In a recent article for Essence.com, The Write or Die Chick voices her support for Harry Belafonte’s stance regarding a dearth of activism among black celebs and younger generations in general. The piece particularly takes black women to task for their strides (or lack thereof) to take up the mantel of foremothers like Dorothy Height and Coretta Scott King:

There are plenty of women who volunteer for, evangelize and perpetuate the same rabble-rousing agenda that our grandmothers and mothers in activism did decades ago. They exist. They care. They do the work. You probably have some in your community because they pop up on the news from time to time and are the face of making things right in the modern-day. I’m not saying they don’t exist at all. Just not on the scale and magnitude that they used and need to.

While the look, shape, and scope of black women’s activism may have changed, it seems disingenuous, if not inaccurate, to argue that the scale and magnitude have downsized. Perhaps we make a mistake when we expect activism to be highly visible or publicized. We aren’t fighting the same causes under the same circumstances that the women who preceded us did, and organizing around those causes is done online or one-on-one more than it’s done via rally or door-knocking or taking-it-to-the-streets. There are occasions that call for vigils and marches and picketing, but the most significant change is often done on paper, in boardroom meetings, in fundraising.

Earlier this year, for Women’s History Month, The Root amassed a list of the country foremost black women activists. They are bloggers, health advocates, legal and policy analysts, youth leaders, and social justice proponents. That list only begins to scratch the surface of black women’s involvement in social, political, health, and educational policy change. Consider Melissa Harris-Perry (and at least one-third of her weekly panelists on MSNBC, who are minority women, chosen to speak about the causes they study and champion every day). Consider the writers and organizers of the Black Youth Project website, out of University of Chicago’s Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture. Consider Esther Armah’s Emotional Justice Movement or the countless scholars like Joan MorganDr. Tracy Sharpley-Whiting, and Dr. Blair M. Kelley, who actively work to help our culture reshape its attitudes toward women, toward history, toward politics..

Sure, this is still only a small sampling of women activists, but the scale and the magnitude of their work is certainly comparable to the women who’ve come before them–in fact, in many cases, because of those women, their scope can and has been much greater. And these are only the visible women–the ones about whom we’re aware. If there isn’t enough “visible” activism going on in your community, fair enough. But just because it isn’t highly visible doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.


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  • Pseudonym

    I have not heard one single report one black women’s apathy, so yes, its supposed existence-as presented in this article- it completely exaggerated.

  • I really like this post and the author makes a valid point: “We aren’t fighting the same causes under the same circumstances that the women who preceded us did, and organizing around those causes is done online or one-on-one more than it’s done via rally or door-knocking or taking-it-to-the-streets.” I read the Harris article that the author references and agreed. But as I read this, and considered the change of times, I had a change of mind. This post is very true and something to consider! LOVE IT!

  • I didn’t feel like the comment about Bey and J defined social responsibility as anything in particular. I have had a few discussions about what Bey stands for because I haven’t really seen her take on a cause or truly stand up for anything in a major way. I see Jada Pinkett out here standing up against human trafficking and other celebs using their star power to really get issues addressed. There are still too many people who are unaware of the issues pressing and plaguing our community. Bey and others have such a huge fan base that just spreading the word about things and stressing their importance could possibly make a difference in the future. I’d like to think that they are at least discussing solutions to poverty, education set backs and other things with other power players but who knows.

  • hmmmmm

    Stop deflecting. She is right and I say this while being a fan of many of the women you named. And if she said the same thing about black men she would be dead-on as well.