Black Feminism, International and Unchained: A Talk w/ Ms. Afropolitan, Part I Wednesday 31 August, 2011

Minna Salami

For Minna Salami feminism sparked a revolution within, meaning the end of many illusions. Namely, the illusion that anything would be handed to us in terms of respect and empowerment in a world that denied our worth, diversity and complexity as women of African descent; black women’s respect and empowerment ought to be created and […]

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Minna Salami

For Minna Salami feminism sparked a revolution within, meaning the end of many illusions. Namely, the illusion that anything would be handed to us in terms of respect and empowerment in a world that denied our worth, diversity and complexity as women of African descent; black women’s respect and empowerment ought to be created and protected collectively. Minna created the Ms. Afropolitan blog to share her thoughts on a wide variety topics ranging from matters of sex to globalization, for example–topics that reflect the diverse interests of a global black community and complexity of us as women.

Minna’s writings create dialogue around issues that keep women across Africa and the Diaspora bound, and what true liberation means. In our most in-depth interview yet, she shares what some of those issues are, explaining feminism and why it goes hand in hand with international black empowerment, her take on Afropolitanism and vision of empowered African women. Because we wanted to give the topic proper attention, we’ve divided the post into two parts–check back next Wednesday, September 7th, for the follow-up.

Whether you call yourself a feminist or not, if you recognize that your personal freedom is tied to ours collectively, please read on with an open mind. As Minna explains, there is much at stake.

What is an Afropolitan? Can anyone be an Afropolitan?

Taiye Selasie, who coined the term Afropolitan has this definition:

“What distinguishes [Afropolitans] is a willingness to complicate Africa – namely, to engage with, critique, and celebrate the parts of Africa that mean most to them. Perhaps what most typifies the Afropolitan consciousness is the refusal to oversimplify; the effort to understand what is ailing in Africa alongside the desire to honor what is wonderful, unique.”

Going on that definition, which I do to a great extent, I think anyone can be an Afropolitan. I see Afropolitanism as a lifestyle or sub-culture, rather than another term to define race or ethnicity. Goodness, we have enough of those! I think it’s becoming increasingly popular because it defines the lifestyle and the spirit of the time for the cosmopolitan African who is maneuvering spaces such as diaspora, locality, arts, fashion, culture, politics, globalization, multilingualism between the African continent and the urban cities they take influence from.

What made you want to create the Ms. Afropolitan blog? Who is your intended audience and what do you want them to take away?

It was quite an organic process. I started blogging before blogs were “businesses” of sorts. Although I posted a mixture of random musings and poetry, I found that I particularly enjoyed engaging and exchanging thoughts about culture and society, often from a race/gender angle. Somewhere along the line, an increasing amount of people started reading my blogs, so I developed the idea to start
Ms. Afropolitan to focus my intentions.


My main audience is the African Diaspora, communities that are looking to discuss and promote alternative and enlightened views of Africa. I hope that readers will want to engage, subscribe and share my writings!

The message of women’s empowerment on your blog really resonates with me. What does feminism mean to you? In what ways do you think it’s important for women of African descent? I’ve come across a lot of people that still think that “black feminism” is an oxymoron; like feminism is a movement strictly for white women.

There are many nuances to feminism and each person’s relationship with feminism is unique. For me, more than anything, feminism was the tool that sparked my inner revolution–that is, the sense of revolt against conformity so that I could make space for my own definitions of life. We need to end sexist exploitation within and of ourselves before we can aim to do so in society at large. Feminism empowered me to do that and I’m grateful to the women, the revolutionary “mothers”, that paved the way.

There are countless black feminists whose work has given us women of African heritage a powerful and intellectual voice, and the opinion that black feminism is an oxymoron really becomes quite absurd and disrespectful when you highlight the important role of women like bell hooks, Ntozake Shange, Wangari
Maathai, Patricia Hill-Collins, Ama Ata Aidoo, Audre Lorde, Alice Walker, Nadal El Saadawi to name a few. Are the critics saying that these women don’t count?

As for the importance of feminism, in the West the female body is objectified to a point where a recent study shows that 8 out of 10 women are unhappy with their bodies. Across the globe one in three women is beaten or sexually abused in her lifetime. In Nigeria, where I’m from, it is believed that about 50% of women have been beaten by a partner. Maternal death rates are the second highest in the world, genital cutting is widespread, widows are mentally and physically abused, acid bathing affects an increasing number of women across all ages and rape is used as a weapon especially in the conflict ridden Delta region. In Zambia, two
political leaders were recently found guilty of beating their wives; they claimed that they did it out of “love”.

Generally speaking, Africa’s nations rank amongst the lowest on the gender equality index. These are the types of reasons that make feminism and the struggle for gender inequality important; unfortunately, they are just the tip of the iceberg.

I appreciate your call to get more men involved in these discussions. You’ve said: “[A] growing number of men are starting to say enough is enough, they too want out of a patriarchal structure that blocks the advancement of Africans as a unified group.” Can you explain how patriarchy operates and how it effects us all, men and women, of various African nationalities?

Patriarchy is a male-dominant system of power that oppresses women and girls by placing higher value on men and boys. I think it’s quite self-explanatory that such a system is not egalitarian. For a society to be well rounded and functional, all its members should have access to the same foundations of power, both in the public and private realm.

Furthermore, the patriarchal systems we have adopted in contemporary times have roots in white supremacist doctrine, for people of African heritage this poses an additional concern. For example, when setting up schools in Africa, the missionaries most often separated Africans by gender; girls were taught home economics while boys were taught maths, geography, science etc. They believed that women should not be as smart as men as they would not make good housewives. These types of patriarchal beliefs still cripple us particularly because we are also coping with impoverishment due to historical legacies of slavery, racism and consequential mismanagement.
We cannot afford to perpetuate a culture where women cannot perform in full capacity, if African women are not empowered then no amount of development initiatives will be useful.

Let’s keep the conversation going next Wednesday, September 7th with Part II when we discuss the progress and work still left to do for African Women’s Decade (declared so by the United Nations and African Union), Minna’s radical inspirations, continuing projects and philosophy on living unchained. In the meantime, you can check out more of Minna’s thoughts on her blog. See you soon!

 

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6 Comments

  • Jenny says:

    he’d appoint when he won. Kerry is great, oh wait, you mean it isn’t Bob Kerry?Putting a grunt in charge seems a good thing. chuck is busy I presume? Seriously, a grunt is a good thing.Hagel is a critic of the co-yna-d-sonbeanrghetto farm policies too.Less prepared than Harriett Meirs. Although a legitimate appointee.

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