Black feminist leadership

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Leadership is a major topic all over the world in different contexts. As far as the ‘blacks’ are concerned, for both the men and the women, there have been challenges on how they are to participate and be affected by leadership in their community, work place, etc. For the black women, they needed to make changes in the leadership in order to change the structure of the power that seems to oppress them. In this context a specific leadership model was established by the black women that would consider and prioritize on their plight for equality and better living conditions.

Leadership is considered to be a critical factor to black people. Most interest in the subject is the concept of the history of the African-American women. Sadly, most of the women are degenerated by the society and thus they do not have much working for them. As such, in understanding the African-American women, it would be critical to understand the commonality of the experiences that they all had to undergo as a major theme (Battle-Baptiste, 2017). Nonetheless, this should not be taken to be an inference that there is a generic African-American woman. In as much as these circumstances might foster the shaping of the black woman to the common experiences that they undergo.

Socio-demographic factors such as sexual orientation, class, age, ethnicity, might influence how the black women respond to the issues. On the same note, it is worth noting that world views do not remain stagnant. It is also important to note that these world views are affected by power shifts (Cohen & Jackson, 2016). As such, since these do take place often, it would also make sense to have black feminist leadership changing as well. Nonetheless, there are three specific dimensions as noted by Collins of Black Feminist Thought that are deemed to have great influence on leadership. These are the ethic of caring, the situation under which the struggle is taking place and finally the strategies employed in order to achieve internal empowerment. The latter includes safe spaces and self-determination.

Ethic of Caring

The ethic of caring is developed under the ideology that people are highly inclined towards social relations in the community as well as good relations and obligations towards other members of the community. Notably, it seems that the community and the self cannot be separated (Baker-Bell, 2017). As such, since they have a very blurry boundary, the two have to be considered together most of the time. Nonetheless, the ethic of care is considered to be quite important in Black Feminist leadership. In this ethic of care, relationships are nurtured. In this context, noticing and also responding to any need is considered to be important.

According to Cohen and Jackson (2016), the ethic of care is quite unique to women and it empowers them to offers unique and caring services and leadership. For instance, when it comes to recreational sports, the leisure settings are often set by the women due to this concept. As such, it would be noted that often, it is the women that will desire to fill such spots. Also, most of the women that would opt to serve in this capacity would consider it a career opportunity to offer their care yet make some money out of it. It is very typical of the African-American women to be caring and this has influenced their leadership through highly inclined towards feminism.

Situation of Struggle

The situation of struggle also dictates the ideology that the African-American women have around leadership. Originally, it should be noted that the African-American woman was highly inclined towards the ideology that there was a deep interrelationship between gender and race. As such, the situation of struggle surrounding these two major factor was a key determinant of their ideology around leadership and what it entailed (Lewis, 2017). Notably, it is clear and evident in the leadership by black women in executive positions in the business, healthcare, and communications sector. This was influenced and keeps being influenced by their ideology surrounding the tradition of struggle and the sexism as well as racism. Notably, there is no major change in this ideology in Black women despite the possibility of there being a great geographical location as well as socioeconomic status.

The struggle that was engineered in the past against sexism and racism is considered to be one of the core themes surrounding black woman’s ideology on leadership. Notably, there is an ideology surrounding the same issue that seems to indicated that the main theme was survival for the black female in a male dominated community that is filled with sexism and racism. As such, in order for the black women to survive in such a society, they have had to deal with the issue of gender, race, as well as social class. On a positive noted, the black woman has been determined to be resilient and well able to deal with such matters and to also overcome these kinds of challenges.

Internal Empowerment


The ideology around African-American Feminist Leadership was strongly founded on the premise that there was need to have women empowerment. More so, the most critical issue was that internal empowerment was deemed to be important. In this context, considering the way women are often vulnerable to assault when they are at the work place, at home and even in the streets, they are hard-pressed to shape their own future through the stimulation of a sense of self-reliance as well as independence (Cooper, 2016). It is noted that the image of the black women is consistently at risk of being defined based on third parties based on objectification as it is done in the society today. As such, the women are at a hard spot as they try to contend with the pressure to become what they are defined to be and to reconcile this with what they believe in the inside they are.

Self-determination in African-American Feminist leadership is critical since it is one tool that the women keep using in order to ‘find’ themselves. They seek to do so in a society that is filled with many definitions of what it believes a woman ought to be. As such, the black woman ought to be able to move beyond these definitions and to establish their own internal identity through being self-defined (Blackmore, 2013). This can and has been accomplished by the African-American woman through the strengthening of her true self and also shunning the other definitions. Notably, the woman is pressured to express and conform to the self-definition that determines and shapes her indicating subordination, marginalization, and denigration.

