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Women as Leaders against Women as Figureheads

By Cossette Hampton

It is refreshing as a Black American woman, stolen from the Motherland generations ago to die in slavery for white power, to experience Women’s Day on the continent. The war on Blackness in South Africa, however, feels all too familiar as I watch from the Cape as my brothers and sisters are being killed off by the White State across the Atlantic. Our bodies are globally under the thumb of white male power. Nevertheless, today, the resilience of the women of South Africa shines with a blinding brightness as I read about their historic march to oppose pass-legislation and advance the struggle for freedom in this anti-Black state.

I am hopeful because I can see Black women’s work in the revolution being acknowledged. I am inspired by the women of the #FeesMustFall movement who have been leading the struggle against the corporatization of education, educational inaccessibility, and the colonial, pro-imperialist class material used to brainwash the Black bourgeois. I also feel encouraged to love my body when I see the women of Wits University fighting for the right to love theirs openly without being violated. I am affirmed when I meet women brave enough to share the at times cruel realities of Black lesbianism like those art practitioners at this year’s National Arts Festival in the “Chapter 2, Section 9” production. This modern representation of leadership channeled through Black femme bodies is necessary to cultivate the growth of the consciousness of women and young girls, and encourage their presence in the approaching revolution to regain Black sovereignty in the face of white imperialism.

Nevertheless, sometimes we as Black people confuse “women’s representation” with “women’s leadership” within our movements, our government and our everyday lives.

As a daughter of the Diaspora, I want more than representation, especially if the presence of women simultaneously erases the need to address Black women’s issues. I want more than a faux sisterhood with white women and a presidential candidate I’m supposed to look up to like Hillary Clinton who calls Blacks “super predators,” sponsors the incarceration of millions of Black people in the U.S. and abroad to build the prison industrial complex, and sells weapons to ISIS. Hillary’s victory is not mine. As a matter of fact, her victory ensures another 8 years of horror for our people in the U.S.

We deserve better than Black women like Public Protector Thuli Madonsela who will sell us out for the sake of white financial gains. Can we really hold her close on Women’s Day without fearing being stabbed while our eyes are closed, so that we are forced to be silent about the R26 Billion stolen by white capitalists? We should not look the other way for the sake of her love.

On this 60th Women’s Day, I want to ask, will we settle with women in power positions who take advantage of us and our little resources to be in the favor of white people? Will we unite against Black men and hold hands with white women only to be dropped from the cliff or sisterhood after white women have succeed in stepping on our backs to receive their liberation? Will we allow ourselves to be visible in movement work as poster children only, and accept being silenced by Black men in organizing spaces when it comes to voicing the details of our oppression? Will we allow such a horrid, invasive war on Black feminine bodies like rape be used as a political ploy for the sake of an election?

We have to demand that our brothers seek to protect us from our other brothers, our fathers, friends, fellow comrades in the movement and politicians who use their white-gifted power to own and use our bodies, while recognizing that our brothers are slaves to white supremacy and the issues it created in our communities as well. We have to develop an expectation among ourselves that the men we love will make plans to honor us instead of expecting us to honor ourselves, and will read the books we write so that we aren’t writing to ourselves.

We have come so far and have so much capacity to go farther, demand more, and stand next to Black men in this fight instead of fighting with them as men help other men unlearn toxic behavior birthed from the fear of the white crakkka’s crack of the whip. The creation of this inclusive space for work and love begins and ends with all of us Black people, as the original alpha and omega. Our ancestors of 1956 and before are behind us to catch us when we fall and to give us strength to continue.

Happy Women’s Day.

Cossette Hampton is an organiser with BYP100 in Chicago, US and is an intern with the Black First Land First movement in South Africa.

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