21st century agenda

The previous post about the torture and rape of the young black woman in VA (which authorities are refusing to prosecute as a hate crime) speaks to the need for a contemporary organized black feminist movement. In class this week, I asked my grad students what a “third wave” agenda entails. All the 3rd wave/hip hop/”postfeminist” essays we read by Kristal Brent Zook, Joan Morgan, Kimberly Springer, Rebecca Walker, and Lisa Jones agreed that our black feminist agenda is not necessarily our mother’s agenda, though we need cross-generational conversations and alliances. They also put forth a feminist movement fluid enough to embrace the many flows that the end of the 20th century and the turn of the 21st has brought about: migratory flows, consumer capitalism, varied forms of cultural integration, more fluid racial and sexual identity categories …

So the question I posed to my class is “What can we agree upon?” Given that most self-proclaimed feminists desire a movement that will not require us to become fractions of ourselves, what constitutes a 21st century agenda?

There was a general consensus among our class that today’s black feminist movement must be an alliance between women and our male allies and must address class differences, colorism, gender and sexuality, the choice to marry (and to parent or not to parent) or remain single (with or without children). We also agreed that it is important to form coalitions with other black feminists in the black Atlantic/transnational sphere.

Some issues we decided a 21st century black feminist movement would need to address include:

  • the prison industrial complex (our sentiment is echoed by the work of Angela Davis and Joy James)
  • reproductive health and education, including access to birth control as well as safe and legal abortion
  • empowerment
  • intimate relationships among women, between women, and/or between women and men
  • the needs and lives of immigrant women
  • religion
  • violence against women

Some of these issues are a continuation of the rights fought for by our black feminist foremothers. Others, particular the rising numbers of black women and other women of color in prisons, are unique to our generation.

What other dilemmas does this generation of black feminists working, writing, and creating in the US face?


About jennifer williams

Jennifer D. Williams is a writer and professor of English and Women's and Gender Studies. She has published in academic journals and online at Ms.blog, PopMatters, among other sites. Jennifer is currently working on a book that looks at black women's urban literature between the Depression and the civil rights era.

2 responses to “21st century agenda

  1. Wow! You and your class came up with a great list. Love it.Piggybacking off of the general themes of bullet points #3 (empowerment) and #4 (relationships), I’d add them together to make something like “networking”.We’re strong as individuals, but we’re stronger as a collective group.And, not to mention — as with most things in life — who you know if often more important than what you know.

  2. You’re absolutely right FBC. Networking and coalition building are crucial.

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