“Women have always been at the heart of anti-racist, progressive activism,” says Angela Davis in her memorial lecture for South African anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko. “Now you have touched the women. You have struck a rock. You have dislodged a boulder. You will be crushed.”
According to Davis, we build on the legacies of social change, but we also need to question them. Steve Biko left the legacy of black consciousness. He inspired a generation of students to embrace the truth that black is beautiful and to join the struggle against apartheid. As influenced as the men who came to represent the struggles of the past were by heteropatriarchy, they helped create the discursive arena for black feminist consciousness.
The Black Lives Matter movement was co-founded by three women: Patrisse Khan-Cullors, Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi. These women built a movement on the legacies of Steve Biko and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. while also addressing the unresolved questions, erasures, and foreclosures of the past that resulted from heteropatriarchy. “These young activists want to question what we did not have the full capacity to question,” Angela Davis says.
The black feminist consciousness that emerged in Black Lives Matter cultivates social movements full of leaders. “We are not a leaderless movement, we are a leaderful movement.” Leaderful movements bring women, men, queer, trans*, disabled and straight people together in collective, inclusive and democratic ways. Leaderful movements are structured to raise the voices of those who have been historically barred from leadership positions in the social change movements of the past.
The black feminist consciousness that emerged in Black Lives Matter also encourages inclusiveness, interconnectedness, interdependency, intersectionality and internationalism. It highlights the feminist dimensions of all of our social justice struggles. Trans* women of color for example have deepened our analysis of institutions of punishment. The abolition of institutions of punishment must involve the abolition of racism, the abolition of gender policing, and a constant critique of heteropatriarchy. It involves an understanding of the symbiotic interconnectedness of state violence and intimate violence.
As social change entrepreneurs, what does it mean to center our work in feminist praxis and modes of leadership? Is our work centered in inclusiveness, interconnectedness, interdependency, intersectionality
This is the new vocabulary of social change, says Davis.
Watch Angela Davis’ Lecture