Today, New Black Nationalists reached consensus to embrace poet-author Alice Walker’s articulation of 'womanism' as an indispensable social change perspective for Black women’s emancipation.
We are vision holders for creating a non-heteropatriarchal Black majority-led nation. Thus, discerning a path that balances the traditions of our national experience with the profound rupture needed to reorder gender and non-binary social relations is paramount to both winning and sustaining the revolutionary project.
Throughout history, workers have overthrown capitalists, peasants have toppled kings, Alaric’s Goths overran the Roman Empire, but women have never deposed the male powers who ruled over them.
American Empire’s spiraling decline and impending collapse in the 2020’s, could simultaneously produce two unthinkable possibilities: the breakaway formation of a Black republic and the first authentic non-heteropatriarchal nation.
Transitioning to a non-heteropatriarchal society requires a unique ideological framework--one that is sufficiently skeptical of absolute truths, elastic enough to accommodate the tumult of peoples’ democracy, and one vested with the historical ballast to reconcile antagonistic difference. ‘Womanism’ presents unique qualifications and historical antecedents in this regard.
Amid the acrimony attendant to the breakaway from white feminists and the ‘Black Power’ patriarchy in the 1970s, Alice Walker cultivated ‘womanism’ as an alternative ideological space for radical Black women, feminists, lesbians, and writers.
‘In Search of My Mother’s Garden: Womanist Prose’ (1983) summoned Black women to directly confront their alienation and the inferiority complex imposed on them by Western imperial patriarchy. This alienation could not be addressed by middle-class, heterosexual, white feminists who denied the racial and class subjugation of Black women.
More to the point, even if white feminists supported Black women's struggle against blatant racism and brutal class exploitation, they couldn't fathom Black women as their moral and intellectual equals--fully endowed subjects-- --clothed in the garments of humanity.
Black women also had another formidable issue to confront; far too many Black men who weren't prepared to embrace its emerging liberatory ethos.
To overcome their profound sense of alienation and inferiority, Walker implored Black women to embrace their being and identity. Womanism held that blackness and culture were the critical lens through which Black women could engage their femininity.
‘Walker didn't attempt to connect Black women to their ‘blackness’ and culture by idealizing Black Panther Party sisters brandishing firearms and radical slogans, nor romanticizing Black Egyptian and Sub-Saharan warrior-queens like Cleopatra or Nzinga. Nevertheless as grew to become a perspective of influence across the Global South and especially in Africa, Walker's originalist elaboration acquired variants: Chikwenye Okonjo Ogunyemi's African Womanism, and Dr. Clenora Hudson-Weems's Africana Womanism. New Black Nationalists recognize these variants as an integral part of the "Womanist " trend.
Womanism as it developed a following within the United States tended to differ from ‘Africana Womanisms’ Pan-Africanist designs for a 'African/Black women only' ideology," that warned Black feminists were simply imitating a white women's project that by design undermined Black women and men.
Dr. Clenora Hudson-Weems fashioned Africana Womanism as an ideology that 'centered on the woman's nurturing and mothering role to create strong African family units.' Ogunyemi's elaboration of Motherhood incorporated a variety of West African traditions and concepts with multiple meanings such as Spiritual Mother, Childless Mother and Community Mother. Her construct produced a set of behaviors of caretaking, management, education, spiritual meditation and dispute resolution that male or female could engage in.
Alice Walker's focus returned to the garden filled with the organic roots of an historically evolved Black nation: her native soil in the hinterlands of the rural Black South. She rehabilitated the ethics, spirituality, and culture of Black womens’ rich experiences. She excavated buried treasures in the person of Zora Neale Hurston and other lesser known cultural lights.
Walker’s heroines were sage grandmothers, wisdom keepers, teen runaways, underground railroad conductors, griots, artists, and an assorted lot of ‘bad girls.’
They sewed quilts, mixed roots and herbs, concocted poisons, attended college, engaged in espionage, shucked corn, practiced witchcraft, performed abortions, sang, danced, and drank all night. More than a few obtained reputations as women of easy virtue, but they were simply rebels exploring the carnal sciences of sex with men and women and some just with women.
The womanists who Walker defined as ‘outrageous, audacious, courageous… wanting to know more and in greater depth than is considered “good” for one,’ transmitted a new language, message, and culture to the Black community. They defied convention and breached the norms of social propriety, while making new rules of their own.
These women and the 'Hand Grenade Poets' of the Black Arts Movement, laid the foundation of what became a fifty-year run of the Black Feminist/Black Womanist movement. What began as a heresy in the 1970s culminated with Black queers and Black radical feminists founding the Black Lives Matter movement in 2013.
'Alician Womanisms' big gospel was enrooted in the Black experience, but its grace resonated with all women of color. In a world dominated by men, it's liberatory themes resonated in every corner of the Global South. More importantly, Walker declared that unlike white feminists, ‘womanists’ not only fought for the rights of women but demanded the rights of males as well.
‘Womanists as feminist and lesbians,’ Walker declared ‘feel solidarity with progressive men and do not advocate the fractionalization that white women who are separatist demand. Womanist struggle together with Black men against racism, while struggling with Black men about sexism…Womanism is committed to the survival and wholeness of the entire people.'
To some, Walker’s inclusion of men with its explicit caveats for continued ideological struggle afforded Black women an opportunity to address gender oppression without directly attacking Black men. Others likened it to a brilliant tactical stroke to preserve Black unity.
That may have been true, as the schism with the Black Power Patriarchy in the early 1970s was soon followed by the Poststructuralism Wars. An advanced detachment of Black feminist literary critics waged an intense struggle against Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Houston Baker Jr.'s deconstructionist theories. But Alice Walker was neither politician nor tactician.
