Black women and girls face serious challenges in their lives and collective futures. From June 11-17, BYP100 and its partners will be creating a vision of—and a roadmap to—a future in which all Black women and girls are free.
From its inception, BYP100 has dreamed that all Black people can live in a world unbound by systems of oppression. The organization has spent five years emphasizing the “all” in “all Black people,” both in Black movement spaces and on the national stage. In that vein, we have decided to both continue our work around #SayHerName and to extend what has in the past been a national day of action to an entire week of action. We have partnered with 12 amazing organizations to create space to lift up the names of Black women and girls we’ve lost, envision solutions for a better future, and gain more understanding as to why we have arrived at such a moment. What systems have been put in place to create a sense of urgency around the lives and experiences of Black women and girls? What does that say about race? Patriarchy? Homophobia? The intersections of these?
What systems have been put in place to create a sense of urgency around the lives and experiences of Black women and girls?
This #SayHerName Week of Action, we’re committed to highlighting these connections and building a better way for us to live and take care of each other. We invite you to find out how you can get in on the action both online and in person. We invite you to take action against the current situation and imagine alternatives. What would the world look like if, instead of a life sentence at the age of 16, Cyntoia Brown had been given the tools and resources she needed to heal from the trauma of being trafficked by an older man? What would the world look like if she had not been in such an unsafe and unstable situation that being on the street seemed like a better option than being in her home? What if Black trans women could walk the street without fear of harm at the hands of the state or our communities? Today, Black girls are at a high risk of being expelled from school because they are suspended six times more often than white girls. Our girls make up one-third of arrests of girls on school grounds despite making up only 16 percent of the overall population of girls in schools. How do we create learning environments that both center students over punishments and recognize the inherent humanity and value of Black girls?
Addressing the needs of Black women and girls is a necessary part of creating a loving and just community, but community requires work. Over this week, we’ll be creating spaces to discuss how white supremacy, patriarchy, transphobia, racial capitalism, and state violence have robbed us of each other and brought trauma and violence into our homes and relationships. To transform our communities and truly subvert the function of the police and prison state, we have to create new ways of relating to each other, recognizing each other’s humanity, and holding each other accountable to how we uphold the oppressive systems that ultimately harm us all.
How do we create learning environments that both center students over punishments and recognize the inherent humanity and value of Black girls?
Akeia Bernard, the author of Colonizing Black Female Bodies Within Patriarchal Capitalism, offers that “the fundamental gendered/raced/sexual relationships that were created under colonialism exist in the same form in global patriarchal capitalism and pop culture.” The cultural norms and values enforced upon Black bodies during colonialism also beget strategically specific forms of violence on particular groups of people based on one’s proximity to ideal identities in an ordered cultural system. And from the time that Black people were carted over to the New World against their will, Black women and girls, in particular, were explicitly marked as undesirable beyond their ability to produce profit and dehumanized as part of the project of extracting profit from their bodies.
Black women and girls in the context of both the United States and the world have historically experienced a distinct form of oppression and exploitation. We see this from the horrific and dehumanizing treatment of enslavement to the abuse and trafficking of Black women and girls’ bodies around the globe today, to how Black girls are denied girlhood and agency over their bodies and their futures. This disregard for their humanity continues to put their survival at risk.
Black women and girls in the context of both the United States and the world have historically experienced a distinct form of oppression and exploitation.
Blackness has a complicated relationship to gender that isn’t black and white. Blackness in and of itself is inherently different—that which is not of the norm. Queer is unconventional. Queer is deviant. Queer is threatening. And when white people marched onto our lands and encountered our cultures, physicalities, and traditions, they established an order that stripped us of our own identities. They ingrained in us a way of thinking that made us more aligned with the norms of whiteness as a means of control over a group of people who they wanted to dehumanize for the sake of profit. The gender binary as enforced today was created through a racialized lens, without the wellness or humanity of Black folks in mind, to benefit Capitalist function.
When we talk about gendered violence in Black communities, it is imperative that we understand how gender is racialized and that the violence that we think is solely about man versus woman is more complicated. We are all socialized into a system that compromises and contains us, teaches us to hate ourselves and each other, and breeds violence, particularly focused toward the most at-risk communities. Gender-based violence is less about biological sex and more about one’s proximity to privilege under patriarchy and access to power within the system. The violence that we experience connected to gender-based oppression is never isolated but is in deep relationship to other larger forms of oppression including Capitalism, anti-Blackness, white supremacy, and patriarchy. It is this intersectional analysis of gender-based oppression that #SayHerName seeks to uplift and foreground.
We are all socialized into a system that compromises and contains us, teaches us to hate ourselves and each other, and breeds violence, particularly focused toward the most at-risk communities.
We are all struggling under heteropatriarchy and the rigid gender constructs to which it demands we conform. How heteropatriarchy demands that we enforce gender stifles Black imagination, self-determination, and authenticity. We’re fighting to find a place in a construct that wasn’t defined with us in mind. And we fail to see how this construct is used as a tool by the state to not only establish order but also manipulate us, while perpetuating violence on our bodies—be it psychological or physical or the explosive manifestation of both. The norms that we teach our children are just us being used as pawns for continuing a harmful cycle of violence, making us complicit in some of the violence that we experience but that ultimately destroys our communities and sense of relationship to each other. Police brutality and gender-based violence are both supported and sanctioned by the state in some way to support larger oppressive systems and eliminate our folks. These issues impact us all and are more intertwined with each other than we often name.
L’lerrét Jazelle Ailith is BYP100’s communications manager. To learn more about the organization’s #SayHerName initiative, visit BYP100.org.