the things that was missing was deliberate inclusion. And certainly, one thing that was missing was the buy-in of black people. We turned it off because there wasn’t a desire for us to be there.” – Dickerson.
“I want to talk about systemic racism as the underlying climate of America. Racism is to America as water is to fish. It is the environment in which America lives. It is the environment that created America.” – Camille Landry, a community activist.
“We are having this conversation on race because last week Gov. Stitt hosted a conversation about race that didn’t include community leaders on the front lines of justice and it excluded black women.” – Bailey Perkins, vice-chairperson of the Oklahoma Women’s Coalition.
“Black women were not there. We are the heart of our community. How can you have a forum without the heart of your community?” – Chaunte Gilmore, the co-director of New Leaders Council Oklahoma.
“We would have told them that reparations are appropriate and necessary, and we should not have had to, but we would have told them black lives matter and why. What we’re wanting is for them to be different and work with us to implement change.” – Dickerson.
“We missed the account of a black woman saying how difficult it is to have that conversation with her black child. How difficult it is for her to go out every day and just pray to God that wherever her child roams that they will be coming back home because of the atmosphere of what’s taking place in our society, how the black life is not valued.” – Nikki Nice, Oklahoma City Councilwoman.
“Chief Gibson said that the level of stress and trauma that the police endure is just out of this world, and I believe and can’t imagine what it must be like to put on a badge and a gun and enforce the law every day. But I can tell you exactly what it feels like to be a black woman married to a black man raising a black son in this country. I can tell you what it feels like to walk into white spaces and know all they see is the color of my skin and couldn’t care less about my accolades.” – Skye Latimer, director of marketing and business development at Folded Owl.
“White folks have the audacity to say that they are coming to help empower us when they don’t understand how powerful we are, and that it flows from within each of us from the moment that we were created, so we don’t need your assistance in obtaining, maintaining, or distributing power.” – Dickerson.
With so much rhetoric, I struggled to know the proposed solutions, if there were any. With the influx of complaints, I first thought the point was a simple expression of emotions. Perhaps African American women simply wanted someone white to say, “I understand.” Maybe they just wanted someone to listen to them, and there was no other points to make. I became frustrated and bored out of my mind with what I perceived was little more than crying and whining. After a while of battling with myself, I began to see more. They wanted support. But for what and from who? They hoped to intensify black voices on social media. But what else is there to say aside from more complaints? They wanted more participation at protests sponsored by Black Lives Matter. I continued to scratch my head, not knowing what peaceful protesting will accomplish for them. They wanted more donations to the bail and community fund sponsored by Black Lives Matter. By now, I’m thinking this event is a fundraiser or organizational promotion scheme exploiting African American women. They wanted promises of diversity in leadership positions but wouldn’t that conflict with Dickerson’s comment? Why advocate for work place executive equal representation, police defunding and voting for democratic candidates if “we don’t need your (white society) assistance in obtaining, maintaining, or distributing power.” By now, I was conflicted and bewildered.
When I tried to answer Jewel’s question, I thought about Daphne’s role in the novel. She is a very confident and grounded woman who doesn’t need a man to define her. Daphne heads a nonprofit organization aimed at helping veterans. When she agrees to marry Horus, she is not distracted or intimidated by Horus’s fame. When Horus meets Daphne, he finds himself impressed with her intellect and what he learns from her. Daphne brings Horus to her level, merging his world with hers so that the success he finds is synonymous with hers.
Yes, that’s it. Daphne’s role is my answer to Jewel’s question. Daphne symbolizes the potential intellect that African American women have but is often underused or underappreciated. My answer is that I want African American women to define their role in society based on society’s needs rather than a juxtaposition or comparison to patriarchal ideologies. Since Dickerson’s claims that the African American woman is the mother of humanity, I’d like to see her function in society like Cassandra does in the novel. I’d like to see her forecast and forge humanity into something less destructive and more powerful than what we know. I’d like to see her with Daphne’s resolve and disposition, knowing that femininity can have a unique definition that isn’t opposite of masculinity but obscurely detached and endowed with motherly love.
Cuccia, A. (2020, June 11). Civics. Retrieved from Nondocs.com: https://nondoc.com/2020/06/11/black-women-voices-hosts-conversation/