African Diaspora

Africana Womanism; What is it, How is it? and Why is it?

“Africana Womanism” is a term coined in the late 1980s by Clenora Hudson-Weems, intended as an ideology applicable to all women of African descent. It is grounded in African culture and Afrocentrism and focuses on the experiences, struggles, needs, and desires of Africana women of the African diaspora. It distinguishes itself from feminism, or Alice Walker’s womanism.

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Dr. Clenora Hudson-Weems:

“Africana Womanism is a term I coined and defined in 1987 after nearly two years of publicly debating the importance of self-naming for Africana women. Why the term ‘Africana Womanism’? Upon concluding that the term ‘Black Womanism’ was not quite the terminology to include the total meaning desired for this concept, I decided that ‘Africana Womanism,’ a natural evolution in naming, was the ideal terminology for two basic reasons. The first part of the coinage, Africana, identifies the ethnicity of the woman being considered, and this reference to her ethnicity, establishing her cultural identity, relates directly to her ancestry and land base—Africa. The second part of the term Womanism, recalls Sojourner Truth’s powerful impromptu speech ‘Ain’t I a Woman?’, one in which she battles with the dominant alienating forces in her life as a struggling Africana Woman, questioning the accepted idea of womanhood. Without question she is the flip side of the coin, the co-partner in the struggle for her people, one who, unlike the white woman, has received no special privileges in American society.”

Africana Womanist ideology contributes to Afrocentric discourse. Africana womanism fundamental foundation is built on traditional Africana philosophy and values, and Afrocentric theories.

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Lastly, Nah Dove (1998), “African Womanism: An Afrocentric Theory”, credits Hudson-Weems and other scholars in shaping the Africana womanist model. Dove asserts:

A concept [Africana Womanism] that has been shaped by the work of women such as Clenora Hudson-Weems, Ifi Amadiume, Mary E. Modupe Kolawole, and others. African womanism may be viewed as fundamental to the continuing development of Afrocentric theory. Africana womanism brings to the forefront the role of African mothers as leaders in the struggle to regain, reconstruct, and create a cultural integrity that espouses the ancient Maatic principles of reciprocity, balance, harmony, justice, truth, righteousness, order, and so forth.

The Africana Womanism Society lists eighteen characteristics of the The Africana womanist, including self-naming, self-defining, family-centered, flexible and desiring positive male companionship.

The Africana Womanist concept was best exemplified in Brenda Verner’s (1994) article “The Power and Glory of Africana Womanism”:

Africana Womanism in essence says: We love men. We like being women. We love children. We like being mothers. We value life. We have faith in God and the Bible. We want families and harmonious relationships. We are not at war with our men seeking money, power and influence through confrontation. Our history is unique. We are the inheritors of African-American women’s history, and as such we shall not redefine ourselves nor that history to meet some politically correct image of a popular culture movement, which demands the right to speak for and redefine the morals and mores of all racial, cultural and ethnic groups. Nor shall we allow the history to be “shanghied” to legitimatize the “global political agenda” of others. We reject the status of victim. Indeed, we are victors, Sisters in Charge of our own destiny. We are Africana culture-keepers: Our primary obligation is to the progress of our cultural way of life through the stability of family and the commitment to community. The practice of cultural womanism is not limited to Africana women. Italian, Japanese, Hispanic, East Indian, Arab, Jewish women, etc., all utilize this approach to decision-making, and know the value of maintaining indigenous cultural autonomy. The rite of passing generation-to-generation knowledge free from outside manipulation, coercion or intimidation insures traditional integrity, which fosters a climate of cultural security. Traditional cultures should not be obligated to bow to redefinitions foisted upon them by elitist entities that gain their authority via the drive of well-organized “media hype.”

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The following are the eighteen culturally derived Africana Womanist characteristics:

(1) The Africana womanist can be SELF-NAMING—accessing herself, naming herself and her movement;

(2) The Africana womanist is SELF-DEFINING, which she defines her reality and community in terms of their Africana cultural experiences;

(3) The Africana womanist is FAMILY-CENTERED, as she is more concerned with her entire family rather that with just herself and her sisters;

(4) The Africana womanist is IN CONCERT WITH MALES in the broader struggle for humanity and the liberation of all Africana people. The idea of the intertwined destiny of Africana men, women, and children is directly related to the notion of the dependency upon the male sector in the participation of the Africana womanist’s struggle for herself and her family;

(5) The Africana womanist is a FLEXIBLE ROLE PLAYER. This is a controversial topic today due to the predicament of the Africana man and woman, which dates back to American slavery, when neither partner was free to act out the defined roles of men and women as set forth by the dominant culture;
(6) The Africana womanist GENUINE IN SISTERHOOD. This sisterly bond is a reciprocal one, one in which each gives and receives equally;

(7) The Africana womanist comes from a long tradition of psychological as well as physical STRENGTH. She/he has persevered centuries of struggling for her/himself and family;

(8) The Africana womanist MALE COMPATIBLE, and seeks a relationship in which each individual is mutually supportive, an important part of positive Africana family;

(9) The Africana womanist commands RESPECT for herself in order to acquire true self-esteem and self worth, which in turn enables her, among other things, to have complete and positive relationship with all people;

(10) The Africana womanist must insist upon RECOGNITION of her humanness so that she may more effectively fulfill her role as a positive and responsible co-partner in the overall Africana struggle;

(11) The African womanist seeks WHOLENESS (completeness);

(12) The African womanist is AUTHENTIC (cultural connected) in her life;

(13) The Africana Womanist is SPIRITUAL and thus, believes in a higher power that transcends rational ideals, which is an ever-present part of Africana culture;

(14) The Africana Womanist demonstrates RESPECT AND APPRECIATION FOR ELDERS, insisting that her young do likewise. This respect and appreciate for elders is another continuum of African culture;

(15) The Africana womanist is ADAPTABLE, and demands no separate space for nourishing her individual needs and goals, while in the twentieth-century feminist movement, there is the white feminist’s insistence upon personal space;

(16) The Africana womanist is AMBITIOUS and demonstrates responsibility, highly important in the life of the Africana womanist, for her/his family, too, depends on these qualities in her;

(17) The Africana Womanist is committed to the art of MOTHERING her own children in particular and humankind in general. This collective role is supreme in Africana culture, for the Africana woman comes from a legacy of fulfilling the role supreme Mother Nature—nurturer, provider, and protector; and

(18) The Africana Womanist is a NUTURER and consistent in doing what must be done for the survival of the family, a commitment grounded in and realized through a positive sense of history, familihood, and security. (Hudson-Weems, 1998)

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