I once explained to an Arab Canadian Muslim friend, "The black freedom struggle is spiritual for me." I am reminded of this as I prepare for a conversation at Duke on "Islam as Black History" and listen to the words of Black women scholars like Nikki Giovanni.
Their words kindle emotions and aspirations to be a part of something higher akin to the way reading the Qur'an and listening to the lovers and friends of God leave me in yearning for the Beloved and His beloved, the Prophet Muhammad, prayers and peace be upon him.
Here is the parallel: My yearning for God comforts every part of me as it grants certainty of why I am here and where I want to go. Similarly, the words of the great African American women and men before me touch every part of me, assuring me that their words were written for me to claim and make my own, infused with the sweetness of my faith and struggle. I am here to continue their thoughts. I am humbled. I am flowing with joy.
So much so that I post on fb:
The defining concept in black feminism/womanism that has shaped my work, expressed cogently by Nikki Giovanni:
“When we look at the history of slavery, we have a whole situation where no one cared if you were woman or not; you had to get out into the field. After freedom, no one cared if you were woman or not, you had to work to support your family. So for black women--that’s one of the problems with women’s lib in relation to the black woman; they look at themselves as woman but we’ve had to look at ourselves as black.”
And here are my words; I shared them Sunday at Northeastern University as I've shared them with you before:
"During slavery, our foremothers worked alongside men in the fields sun up to sun down, even as they endured the critical phases of motherhood. Their babies kicked in their wombs as they were forced upon, beaten, and hung.
By leaving work, I saw myself inheriting the legacy of women who were forced to do it all and, therefore, I embraced the privilege of not having to do it all."
I now see it. I am claiming and declaring my womanhood. I am a woman, a mother, a wife, a sister, a daughter, a teacher, and a scholar. And I seek to experience all of it profoundly.
Our mothers prayed for us to be seen and treated as women. They fought for us. They died or were ready to die. We inherit their words, we inherit their work. We ask God for our success.