Strong, Black, Female

I most sincerely doubt if any other race of women could have brought its fineness up through so devilish a fire.--W.E.B. DuBois

They became the linchpin between two of the most important social reform movements in American history: the struggles for black rights and women's rights.--Paula Giddings

Though known to be the glue that keeps the African-American community together, black women--their struggle and their importance--have historically been marginalized. Once again making history by themselves, black women gathered in Philadelphia this past Saturday for the Million Woman March. The event attracted hundreds of thousands of black women from all over the country in a powerful show of solidarity. But this coming together of black females has not received the media attention it deserves. The Million Man March, two years ago, was a highly publicized event, in part because it was sponsored by the controversial leader of the Nation of Islam, Louis Farrakan.

By contrast, the Million Woman March was organized entirely at the grass roots level and publicized by word of mouth and the Internet; but as a result, few people other than those who attended the event had even heard of it. It is further evidence of the resilience and strength of the female black community that so many women turned out to march in the drizzle, especially in the absence of extensive media coverage and powerful black American leaders.

Fourteen women from Harvard, including 12 Harvard-Radcliffe undergraduates boarded a Greyhound Friday night and headed for Philadelphia to display their proximity to the struggle black women face in America today. Sophomore Pforzheimer House resident from Miami and secretary of the Association of Black Radcliffe Women (ABRW), Edidiong N. Ikpe, and junior Leverett House resident from Brooklyn Oni J. Blackstock, shared their experience with me.


Why did you make the trip to Philadelphia this weekend?

ENI: I thought that this was something I needed to partake in, because first of all, it's a pioneer event in history...and second of all, I just felt like anything that involved black female unity or a group of women getting together to talk about our empowerment was important for me to be a part of.

OJB: It was just definitely my calling...there was no question when I heard of this that I would definitely go....It was a feeling of sisterhood, I knew it would be an overwhelming, intense experience....Just stepping out into Philadelphia and knowing I was there along with literally hundreds of thousands of black women, I just wanted to scream.

Were you bothered by the fact that the Million Woman March was not a highly publicized event? That very few people had heard of it?

ENI: Extremely bothered. I always see dual standards when it comes to things like this.... You see the men's issues dealing with black people publicized, [and not the women's]. And this aggravated me because I think that this was simply just as important. It was almost insulting because it was taking away from its importance.

Was the meaning of the March, to you, to send a message to the country about black female unity, or to be united as black women for black women?

ENNI: I would have to definitely say both.... You could even link the two: to send out a message to the nation in our unity.

OJB: I think it [spoke to] our role in society and what we have to bring to our communities.... A lot of people would say that our communities are in crisis, and we have to step forward to the challenge, and take responsibility, and say we're going to make our communities better.

ENI: And that we're very serious about it, and that's our message.

Black women have historically been seen as the backbone of the black community. What can you and the others who gathered in Philadelphia take back to your communities from this show of solidarity?