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On the cusp of the millennium, several books by young Black women ushered in a fresh perspective on Black womanhood. Writers like Joan Morgan, Lisa Jones, Dream Hampton, Tricia Rose, Rebecca Walker, and others, represented a new brand of post-civil rights, hip hop-influenced feminism that spoke to young women in ways in which older Black and White female writers could not.  The f-word was no longer a stance reserved for White women who wanted to get even with men. It was no longer the struggle in which our foremothers fought for inclusion. This new brand of feminism was relatable. It understood that we liked to look cute, have fun, discuss serious issues, and loved our brothas, despite their inherent privilege.

I remember reading When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost when it debuted and thinking that Joan Morgan was speaking FOR me. I loved hip hop, hard. It was my first crush, the soundtrack to my youth, it inspired my passion for writing, but I always felt some kind of way about the ease in which women were relegated to the sidelines. With the exception of a few dope women (Latifah, MC Lyte, Salt-n-Pepa, Lauryn), women were almost always seen as sidepieces and groupies.

But I kept listening. Even though I danced to its beats, would argue about who was the best emcee, and would defend hip hop like it was my big brother, I always felt uneasy about its willingness to label other women (because clearly, they couldn’t be talking about ME, right?) as bitches and hoes. Joan Morgan’s in-your-face exploration of women maturing in the age of hip hop articulated my own contradictory feelings about a culture I loved, but didn’t always love me.

This new brand of feminism understood that the struggle of women wasn’t about hating men. It wasn’t about writing them off and branding them as enemies. Our feminism—as beneficiaries of many movements of equality—was about claiming our voice, articulating our worth, and fighting our own, modern, battles.

In the introduction of Chickenheads, Morgan challenged herself and her peers to stop complaining about what needed to be changed and just take action and change it. She laid down the gauntlet when she warned that “relying on older heads to redefine the struggle to encompass our generation’s issues is not only lazy but dangerous.”

*Record scratch*

I think we just got called out, too.

Rereading Chickenheads a decade after it first burst on the scene made me nostalgic. I missed the feeling I used to get from listening to my big brother rap about more than just bitches and Bentleys. And I missed the innovative conversations that Black women were having through their writing. Since Morgan’s Chickenheads, Lisa Jones’ Bulletproof Diva, and Rebecca Walker’s To Be Real, few books (only Tracy Sharply-Whiting’s Pimps Up, Hoes Down, Tricia Rose’s Longing To Tell, and Gwendolyn D. Pough’s Home Girls Make Some Noise comes to mind) have been published that explored feminism and Black womanhood through our eyes.

The relative silence lead me to ask . . . where are our sisters’ voices?

I ran this question through my mind and realized that conversations were, in fact, being had. However, instead of the call and response happening on the printed page under the control of corporate publishing houses, we were taking our voices directly to the people, using the internet to carve out our own definitions of who we are and what we want as women.

Who got next?

Since the internet blew up, women have taken to their computers to express themselves and further the discourse regarding race, gender and class. Several have followed the tradition of our third-wave feminist big sisters and fearlessly jumped head-first into the (sometimes very thorny) waters.

So whom should you be checking for? Here are some sistas who aren’t afraid to put it all out there and intelligently critic the world in which we live.

  • Helena Andrews: Helena is a journalist, blogger, and author of the clever essay collection, Bitch is the New Black. As a blogger for The Root and Politics Daily, she critiques pop culture and sheds light on what’s it’s like to be a young, Black, successful woman in Washington D.C. Think Carrie Bradshaw meets Joan Clayton. All heart and wit and awesomeness.
  • Renina Jarmon: The tagline of Renina’s blog, New Model Minority, says it all: “Thugs + Feminists + Boom Bap.” Renina is a doctoral candidate whose work focuses on the ways in which gender, race, and power are at work in our culture. Never scared of controversial topics, she consistently challenges conventional notions about Black women. Renina is comfortable in any sphere, whether it’s talking hip hop or breaking down the work of philosopher Albert Camus. Reminiscent of Joan Morgan’s work, Renina has taken the baton from our big sisters and run with it.
  • RacialiciousRacialicious explores the intersections of race and pop culture. Blog editor Latoya Peterson and company cover everything from current hot topics (such as Dr. Laura’s “Nigger” problem), to discussions of TV shows, commercials, and other media sources that feature minorities. The aim of Racialicious is to hold the media accountable for questionable images of people of color. This collective blog is an amazing source for intelligent critiques and discussions regarding how we are viewed in the public realm.
  • Jamilah Lemieux: You may know Jamilah by her sassy alias, Sister Toldja. Jamilah, the self-described “hip hop Denise Huxtable,” writes about love, race, and new-wave feminism on her blog, The Beautiful Struggler. Never one to shy away from a taboo topic, Toldja gained national acclaim for her open letter to Tyler Perry, which earned her an appearance on NPR’s All Things Considered. Jamilah’s blog is equal parts dating diary, pop culture critique, and feminist manifesto.
  • The Crunk Feminist Collective: The name alone should have your fingers Googling. This group of women (and men!) confront sexism head on in a blog that aims to build camaraderie among feminists of the hip hop generation whether they’re straight or gay, male or female, and, or, anywhere in between. Like the others, this blog critiques pop culture, politics, and music through the lens of modern Black feminism. This collective is not only crunk, they’re amazingly brilliant.

