On June 14th, 2018, I attended the Human Rights Conference for Pride month which was a collaboration between NYC Pride and the SUNY (State University of New York) public school system. It was an enriching gathering of “activists, artists, educators, journalslists, policymakers, students, and others engaged in LGBTQIA+ human rights around the world.” While I was there, I attended a seminar called “Being Brave Enough to Share Your Story”, presented by Joshunda Sanders, about the importance of elevating the personal-as-political narratives of queer women of color in the LGBTQIA+ Rights movement. Her presentation resonated with me in such a powerful way.
During her seminar, Sanders said that in our capitalistic society “Black women at rest (mentally or emotionally) aren’t considered to be doing enough to advance capitalism.” I was drawn back to a reading titled “Capitalism and Gay Identity” by John D’Emilio. D’Emilio analyzes how in capitalistic society there is essentially a fine line between autonomy and exploitation because people only have control and ownership over their labor. However, people must work to survive in our society, so selling labor becomes a forced circumstance where one is subjected to a diverse capacities of manipulation rather than a free choice. I believe that this line is especially fine for women of color and other marginalized identities due to compounded systems of oppressions. And, personally, I feel like every step I take to find myself, love, or career is a dance between being a token for someone else’s advancement and taking an opportunity to advance myself.
When I look back in history, I see that my “liberation” as a black woman has been an unintended and sometimes unwanted consequences of other social movements. For example, during the civil rights movement, the 14th amendment granted black men the status and rights of citizenship,which include the right to vote. Similarly, during women’s rights movement, the 19th amendment intended to give white women the right to vote. I don’t believe people intended for those amendments to eventually give black women and other women of color the right to vote. I feel like when it came to the fights for rights, my rights a black woman–not just as a black person or as a woman–were not even a part of the conversations even though women of color contributed a lot of emotional, mental, and physical labor to advancing those social movements. As a results, my freedom and my discrimination is not visible in these movements because people are oblivious to the double burdens that come with being black and a woman as articulated in Sojourner Truth’s speech, Ain’t I a Woman?.
Furthermore, Sanders also said that “Black people don’t have time for writer’s block because there is too much to say.” She advised everyone to share without holding back for fear of backlash. I feel like I have been talking louder and louder to get people to listen, but I didn’t realized that they had me on “mute”. I didn’t realize they saw my scars as sacrifices and my burdens as blemishes to their movements. But, I am tired being expected to play the supporting role in the “White man’s, Black Man’s, White Woman’s, Privileged Person’s” movement. I have to come to learn that my revolution will not be funded, my revolution will not supported, my revolution will not be televised. I need to stop playing the role that world has wrote me. I need to stop waiting for recognition and support to raise my voice. I need to stand on my soapbox and my own platforms to raise it myself. I must continue to be brave enough to tell my story.