Reading the Combahee River Statement pt. 1

This is a “Weekly Spotlight” feature piece

  1. The genesis of Contemporary Black Feminism

We would like to affirm that we find our origins in the historical reality of Afro-American women’s continuous life-and-death struggle for survival and liberation … There is undeniably a personal genesis for Black Feminism, that is, the political realization that comes from the seemingly personal experiences of individual Black women’s lives … However, we had no way of conceptualizing what was so apparent to us, what we knew was really happening … Black feminists often talk about their feelings of craziness before becoming conscious of the concepts of sexual politics, patriarchal rule, and most importantly, feminism, the political analysis and practice that we women use to struggle against our oppression.

The Combahee River Collective Statement, April 1977

I was born screaming
Without cotton on my back
Or a theory to my body
My first introduction to a politics of liberation was the day-to-day
Push to be more lady like
Less objectionable in the eyes of men
And that meant closing my legs
To take up less space
And perhaps be less inviting
It required I learn to distinguish myself from
The women who are abused, and punished
Walked over, and forgotten
It forced me to shroud my body
Then blamed me when I was mistaken for invitation
It bloodied me and forced me to clean up the mess
In an effort
To stave off the pressure of
A livelihood so foreign
I scratched up my skin
And learned ways of fitting into the pockets
Of oppression that granted me infrequent breath
Only to be swallowed again
In the mass of hands and fists
Pushing me to the margins
And further away from the radical femme
I was born to be

© Ama Akoto (2018)

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