Kolkata, India: Supporters of the All India Mahila Sanskritik Sanghathan (AIMSS) protest violence and political attacks against women and girls. April 16, 2012
Photos by Ajanta Sinha Ghosh
I’m in a reflective space after the Black Thought 2.0 Conference at Duke. I want to begin by thanking the conference organizers for inviting me to be on this panel. It felt good to be recognized as a junior scholar for my work and contribution to a growing network of black thinkers concerned with the digital. I’d also like to thank the often unnamed people of color who make campuses run, the people who maintain the buildings, who cleaned up after we left, who built this building, the indigenous and black people whose lives and land was taken for us to be at Duke last weekend. Even as we move through the settler colonial United States we can remember that’s what we are doing. Ashe.
Like the crunk music it references, the Crunk Feminist Collective has a multilayered herstory. From our archive:
In 2004 while Brittney Cooper and Susana Morris were students at Emory University, they were part of an informal group of women of color feminists who routinely convened with one another for fellowship, commiseration and strategizing about how to be successful in grad school. They began to refer to themselves affectionately as the Crunk Feminist Collective, in part influenced by the Southern musical ethos of Atlanta, but also by their absolute willingness to “get crunk” or to deploy crunkness as a form of resistance to the racist, sexist, and heterosexist assaults that they routinely experienced. Revived in 2010, the CFC aims to articulate a crunk feminist consciousness for people of color, who came of age in the Hip Hop Generation, by creating a community of scholar-activists from varied professions, who share intellectual work in online blog communities, at conferences, through activist organizations, print publications, and who share a commitment to nurturing and sustaining one another through progressive feminist visions. Crunk Feminism is the animating principle of our collective work together and derives from our commitment to feminist principles and politics, and also from our unapologetic embrace of those new cultural resources and tools, that offer the potential for resistance.
As the kids say, “we ratchet” particularly in the service of creating a more equitable world.
In just over two years, the Crunk Feminists Collective has produced more than 250 blog posts, gotten over a million hits on our webpage, and been used in classrooms across the country. We’ve talked about many of the problems facing our communities and what tools can be used to address them. We’ve called folks out and also offered means of accountability. Like our name, we embody the both/and, the slash of people of color intersectionality. We do all this in two blogs a week, tweets, tumbles and status updates. We are building digital networks of community with shared words and conversations. Get Crunk!
The Crunk Feminist Collective is a Labor of Love
We labor because we love. We put in extra hours because we care about who is able to read our work. We care about shifting conversations in mainstream media from what did Trayvon Martin do to why Trayvon needs to be an innocent victim for a crime to have been committed. Why do dead black men mobilize communities in ways that dead black cis and trans women do not? And what sort of accountability do we have as a society for perpetuating the racism that ended Trayvon’s life?
We take risks. We put our sex lives on the table, lay our politics bare. And in doing so we remind ourselves, that part of the work is the self. We often do pieces on self care and though not always well received by our audience, they reflect our intention to document and share how we take care of ourselves and each other. Behind the scenes we have emergency dissertation phone calls, we prescribe rest and cake, we send each other care packages, we show up for each other. This work is the least visible but some of the most important because it’s what sustains us in the hard times.
We don’t get paid to do this work. We write pieces that many of our departments, present and future, won’t count as publications. We write as we finish dissertations, book contracts, tenure files, work full time jobs and raise the next generation of crunk feminists. We are at once lauded for what we produce but reminded that it is not rigorous enough to be real scholarship. We get recognized and linked and shouted out by journalists who do get paid.
We’ve been told that people use our work in their classes, workshops, and events regularly. This is awesome. If you have used our work in your classes, think of inviting us to speak at your campus. If our tumblr or twitter feed has brought something to your attention that you didn’t know about, let people know where it came from. If you are connected to a journal, talk to us about developing pieces for publication. Let’s continue to grow what’s possible, through spreading the word and spreading the love!
one thing (of many) that really makes me grind my teeth about Spike Lee’s Malcolm X biopic is the complete absence of probably the most important figure in Malcolm’s life, his older half-sister Ella. (and this didn’t happen by accident either)
The following is her obituary, which was published in the Independent 7 August 1996:
Ella Collins was the half-sister and guardian and in later life a trusted adviser of the black Muslim and radical leader Malcolm X. After his assassination in 1965 she took over the group he founded, the Organisation of Afro-American Unity, but later converted to orthodox Islam.
Malcolm said of her in his Autobiography that she was “the first really proud black woman I had ever seen”. She was “plainly proud of her very black skin”, he added, which was “unheard of among Negroes in those days”. She was active as a businesswoman, a teacher, a civil rights worker and a religious leader.