When one door closes, Black women break through walls. Although the conversation may have been silenced in print, we are taking control of our voices, sharing perspectives and building communities online.  When we are running the show, no one is able to put us in a box or control how we define ourselves. Say word.

Who are the women you’re checking for?

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  • I absolutely love this piece, Britni (for more reasons than the fact that I’m a huge fan of your work!). The writers you mention are incredible women whom I’ve long adored for giving an unapologetic voice to our fears, frustrations, dedication and love of OUR culture. I’m forever grateful to them for that; many of the women you mentioned from back in the day were—and continue to be—inspirations to my writing career, and I’m so pleased that you introduced the next generation. I love their voices, too, and I’m going to make a point of supporting them.

    I think it’s equally important to support the voices of women of color who are trying to make a difference for our kids. Many of the women who paved the way are mothers, and I think it’s high time that as we talk about the culture, art, womanhood, etc., as it relates to the rearing of the next generation. It’s a critical conversation, indeed.

    Again, thanks for an insightful, thoughtful article!

  • ms_micia

    Black feminist thought is something that hasn’t caught mainstream appeal yet, which is a shame and a pity. It breaks my heart to hear young ladies say the “F” word as if there’s some sort of negative connotation with being proud and informed of your feminine nature. Picture what that would sound like if we were talking about race. The so called “Black” movement would sound absurd. I am just as much a woman (and just as discriminated for that fact) than I am black. The compound of both is a unique dilemma that needs a stage and a voice. In my humble opinion great black authors (male or female) are disappearing from print. And that may just be because print itself is dying in it’s hard copy form (i.e books magazines ect..). I applaud anyone bringing provoking and original thought to the forefront of youth consciousness. There is an ongoing battle we face as intelligent persons against the “status-quo” and those who assume all young people don’t care about what’s going on in the world or with themselves for that matter. I’m a firm believer that THIS generation needs to become more involved with something outside of what mass media is giving attention to if we are ever to see real radical change. Change your mind, change the world. Oh and a good black feminist author to look up is who i consider the mama of black feminist thought ms. bellhooks. Google her, look up her books in the library. It’s a very good place to start if your trying to figure what the black feminist movement has to do with “you” as a young black woman in America, or anywhere where Western culture has a large influence. Love and learn my sisters. It makes for a beautiful world.

  • Lauren

    What the f–k does hip-hop have to do with wanting to be a feminist?!! There’s not a damn thing stopping you from doing that other than the fact that a lot of WHITE feminist ignore and abandon any female who does fit their ‘criteria’. But you all don’t feel the need to yack about THAT incessantly! This whole woe is me hip-hop is sooooo bad meme is getting older than dirt and not only is it tiresome but racist,hypocritcal and pandering to the white heiarchy. Trick please nobody gave a DAMN about it until white kids starting listening now all of a sudden everbody’s got standards and wants to play ‘polly pureheart’ what a crock of stuff!! You all are so damn concerned about the plight of black women and our image then why is it you NEVER criticize Hollywweird?! You act as if there were no rappers saying ‘bitches and hoes’ there would be NOONE saying WRONG! They say it all the damn time in Hollowood movies as well as showcase women going through every sick,violent,perverted,disturbing,despicable,horrifying,what the f–k type of murders. Unless you all see NOTHING wrong with a women being stabbed to death with a pitchfork or the countless beer commercials,porn mags,glorification of Hugh Hefner,video games,movies,adult movies,comedians,reality shows,tv shows,awards shows,etc. . No you all say nothing about THAT kind of behavior and what exactly is ‘black male privilege’ is that what Oscar Grant,Amadou Diallo,Bernard Monroe,Micheal Stewart,and Malice Green get to enjoy?!! Or is it more something you tell yourself because ANY man from any group supposedly has power no matter how piddly as hell it is. Instead of whining all the time and picking on a ‘safe’ scapegoat you all should instead be looking for REAL solutions!

  • bluefade

    Thank you, thank you for this very informative article. I loved it.

  • Lisalis

    Great article! Thank you so much for hipping me to these new (and not so new) voices.