Womanism’ envisioned the fight for Black liberation as one that could not exist without centering all Black life. As the exponents of building a new Black republic, womanism comports with New Black Nationalists’ position that all Black people are part of our nation. We believe a sense of national belonging must be engendered among all our people to feel and act as totalized subjects without exception.
New Black Nationalists’ pro-womanist' stance, cannot be separated from our positions on gender and sexuality. We reject the proposition that only those women designated as female by traditional Western standards are women.
We believe gender and sexual identity are socially constructed. In this respect we are not bio-essentialist. We accept trans-women as women and the self-identification of non-binary and gender non-conforming people as integral to the Black nation. While we believe masculinism, is largely a retrograde tendency, it is not necessarily misogynist nor in all cases, anti-womanist/feminist.
From our perspective, any hope of creating a Black nation will turn on a critical mass of Black men recognizing Black women, trans, and non-binary people as fully actualized subjects. Moreover, this recognition must be reciprocal.
As American Empire and Euro-Western civilization were built on the concept of the nation as the embodiment of white male supremacy, the possibility of Black peoples' humanity ever being realized outside the sovereignty of a Black-led nation is remote.
Herein lies a dilemma for New Black Nationalists.' Historically, the counter-discourses of the foremost Black scholars and theorists against the nation-state Scientific Race theories of Fredrich Hegel, Joseph de Gobineau, and Thomas Jefferson, were themselves the architects of Black patriarchal constructions.
Audre Lorde, Carolyn Rogers, Michelle Wright and other Black feminists correctly concluded that DuBois, Negritudists Leopold Senghor and Aime Cesaire, Amiri Baraka, and Black Atlanticist Paul Gilroy all formulated various frameworks of Black nationhood that denied the subjectivity of Black women. Thus, their nationalist constructions contemplated exclusionary Black patriarchal states.
Generally speaking, this is a legacy that is far from being overcome by Black Nationalists, although increasingly Black Nationalist are self-identifying pro-feminists. Nor will this legacy soon be forgotten by Black feminists as any casual reading of contemporary Black Lives Matter literature will confirm.
These assumptions regarding Black Nationalist hostility or indifference to Black women's subjectivity drives much Black and Third World feminist scholarship, which contends that nationalisms' investments in heteropatriarchy, homogeneity, normativity, and territory, can no longer be seen as liberatory social theory.
For this reason, Alice Walker's admonition to Black womanists to 'struggle
together with Black men against racism, while struggling with Black men about sexism' and to be 'committed to the survival and wholeness of the entire people' assumes great significance.
While the growing social-democratic sensibilities of Black feminist academicians and movement activists skew ever more toward atomized, ephemeral, and post-structuralist analyses, ‘Alician Womanisms’ cultural, spiritual, and ethical dimensions vibrate to the organic impulses of the Black Nationalist project.
These elements cohere with our historical evolution as a people and oppressed nation. By oppressed nation we mean a nation that has not won its independence from imperialist rule to determine its own destiny--not a race of people with a historical litany of grievances.
Womanism’s core ideology also flows with the currents of New Black Nationalists’ Fanonian philosophical system. At the center of Frantz Fanon’s Decolonial Theory, are the revolutionary struggles of Black people to win national liberation.
In toppling neo-colonial rule, Black people will begin the work of overcoming alienation, and the denial of its humanity enforced through psychological terror and violence. Fanon's theory asserted that Black men and women would begin to emerge from the “zone of non-being” to fully actualized individuals.
Just as Fanon encouraged Black people to turn their backs on Europe’s failed Enlightenment Project, and create a new history of humanity, Alice Walker exhorted Black women to turn away from the narrow feminist project and create the social relations of a new Black society—one in which Black women defined new principles to sustain our communities and new social relations that redefine human society.
Like Fanon, Walker never foreclosed of the possibility of white feminists stretching their horizons to meet the universal moment. Walker didn’t dismiss white feminists or feminism, but correctly characterized it as a narrower, less transformational subset, of ‘womanism.’ As such, her much celebrated citation, "womanist is to feminist as purple is to lavender," was born.
Alician Womanism and New Black Nationalism converge in a common vision of a new humanists society. Womanism and our Fanonian-based philosophy of nationalism are transcendent realities that are in motion towards more all inclusive societies. The womanism and nationalism we speak of cannot simply be skipped over or truncated with superficial renderings of the kind of convulsive struggle it will take to reconcile difference.
As America’s foundering settler state increasingly embraces autocracy and white nationalism as a vaccine inoculating ‘the empire’ against existential crisis and collapse, New Black Nationalists are repositioning its trend for a period of re-discovery. If the past is prologue, nationalist renewal summons cultural and historical authenticity to invoke the authority of text and theory.
The rise of radical Black feminism, Intersectionality Theory, and the millennial Black Lives Matter movement have already transformed the cultural and political landscape of the Darker Nation.
The 2020 elections rollback of Trump’s authoritarian power grab, largely led by Black women triggered the white nationalist January 6, 2021 Capitol Coup. We’ve now entered a pre-revolutionary period in which preparations for civil war inform designs of an autocratic-led, restructured apartheid state of white minority rule.
New Black Nationalists are confident, Black people possess the spirit and the will to prevail in this fight, thanks in large measure to the resistance movement Black women and Black feminists have led.
The gathering confluence of events now dictate that we are approaching the moment when we must move from resistance to liberation. So too, our weapons of criticism and analysis must be re-tooled to navigate the uncharted waters of revolutionary upsurges that lie ahead.
Now is the season to return to 'In Search of My Mother’s Garden.' It's springtime in April, a time ponder the new blooms and 'every color flower represented.'