Monday, March 4, 2013

My Daughter Surrounded by the Beauty of Black Women's Brilliance

When I took this photo February 21, 2013, I didn't really realize its significance. As a matter of fact I was working in my communications capacity at Spelman College, trying to capture what I could tell was an important moment between academic and activist-oriented Black women. And my daughter, cute as she is, just eased her way into the picture. I even shooed her away.

But after a powerful evening of commentary and more from author, professor and MSNBC host Melissa Harris Perry - through which my first grader mostly slept - this photo haunted me so that I could not go back to sleep after waking at 4:30 the next morning.

All I kept thinking was: look at this child - my child - who barely has an inkling of the brilliance surrounding her. She just wanted to be in the photo. And here she is in the midst of what I saw as a moment of pride and engagement between the three Black women on the left who laid the foundation for the Black woman on the right.

From left to right: Dr. Cynthia Neal Spence is an associate professor of sociology with interests in criminology, law and violence against women. She also serves in a leadership role of Spelman's Social Justice Fellows Program; Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum is president of Spelman and author of numerous books including "Can We Talk About Race? And Other Conversations in an Era of School Resegregation;" and Dr. Beverly Guy-Sheftall is the founding director of Spelman's Women's Research and Resource Center and an adjunct professor at Emory's Institute for Women's Studies. She is the author of a number of texts about African American and women's studies, including the first anthology of Black women's literature, "Sturdy Black Bridges: Visions of Black Women in Literature."

And then there is Melissa Harris Perry, who I'd been following since she was writing at her Kitchen Table blog and who I now watch most weekend mornings on her self-titled show on MSNBC. I don't always agree with her or even have an interest in every topic she addresses. But I enjoy her perspective and the disparate voices she regularly brings to the table. Plus I'm of a generation that remembers when images like hers - braids and all - were so very rare in the role of moderator and driver of important conversations.

There were so many interesting moments in her visit to Spelman, book-ended by Black History Month and Women's History Month. You can see some in the tweets I and others posted to Twitter during the event: "Melissa Harris Perry on Fire at Spelman College!"

Harris was much more forthright and fearless in her analysis of shame stereotypes, and Black women in America, the topics she addresses in her book, "Sister Citizen." There were no national cameras there to temper her sharp envelope-pushing wit. Listening to her I felt like I did when studying Paula Giddings' "When and Where I Enter: The Impact on Black Women on Race and Sex in America" as a student at Howard University. Or when Joan Morgan's "When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost" flipped my consciousness upside down in the nineties. I appreciate Harris Perry for her passion in her path - and I learn a lot from her, even when she rubs me the wrong way.

And I was so happy that my daughter was able to attend - even on a school night (this was educational, too) and that my friend could finagle a book signing for me when it was obvious that it was time for my daughter to go home.

I hope you'll have some special moments this Women's History Month. Keep Enjoyceinglife!

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