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  • Writer's pictureAlli Myatt

Day 1 - 28 Love Letters to Black Women

February 1

"The most disrespected person in America is the Black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the Black woman. The most neglected person in America is the Black woman.” - Malcolm X

I've noticed a trend in so-called DEI work. Often the origins of the scholarship that guides philosophies and the work is not cited. More often than not, these ideas were created by Black women. In fact when I was introduced to the idea of developing consciousness before action by DEI practitioners (names left out to protect the innocent and the guilty), they told me and others that these ideas were from "Black feminists," never naming the authors beyond that. I would repeat this loose citation in my own work. It wasn't until I read the original texts that I learned the referenced Black feminists were Dr. Barbara Love, Barbara Smith, and bell hooks. Are their names not important to know?

Now you may not think it matters that we name whose ideas influence our own. After all, ideas germinate in many ways and sometimes it's hard to identify where an idea originated. Despite that, I think it is extraordinarily important to cite the scholarship of Black women. Research shows you are less likely to remember the words and contributions of Black women. This under-attribution and lack of credit Black women receive means we are often not compensated or promoted at work as our peers who are not Black women, which exacerbates pay inequity and the wealth gap. It is this tendency to not attribute ideas to Black women that gave rise to actions like Cite a Sista, founded by Brittany Williams and Joan Collier to "provide space to give credit and thanks for all of the often used but rarely credited hard work by Black women."

Black women have paved the way for the person I am today. I thought this Black History Month I'd "cite a sista" and share 28 stories of Black women who shaped me, showed me the way towards liberation, and provided abundant shelter and care. Some of these stories are of people I know personally and some whom I've learned from through their lives and work. I share these stories as an act of solidarity with the Black women who have helped make me as a way to give them their flowers.

I can think of no better way to begin these stories than to start with the person who first directed my path, my mother Anne Myatt. My mom went to a predominantly white catholic school growing up, and learned to navigate being one of the only Black people in a white space early on. She made sure to share those lessons with my brother and me, as we navigated the predominantly white schools we attended. My mom made sure we knew how to stand up for ourselves, how to push back against ridiculous, racist rules, and how to maintain our dignity in spaces intent on diminishing us.

I remember the first time one of our neighbors called my brother and me the n-word. I was 7. I'd never heard that word before but I could tell by the look of the face of the child yelling it, that it was a word meant to bruise and hurt. We ran to our mother and asked what it meant. I'll never forget the look of pain and fury that crossed my mother's face. She explained what the word meant and why it was harmful. She also made sure we were armed with things to say back - she knew sometimes you have to fight fire with fire. And if we were going to be one of the only Black children at our school, Anne Myatt was going to make sure we were armored up. As Malcolm X said, "I'm nonviolent with those who are nonviolent with me." Or in the words of the great negro spiritual "don't start none, won't be none."

In a nutshell my mom taught me to be brave and to fight the racism I experienced, skills I continue to use in my work today. Thanks for the armor, Mom!! #28LoveLetterstoBlackWomen #BlackHistoryMonth2023 #Day1

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