The Passionate Fruit

women, narratives, and social justice within constructed spaces of blackness

women, slavery, and resistance in the African Diaspora

Addressing Inequality through Conflict Resolution in Portland, Oregon

Rachel Rustad

BST 450U: Female Resistance Personalities in the African Diaspora

Professor Clare Washington

Final Exam Essay

16 August 2008

Essay 4: The experiences of Caribbean women are of growing interest to scholars as well as writers, and are often compared with the experiences of North American women. The various political, economic, racial, and gender inequalities that have plagued societies in both regions provide common ground for such comparisons. However, there are aspects of the Caribbean experience that are unique. Compare and contrast the experiences of Caribbean women to women in the United States with regard to race and other situations that brought on different forms of resistance movements and rebellions.

Historically and today, where there is oppression there is also resistance. Beginning in the 15th century during the age of exploration and conquest and continuing in its brutality until the late 20th century (and due to globalization…

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A forgotten battleground: Women’s bodies and the civil rights movement | Women Under Siege Project

A forgotten battleground: Women’s bodies and the civil rights movement | Women Under Siege Project.

Lucille Clifton: won’t you celebrate with me

ImageI attended a yoga retreat designed for women of color in 2010 and the experience was spectacular. To date, I am in contact with several of the sisters from that magical weekend in the Georgia mountains in Dahlonegna.  Ba-by, the Great Mother was working wonders.

As I’m in the throws of transition not unlike the process of transition that women experience when in labor, I was reacquainted with this wonderful poem gifted to me by one of the sisters from the retreat, Octavia.  I have yet to meet a woman graced with the name Octavia that is not powerful beyond measure.

She wrote the following on the back of the poem,

“I keep this poem close to me–

I just wanted to share it with you–“

I am extending the gift, passing the blessings on to those that stop by

The Passionate Fruit:


won’t you celebrate with me

By: Lucille Clifton

won’t you celebrate with me

what i have shaped into a kind of life?

i had no model.

born in babylon

both nonwhite and woman

what did i see to be except myself?

i made it up here on this bridge between

starshine and clay,

my one hand holding tight

my one hand;

come celebrate with me

that everyday something

has tried to kill me

and has failed.

I’m Friends with Me

I'm Friends with Me

Wounds of Passion

bell hooks takes her reader on a remarkable journey of writing, love, and sexuality from her first contact with this awareness growing up in rural Georgia through her Professorship and beyond.  While all along the way demonstrating for us how one might navigate, negotiate, translate and deconstruct engagements with love.  Not only love of another but also love of self, community, and journey.

Sisters have consistently since slavery managed both their individual and gendered sexuality.  I would argue that since slavery Black women have experienced the need to navigate a socially constructed defining spectrum that spans from hypersexualized, with a beast like insatiable appetite for sex through the “clean good girl”. Her legacy unfolds as a pathway for the lineage of the African slave to thrive.  Black women are the masters of “taking one for the team” meaning, sacrificing her mind and body so that the collective might reach beyond survival to thrive.  I will say that the Mission is accomplished, yes there still exists various vulnerable and both inequitable issues among the community; however, when compared to our Ancestral beginnings in America…we are thrivers.

The American Black woman has spent her existence in a metaphorical hard hat and work boots deconstructing this mythicized sexual identity, to create an identity that Grandmothers often framed, “stepping out of the gutter smelling like a rose” once again as a collective this time sacrificing her individual sexual identity and her womb power.

I see a new opportunity on the horizon with the young warrior princess as she demonstrates what it can look like to unleash sexual individuality, a love and uninhibited sense with body.  However, I believe in order to engage in this sexual identity, there must be some sort of intergenerational conversation among Sisters.  A discussion that intersects a reprieve from the historicity of sexuality defined for Black women with the sacred power of the womb and the freedom to embrace an individual sexual identity.

A Sister Circle: Alice Walker, Sonia Sanchez & Ruby Dee discuss “Their Eyes Were Watching God”

Alice Walker, Sonia Sanchez & Ruby Dee on “Their Eyes Were Watching God” » onlineJournal | The Liberator Magazine.

Each of these fierce women, Alice, Sonia, & Ruby Dee in their own rite share a unique Ancestral covenant with Zora Neale Hurston.  I would argue Alice Walker’s call from the Great Femine, the Sibyls happened during her discovery of Zora’s unmarked grave.

For Sonia Sanchez, the call from Zora came on an underground journey as a young woman.  The young Sonia emerged, guided by this powerful Ancestral force into the Harlem, NY, and met her messenger “Up From Slavery”, through “The Souls of Black Folks”, and together, “Their Eyes Were Watching God.”

