How They Started and How Far They Have Come
The Black Present and Presence hosted by the University of San Diego where speakers V. Dozier and Khalia Li spoke about Black Women’s Cultural (In)Visibility helped me have a better understanding of African American History. In the presentation V. Dozier talked about creating communities in digital spaces and Khalia Li talked about her hair journey. The presentation on communities supported and furthered our class teachings. The narrative of The Black Present and Presence is significant because seeing the growth in black women, the black community, and the black press help us have more awareness and allows us to advocate for what is to come.
In the presentation, Dozier plays a video of Nikotris Perkins and we learn that black women are their own self sustaining ecological system, much like a rainforest. Perkins points out that while the opportunities for education for black children diminish or black men find it harder to find jobs, the black women continue to thrive. (Dozier, 2022) They are able to figure out amongst themselves how environments can serve them all. Their ability to create communities wherever they go is extremely helpful. Yet, even though black women are just as qualified as anyone else , they were and still are underappreciated and overlooked. One example is that the first National Negro Convention took place in 1830, consists of about 40 representatives from nine different states none of which were women. The convention in Cleveland was the first convention to recognize women as participants which took place in 1848, eighteen years after the first one. (Gliozzo, 1972)
Dozier points out that Black women are also used by going through her Twitter feed. One tweet reads “They want our rhythm but they don’t want our blues.” (Dozier, 2022) People want to mimic their culture but do not want the racism that comes with it. Dozier gives another example of how black women are not acknowledged for their work. She explained how a white woman not only wrote about trap feminsm theology but also did not cite Sesali Bowen, a black woman, who she built her ideas off of. Luckily, the black community and black press were able to support Bowen.
In our class teaching we can see that communities are important and essential for progress. One example is The Black Convention. It allowed black people to build networks, discuss what they were grappling with and how to deal with it. They were also able to make plans to deal with problems. We can see how effective communities are from past and present examples. The Black Convention led to a lot of progression. Professor Howard H. Bell created a political awareness regarding the power of his potential vote. (Gliozzo, 1972) In present day, we can see how fast acting Black Twitter can help a fellow member of the community. When a white woman wrote a book about trap feminsm theology Black Twitter was able to quickly bring attention to how she had no right to talk about that simply because she taught dance lessons. This led to the book being pulled thus allowing black women to speak on the topic.
Freedom on my Mind explains that the representatives might not always have similar approaches to fixing a problem in the quote “These black conventions, especially the national ones, helped foster a sense of African Americans as a distinct people. Although debates were often spirited and proposals ranged from conservative to radical, they strengthened black identity through a unity of purpose.” (Bay, Martin, and White 2020, 418) While the opinions and proposals at the conventions ranged from conservative to radical, they shared a purpose of abolition and free black uplift.
The sense of community is evident from this quote from the convention in Cleveland “We are as a people, chained together. We are one people — one in general complexion, one in common degradation, one in popular estimation. As one rises, all must rise, and as one falls all must fall”. (Gliozzo, 1972) Because they knew that helping each other would elevate the rest, during the conventions they would address “the issues that were the primary concern of their communities’ (Bay, Martin, and White 2020, 419). In the beginning, the participants showed support for programs that elevated the job prospects for black people. The National Convention’s representatives consisted of “printers, carpenters, blacksmiths, clergymen, barbers, grocers, tailors, editors, dentists, engineers, painters, farmers” and more. (Gliozzo, 1972) Unlike Black twitter though, the National Convention could not consist of black people across great distances. The convention in Cleveland could only consist of freed black men from the North.
Just as slavery is constanly changing and adpapting those enslaved adapt with it which is how the black community was able to go “from a physical location to a digital space.” (Dozier, 2022.) Not only does this new form of communication allow news to travel as it is happening but it also allows those in the community to reach out to everyone. It makes networking a lot easier. Black Twitter allows black women to amplify their voices and address issues such as the citing issue from before. Dozier informs us that the book publisher pulled the book. Black Twitter supported the black female theologians when no one else did.
Black Twitter is a great example of black press as well. Freedom on my Mind mentions the black press. The first issue of the newspaper stated that “devoted to dissemination of useful knowledge among our brethren, and to their moral and religious improvement”. (Bay, Martin, and White 2020, 421) It is amazing to see how far the black community has grown. When the first African American newspaper was made it only lasted for 2 years because of how difficult it was to sustain any newspaper at the time, and now the former CEO of Twitter is acknowledging that black Twitter was able to keep Twitter afloat.
Black Twitter allows black people to use tweets to as Dozier put it “amplify our power and amplify our voices. Their community is so strong that it cannot be ignored. (Dozier, 2022) She explains how this new form of community allows black women to share information in such a quick way. Black Twitter has also used hashtags to help their voices reach their target audiences and to make sure those who want to help are able to find those in need of support. Some hashtags include- #BlackTwitter, #CiteBlackWomen, #BlackGirlMagic, #BlackExcellence. #CiteBlackWoman was able to help Bowen amplify her voice and show that the white woman had no right to write her book.
Their growth will not stop and cannot stop. We can see from the Bowen example that these injustices are still occurring, keeping #CiteBlackWomen prevalent. While some people are not a part of the black community and should not engage in Black Twitter, they can still advocate for and support those in the community.
The Black Present and Presence was a great addition to our understanding of African American History. It is important to learn about how black women were treated in the beginning and how the black communities and the black press started. By learning this, we have awareness of how far they have come even with many obstacles in their way. But that does not mean the battle is over. We can see from the program that there is still a lot of work to be done which allows us to advocate for their continuous growth.
Bay, Mia, Waldo E. Martin, and Deborah G. White. 2020. Freedom on My Mind: A History of African Americans, With Documents. N.p.: Bedford/St. Martin’s.
Dozier, V., and Khalia Li. n.d. “The Black Present and Presence,” Program. In Black Women’s Cultural (In)Visibility.
Gliozzo, Charles A. “John Jones and the Black Convention Movement, 1848-1856.” Journal of Black Studies 3, no. 2 (1972): 227-236.