Malcolm, whose original surname was Little, was the son of the Rev Earl Little, a Baptist preacher and an organiser for Marcus Garvey’s United Negro Improvement Association in Michigan. Earl Little was a jet-black- skinned man, four of whose six brothers had been killed by white men, one by lynching.
Ella Collins was one of Earl Little’s three children by a previous marriage. She was brought up in Georgia, then moved to Boston. Earl Little married again, a light-skinned woman from Grenada in the West Indies, Louise, whose father was white.
In 1931 Earl Little was killed in a streetcar accident. His son Malcolm believed he was murdered by a white vigilante group called Black Legion. For a while Louise Little struggled to bring up her children but, after a relationship with a man broke up, she had a breakdown and she spent the last 28 years of her life in a mental hospital in Kalamazoo, Michigan. In 1940 Malcolm’s half-sister Ella Little Collins appeared like a guardian angel and invited the boy, then aged 15, to stay with her in Boston.
Ella Little grew up in Georgia, then moved to New York, where she became secretary to the brilliant but frequently outrageous black congressman, Adam Clayton Powell, who represented Harlem. She later moved to Boston, where she managed her mother’s grocery store and invested in house property, which she let out as rooming houses. She lived in Waumbeck Street in what was known as Sugar Hill, the most prosperous part of Roxbury, the black neighbourhood in Boston. To her half-brother it seemed she was “busily involved in dozens of things”, including clubs and civil rights groups.
Malcolm was thrilled by the bright lights of Boston and reassured by his half-sister’s strength and confidence. When he went back to Lansing, he wrote to her, saying he wanted to move to Boston and live with her. She arranged for official custody of the boy (now a ward of the state) to be transferred from Michigan to Massachusetts.
“No physical move in my life,” Malcolm wrote later, “has been more pivotal or profound in its repercussions. All praise is due to Allah that I went to Boston when I did. If I hadn’t, I’d probably be a brainwashed black Christian.”
At about that time Ella Collins broke up with her second husband, a soldier called Frank. (Her first husband was a doctor, and she later married for a third time.) She had paid, with the money she made from her rented property, for several members of the family to move from Georgia to Boston.
Since her days working for Adam Clayton Powell, Collins had been committed to the struggle for civil rights, but in the 1950s Malcolm persuaded her to join the Nation of Islam, the so-called “black Muslims”, founded by Elijah Muhammad, another disciple of Marcus Garvey. She helped to establish the Nation’s mosque in Boston and a day-care centre attached to it.
When Malcolm became interested in Islam world-wide, as opposed to the Elijah Muhammad version of it, it was Ella Collins who paid for his first visit to Mecca. When he said he wanted to make the pilgrimage, she replied simply, “How much do you need?”, although she herself as a Muslim convert would have liked to make the journey, and she and Malcolm had disagreed on many questions.
They talked all night about his visit, which was to take him not only to Mecca but to Cairo, Beirut and West Africa, and marked a critical change in his political orientation in the direction of a less confrontational, more positive attitude.
In 1959 she left the Nation of Islam and became an orthodox Sunni Muslim. She set up the Sarah A. Little School of Preparatory Arts in Boston, where children were taught Arabic, Swahili, French and Spanish as well as other subjects.
When Malcolm was killed, she drove from Boston to New York to identify the body and helped organise the funeral, a major event in the development of a separatist consciousness among African Americans and also in alerting white opinion to the changing mood among urban blacks.
She told an interviewer a few years ago that Malcolm’s murderers “took something from me that I put a lot into”. Malcolm, she believed, was “at the point where he could become stronger than ever. I could see Malcolm becoming the greatest black man in the history of the world.”
In recent years she suffered a number of strokes and both her legs had to be amputated as a result of diabetes. She left a son, two grandchildren, three brothers and a sister.
Ella Little (Ella Collins), civil rights activist: born 1914; married three times (one son); died 3 August 1996.
On Feb. 8th, Brandon Cain, 26, shot Ashley Conaway, 22, because Conaway told Cain that she no longer wanted to be romantically involved with him. Conaway’s head was grazed by the bullet and she survived.
Cain offered money to Conaway and Conaway’s best friend, Abreeya Brown, 18 (a witness to the shooting) to NOT TESTIFY in court about the shooting. They refused the offer.
Feb. 28th, the two women disappeared. On March 25th, their murdered bodies were found in a shallow grave in NW Detroit.
THIS is why I wake up mad.
Issa Rae won an award for her web series, Awkward Black Girl, and then the racists tweets came out of the woodwork.
Miriam Makeba is/was stunningly beautiful. RIP.
Finland, 1969. Miriam Makeba talks about art and South African racism.
|—||Audre Lorde, “Age, Race and Sex: Women Redefining (via thebrownggrrlzproject)|