Ruby Dee spoke Zora’s purpose and revealed our purpose, us as her lineage.  Ruby Dee said, “she [Zora] brings us to essences, brings us to the beginning, she brings us to the reasons for being here that we have not considered.”  Ruby Dee explains that through Zora she over-stands the greater purpose for the Africans of the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade and their legacy. It is a momentous responsibility, an order that could have only been Divinely sanctioned.  She proposes that we were brought to the Americas to demonstrate the nature of the human character.  That’s what’s up, how profound.

I wish for you the level or deeper of enrichment and fulfillment that I received after viewing the Sister Circle.


Code-switching to thrive

Jacqueline Roebuck Sakho

Tami Winfrey Harris in an article on the Psychology Today website discusses code-switching broadly and specifically, how various subgroups within the African-American community engage in this survival mechanism.  The author provides an excerpt about code-switching and African-American women and how we utilize the social mechanism to survive.  I reflected on my own experiences with code-switching and discovered that in reframing it as both a supportive and empowerment tool shifts the mechanism from survival to thriving.

Find Winfrey Harris’s article here “What’s so wrong with sounding black?” in her series “Exploring race bias in our everyday lives” at Psychology Today online.

Retrieved from Google Images 8/21/12

I Code-switch

I have engaged in code-switching to survive in the dominant culture and now, I engage because I’ve grown and fallen in love with the creative complexity of Black folk speech.  I love to speak the eloquence of the streets, here in using “streets” I am expressing that I most often encounter the verbal dance in black neighborhoods or in areas where black folks are heavily populated.

I love to speak with the poetic rhythm that rolls of my hood tongue turned scholar speech with much the same romanticism as Zora, and them.  Simple phrases cause the intellect to activate like when folks inquire, “What’s good?”  I feel the joy through their smile and discern that my kindred would like to know how I might be feeling in the present and long-term or wondering what’s new in my world.  Coming from a different inquirer, this call can suggest that I engage in a rousing bout of flirtation.  When spoken from those lips, my response, tone and disposition are inviting and now alluring because to participate in code-switching requires the entire being.  So when he calls, “What’s good?” I respond, “You.”  Before I can complete the period and quotation mark, I can feel a roaring thunder rumbling up to respond, “That’s what’s up!” as a way to acknowledge approval of what is heard, or spoken.

Code-switching to thrive can resuscitate the whimsical challenge, the dance of courtship.  Recently while traveling I encountered a fellow traveler, a Brother that commented, “I like your luggage.” My response, “I like you…now what?” He smiled with delight, I smiled with approval and we set off to destinations unknown but I would suspect stronger and better able to navigate our struggles in the world.

Reverse Code-switching?

Retrieved from Google Images 8/21/12

Reverse code-switching, not sure if this language even exists but is reflective of how I take African American Vernacular English (AAVE) to the dominant culture.  I was in a meeting advocating for a parent and her daughter around Special Education services for Epilepsy.  In a prior meeting the team agreed to invite a representative from the local Epilepsy Foundation to provide training for school personnel.  The training had not taken place since the prior meeting and a team member shared that the representative did come to the school but only provided flyers and did not make any further inquiries.  I know the representatives politics as it relates to Epilepsy along with their work ethic.  I named the representative and said, “doesn’t get down like that.”  I then proceeded to engage the team in the structure of formal register, the language that regulates formal processes. The family is African American, the majority of the team and the Epilepsy Foundation representative not in attendance, are White folks.  So not so much that I move between cultures only speaking formal register in structured settings and AAVE or causal register in safe and familiar settings, but more so incorporating AAVE in settings that are designed for formal register hence, the interruption.

The above narrative demonstrates how I understand reverse Code-switching.  Reverse code-switching interrupts the space that language holds within inequitable dimensions of power, creating a place which values AAVE  as a cultural difference with capital.

The Matriarch

The Matriarch…

The fuck I care about having the body of a model…

that’s not my purpose, I walk a different path.

I required a vessel with the capacity to birth 6 warriors into this world.

with the strength to transform their socially constructed blackness given to them at birth,

back to their inherent greatness given at conception,

To over-stand their situatedness

to fulfill their Order,

Orders, to lead the next 7 generations of the King

and 2 of the 6 beings are daughters who shared the Womb together, and one of whom entered this world with a veil over her eyes…power

which means…

during the gestation of these future Queens,

I created my grandchildren’s children, my legacy, hence

I Am the Matriarch…

Bow down when I or my Sisters sway through,

with hips and thighs,

that only the King in the man is given keys to unlock,

a force of power to bear down and squat,

I Am the Matriarch.

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