About 30 Towson Freedom School members discussed the importance of including a black perspective in feminist dialogue at their weekly meeting in the Lecture Hall on October 6.
Titled “The Movement and #BlackGirlMagic,” it was the group’s third meeting of the semester. The focus of the meeting was to recognize different identities within feminist movements and to further dismantle stereotypes toward black women, especially at Towson University.
“It’s important for us to recognize the ways different identities struggle with blackness more,” said John Gillespie, a student and founder of the Freedom School. “I’m trying to change the fact that these identities are not necessarily centralized as well as they should be at Towson.”
Attendees split into five smaller groups to discuss two readings by writer and civil rights activist Audre Lorde, a self-described “black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet.”
The first reading, “The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House,” discussed both the lack of inclusion of the black perspective in feminism and the importance of recognizing racial differences and using them to collaborate in feminist movements.
In the reading, Lorde said that when white feminists deny these differences, they perpetuate societal oppression and stall any radical change.
“We need to recognize that what we should be unified under is our difference,” said Gillespie. “It should be a space where differences are used as a deconstructive tool to dismantle whiteness. Integration is not enough if ultimately what integration means is to be white.”
The second reading, “Sexism: An American Disease in Blackface,” discussed the lack of acceptance by the patriarchy for intersectionality within black women.
Group members agreed that oftentimes, black women are forced to choose between different parts of their identity to fit a certain stereotype of what a black woman should be.
“I don’t want to fit the stereotype of what a black woman is supposed to be,” said Dymond Hamlin, a student Freedom School member. “I just want to come into myself and add to the definition of a black woman.”
The group used this reading to move into a conversation about the over-sexualization of women. They agreed that some feminist campaigns encourage women to sexualize themselves in order to feel empowered, but that this technique does not force any real change.
“There’s a lot of really mainstream feminism that says if you dress up and look pretty for men, then you’ll be empowered,” said Feriell Hayton, a student Freedom School member. “Using what’s used against you to feel empowered won’t work.”
Gillespie organized the Freedom School this semester to encourage the university to institute a black studies major on campus and to provide a space outside of the classroom for discussion of black studies.
Towson Freedom School meets every Thursday from 6:30 p.m.to 8 p.m. in the Lecture Hall.
Next week’s meeting will focus on civil disobedience in a training session led by Baltimore Bloc Coordinator Ralikh Hayes.
“Everyone should be here,” said Chenise Calhoun, a student Freedom School member. “It’s not just for black people, it’s for everyone, because everyone should have their minds dismantled.”