“... while there are other spaces that allow for us to share our stories, I hope that you look into their origins and principles to ensure the sincerity of their missions to center the stories- your stories-
that they are collecting.”
We started this community 13 months ago and many similar spaces have been created since then. My fear used to be that similar spaces would emerge and Feminessay would quickly be forgotten. I wondered how we would remain relevant when people and organizations with more money, bigger networks, and even bigger names behind them finally decided that Black women’s stories were important. That fear quickly dissipated when I remembered the principles that Feminessay is built upon- principles that are the cornerstone of everything that we do, infallibly sincere in centering Black women’s stories, and available to any and everyone who supports voicing and sharing our narratives as widely and honestly as possible.
Patricia Hill Collins, a Black feminist scholar who is one of my most admirable role models, developed thinking around Black feminist thought that is woven throughout the Feminessay mission. The ideas of intersectionality and flexible solidarity are key concepts that make it possible for so many people of various backgrounds to interact with and be a part of this community, whether they identify as Black women or not. You see, to be a Black woman means so much more than having skin that is a shade of brown. It means more than having a hair texture that is typically associated with Africa and members of the African diaspora. In many cases, it means none of those things at all. If you read the stories that are shared here, many of them do not mention skin, hair, or any other phenotypically “Black” features. So, what then makes a Black woman? What allows one to call herself by such a name and to be regarded, respected, and allowed to have her stories centered here?
These are the questions that I asked myself before creating this community. And so I read the work of Black feminists like Patricia Hill Collins, Kimberle Crenshaw, Audre Lorde, Toni Morrison, and Nikki Giovanni. I realized that intersectionality must be integral to this community because what makes me a Black woman is different from what makes you or anyone else a Black woman. In Beloved, by Toni Morrison stated that “definitions belong to the definers, not the defined.” The definition of “Black woman” is not a choice that I or anyone else makes for you. My Blackness has as much to do with my race as it does with my gender- both of which constantly interact with other social factors that determine my daily decisions and outcomes in life, making my story of Black womanhood different from yours, hers, theirs, and the next person’s. It is why whenever you submit a piece on this site, you self-identify as a Black woman first and foremost. It is in your writing- in the stories that you share- that you express the different things that make you a Black woman as an individual.
I wonder if, in other spaces, this thinking was a cornerstone of their development and not some trendy afterthought in light of current events. Your power and authority to determine who you are, what stories are told and shared, and in what spaces those stories are collected should not be taken for granted. I appreciate that Feminessay was developed, built up, informed by, and continues to be influenced and led by Black women and other women of color. It is important that it always has been and it always will be. It is also important that as a space that centers Black women’s stories, we also collaborate, appreciate, and welcome those who are interested in supporting this work. It is why I appreciate when my friends and colleagues who happen to be white send me emails, texts, voice messages, and share Feminessay posts on social media. It is why it is important that the men in my life eventually feel comfortable enough to ask me “Can a man be a feminist?” Yes. Yes to all of it.
Feminessay has allowed those who otherwise may have never known, cared, or taken the chance to explore, to see, read, and feel our stories. There is no algorithm curating the number of eyes who get to see what is shared here. There is no corporate team strategizing ways to turn this into some mega-marketing machine. And while there are other spaces that allow for us to share our stories, I hope that you look into their origins and principles to ensure the sincerity of their missions to center the stories- your stories- that they are collecting. Likewise, I hope that we all continue to take pride in the words that we share with communities that truly aim to spotlight and highlight the people who know the value of our narratives. While this community is created for us and by us, I see no problem with the impact of this space reaching far beyond us to invite and collaborate with friends and allies who want to help further the mission of centering our stories. Feminessay will exist as long as Black women all over the world continue to support, question, critique, and desire to build up and improve this community. I look at all of the Black women who continue to choose this space to share and many, many others who have yet to do so, and I have no fear that anything or anyone will ever be able to render this space irrelevant.
— Tiye Naeemah Cort,
Founder + Global Editor-in-Chief