With the kind of pressure that the black women were facing in the streets, they were left no choice but to stand and fight for themselves. In this quest, the women had no choice but to see to it that they are empowered. As such, they redefined themselves and took action in order to ensure that they survive the onslaught by the society at large that was against them. For instance, the black women that were brought to the United States in the 1600s had to endure cruelties (Santamaría, 2014). These could only be classified as being horrifying and bizarre. The only option that the women had that could ensure their survival was to reinvent themselves. It was often seen then that the black women were quite self-forgiving. It was determined by some that the black women had duo consciousness (Santamaría, 2014). These adaptations were to facilitate their survival in harsh atmospheres that was lack of care and seemingly designed to frustrate them in the best way possible.

Safe Spaces

Due to the kind of harsh conditions that the black women had to experience, they had no choice other than to develop a safe place inside of them. In this safe place, they would find sanctity which enabled them to survive the harsh conditions that were perpetrated against them. Notably, not only were these places considered to be safe, they would also offer fortitude for the women to suppress and resists any form of objectification perpetrated against them (Santamaría, Jean-Marie & Grant, 2014). Also, these spaces are what shaped the women as well as the values that would impact and shape their leadership ideologies.

Although it was common to have domination in the society, it was quite hard to have hegemony in that particular space where the black women had found peace and freedom. In other words, the harsh conditions that the black women were subjected to did not totally change who they were. Matter of fact, these conditions contributed to the formation of the safe spaces which was nurtured by different external forces. One of the most important and common safe place that the black women created was the relationships that they had with other black women (Baker-Bell, 2017). These were considered to be critical and quite helpful whenever the women were undergoing stressful moments. They would lean on one another and gain strength knowing that they were not alone in their struggles. This also affected their leadership and it is quite clear why the African-American women are highly inclined towards maintaining relationships with other women.

As noted by Melancon  et al. (2015), black leadership is considered to be an internal issue that is to be dealt with by the members of the black community especially for the sake of the development of the black community. In the context of the work centers, the African-American Female leadership is basically founded on safe places. Nonetheless, the black women had to realize that they were contending with fact that they had intersectional identities. It is also important to note that the women had to deal with the appropriation of their bodies basically in order to please the white males.

Black women were considered to be the lowest in the community basically due their positioning based on the fact that they were sexually exploited and defeminized as well. They were also considered to be quite low in the political hierarchy. Instead of the women being subjected and used as bridges to better the lives of the black people, they were subjected to sexist and racist environments. Sadly, this was done even within race and gender based organizations. For instance, the Black women were denied full entrance into the suffrage movement by the White women. In such situations, blackness was considered to be detracting to oneself. In this context, it was believed and assumed that the White woman was the only ‘true’ woman. In the same context, the Black men had to undergo a similar fate.

Notably, the black women were also excluded from leadership and more so from the decision-making positions of authority. Sadly, this was even experienced in the Black empowerment movements that were started. Nonetheless, the Black women remained assertive of their right to participate in such movements and to also be heard. As such, there were few exceptions where the black women were included in positions of leadership in the Black movements. Nonetheless, they were denied the opportunity to address the members even when tey wanted to address issues that were pertaining the Black women. The men were categorical about their position in the movements and it almost seemed as if they were doing them a favor and not really appreciating the effort that was being made by the women in the movements. Nonetheless, since the women had unique characters that more than often the men did not, it was quite clear that they were needed. As such, they increasingly were included in positions of leadership and it is through such opportunities that they fought for their rights making it known to the men that they also had needs as well.

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  1. Baker-Bell, A. (2017). For Loretta: A Black Woman Literacy Scholar’s Journey to Prioritizing Self-Preservation and Black Feminist–Womanist Storytelling. Journal of Literacy Research49(4), 526-543.
  2. Battle-Baptiste, W. (2017). Black feminist archaeology. Routledge.
  3. Blackmore, J. (2013). A feminist critical perspective on educational leadership. International journal of leadership in education16(2), 139-154.
  4. Cohen, C. J., & Jackson, S. J. (2016). Ask a Feminist: A Conversation with Cathy J. Cohen on Black Lives Matter, Feminism, and Contemporary Activism. Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society41(4), 775-792.
  5. Cooper, B. C. (2016). But some of us are brave: Black women’s studies. The Feminist Press at CUNY.
  6. Lewis, B. (2017). Yearning: Black Female Academics, Everyday Black Women/Girls, and the Search for a Social Justice Praxis. Broadening the Contours in the Study of Black Politics: Political Development and Black Women, 83.
  7. Melancon, T., Braxton, J. M., Harris-Perry, M., Brown, K. J., & Patterson, C. J. (2015). Black female sexualities. Rutgers University Press.
  8. Santamaría, L. J. (2014). Grace at the top: A Black feminist perspective on critical leadership in the academy. The duality of women scholars of color: Transforming and being transformed in the academy, 119-136.
  9. Santamaría, L. J., Jean-Marie, G., & Grant, C. M. (Eds.). (2014). Cross-cultural Women Scholars in Academe: Intergenerational Voices. Routledge.
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