Category Archives: Activism

Words to Live By

I’m ready to say “don’t let the door hit ya where the good Lorde split ya” to the month of October. Is it me or was this past month just extra ridiculous? From the ongoing shenanigans in Ferguson, to the exploits of so-called white allies in the anti-street harassment movement, to the tomfoolery of Thug Kitchen (I knew they had to be white hipsters), to the yearly ritual of blackface that is Halloween–there has been a range of indignities big and small thrown at people of color that boggle the mind. But wait, you say, that’s every month. Right. You …Read more »

Reflections on Respectability

New York Daily News

Trigger Warning: Discussions of violence Whitepeople believed that whatever the manners, under every dark skin was a jungle. Swift unnavigable waters, swinging screaming baboons, sleeping snakes, red gums ready for their sweet white blood. In a way, he thought, they were right. The more coloredpeople spent their strength trying to convince them how gentle they were, how clever and loving, how human, the more they used themselves up to persuade whites of something Negroes believed could not be questioned, the deeper and more tangled the jungle grew inside. But it wasn’t the jungle blacks brought with them to this place …Read more »

Say What?: On Speechlessness, Racism and Respectability in #Ferguson

“I have come to believe over and over again that what is most important to me must be spoken, made verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood. That the speaking profits me, beyond any other effect. My silences had not protected me. Your silence will not protect you.” (excerpt from The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action, by Audre Lorde)   As I prepare the syllabi and lesson plans for my fall classes I am dealing with uncertainty about how to teach about Ferguson and the merciless assault on black bodies and minds …Read more »

The Blame Game: Black Women, Shame, and Victim Blaming

(Trigger Warning) I will never forget listening to the raging voice of a man I didn’t know on the other end of a phone line alongside my homegirl in Florida.  We sat in a room with the door closed while she told me what had happened the night before to preface the voice mail I was about to hear.  The man behind the voice was someone her sister had recently started dating.  He left the message on her voicemail several hours after beating and berating her in front of her child and leaving her bloody and unconscious on the concrete …Read more »

Detroit Goddamn

From Occupy.com

Growing up in the 80s and 90s, I mistakenly thought that environmentalism was something simply to do with saving the rainforest and the ozone layer. “Environment” was a fancy word for places far away from the working class former factory town where I lived. Certainly, “saving the environment” was important for all of us, but it was hard to think about forests and the ozone while living next to a crack house and being battered by Reaganomics. I did not learn until I was much older and formally learning about Black feminism in a classroom that environmental justice was inextricably …Read more »

Angels and Ghosts

Every day I walk or drive through historic Black neighborhoods in Atlanta, Georgia where upwards of 50% of residential properties are vacant, abandoned and sometimes burned down (but not demolished).  I see empty buildings that used to be schools, recreation centers, community centers, and businesses.  I see extraordinary flooding each time it rains; rushing water nearly covers the street.  Sidewalks are non-existent or so torn-up you cannot walk on them so folks move through the middle of the street–parents with strollers and people in wheelchairs. On weekdays I see elementary, middle, and high school age youth sitting on porches at …Read more »

Black Queer Trouble in Literature, Life, and the Age of OBama: Part II

Originally Delivered by Cheryl Clarke as the Kessler Lecture on Dec. 6, 2013 at the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies at the CUNY Graduate Center   Scenes of black queer and feminist resistance; or “forced confinement and forced mobility” Recently I said the following at a “Symposium: Black Women’s Studies and the Transformation of the Academy” in 2010.  I shared the panel is Nikol Alexander-Floyd, Paula Giddings, and Cheryl Wall.  I think it is applicable to black queer trouble-making: “I remain convinced that there is no transformation in the academy unless black feminists engage in a kind of itinerant …Read more »

Black Queer Trouble in Literature, Life, and the Age of OBama: Part I

Originally Delivered by Cheryl Clarke as the Kessler Lecture on Dec. 6, 2013 at the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies at the CUNY Graduate Center  Note:  Elizabeth Lorde Rollins, my friend and sister, introduced me at the event.   Thank you, Beth.  Wonderful to see you again.  We miss your Mother.  In case I run out of time at the end, I want to make sure I read this for you, ‘Echoes’ from Lorde’s last collection, The Marvelous Arithmetics of Distance, 1993. I want to thank Jim Wilson and the CLAGS Board.  I am deeply honored and surprised to …Read more »

Fuck Sears, or When Mall Cops Attack

Any one that knows me, knows that I do not like the Internet. I just don’t trust it. Too much of our personal information is out there and it is completely out of our control. It took me years to get a smart phone because I thought that having a smart phone would jeopardize my already limited privacy. My little sister, the tech-geek of the family, finally convinced me to ditch my flip phone and get a smart phone. Apparently, I was embarrassing her with my “very archaic form of communication.” So I did. I linked it to my email …Read more »

De-Tangling Racism: On White Women and Black Hair

Pictures from a new exhibit by photographer Endia Beal called “Can I Touch It?” showcase several white women, all corporate execs, who agreed to get a “Black hairstyle” and then have their portrait taken. Apparently, this very quotidian fixation with Black women’s bodies and Black women’s hair is now the stuff of art exhibits. This project started when Beal began permitting many of her white corporate colleagues to touch her big red ‘fro, to pull it even, while she photographed them doing it. Over the summer, a friend and I happened upon the “You Can Touch My Hair” exhibit that …Read more »

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