As a child, I grew up watching women fight.
I remember a man. He lived with three women--two black and one white. They all had children, most were by him. All the women either worked or went to school. Again, I was only a child, and so I can only give you this story through a child's eyes. But, in retrospect, they all seemed to have something going for them--independent, capable of taking care of themselves. Even still, every pay day, this man was making his rounds, collecting their money. I remember the white woman saying, "But can I just keep some money for my stockings?" "Nope," he'd say. "You should've taken it out before I came." In looking back, I cannot recall one time when the women pulled together and made a stand against him. I do, however, remember all the times they fought amongst themselves.
...By the time I started reading slave narratives, the horrors of slavery did not shock me. Countless times, I had seen images of that black man on his knee, with keloids on his back from the whippings, and chains around his hands. He was begging...always begging. I had known about the rapes. I knew about black children belonging to slave masters being left in the fields and disowned. It all bothered me. But they weren't news. What was news to me was the way white mistresses treated enslaved black women who bore master's children. I was surprised by the jealousy and hate the master's wife had towards a woman who was, in many cases, violently raped--how she directed her anger towards the woman and not the man.
In looking back, I cannot recall one time when the women pulled together and made a stand against him. I do, however, remember all the times they fought amongst themselves.
This brings me to today. In January, I spoke at the Women's March. I did a lot of research for that speech because it was important to me that I didn't speak for me alone. I wanted to reflect the voices of as many women as possible. I was interested in the disharmony and contradictions as much as I was interested in the united front. My mission was to honor both and for my speech to be a tapestry of voices. Whether I did it or not, that's up to the audience to decide. What I have been thinking a lot about, though, was the rift between black and white women around that event.
Black women called it a white woman's march while infuriated white women called black women selfish for refusing to participate. Black women said that for their own mental and physical health they needed to stay as far away from that march as possible. A lot of white women either couldn't understand or just found it too inconvenient to try. One of my favorite banners from that event read, "I Hope to See All You Good White Women at the Next Black Lives Matter March," as if to say, "Now, against my better judgement, I'm showing up for you--for us. Don't make a damn fool out of me." And I remember one woman saying that she'd like to show up to a BLM rally or march but she's afraid. To be honest, I was afraid to be at that march. But I still I showed up.
While you may or may not understand poverty or what it means to be black, many of you understand sexual trauma, feeling unworthy, mental health. You also understand what it means to tell someone to kiss your ass after they have written you off.
My life and our history has been marked by conflict amongst women--violent, stubborn, dismissive and reckless conflict. The One for me. Two for Her. (aka 123 Program) campaign is my attempt to address some of this. One of the biggest pieces of feedback black women gave to white women is to listen. Listen without imposing. Listen without defense. Listen to understand. This campaign is an invitation for white women to listen to the stories of black women in spaces that feel safe for white women: their book clubs, female collectives, churches. It's an invitation to have open conversation with one another without feeling afraid. And if you're listening--I mean truly, truly listening--it's an invitation to put themselves in conversation with the black women in these stories. While you may or may not understand poverty or what it means to be black, many of you understand sexual trauma, feeling unworthy, mental health. You also understand what it means to tell someone to kiss your ass after they have written you off. You understand the sense of accomplishment that comes with proving someone wrong. My hope is that women who call themselves allies buy this book for friends who would never buy it on their own. And when you do, my hope is that you hold them accountable for that gift by asking for a conversation in return.
My hope is that some of you buy the books for women who you don't know--for women who cannot afford them. But just as important, my hope is for you to take a few seconds to write 1-3 sentences for the woman you want to receive the book. My hope is that you tell her that even though you don't know her, you imagine her to be beautiful and courageous and strong, that you want her to persevere because you believe that her life counts. Somewhere between pooling together our dollars, hears, and commitment to each other, women have the power to change the world. And so I am inviting you into the conversation. My hope is that you accept it because this campaign is about way more than books. It's about revolutionizing the way we do womanhood.
The goal is 10,000 but the way to get there begins with 1-2-3 or 1 to 3, that is One for me. Two for Her.
To learn more about the campaign click here: http://www.infamousmothers.com/campaign/. To purchase books through the One for Me. Two for her. program, click here.