Each year, MU hosts a speaker in honor of Hazel I. Jackson, the first female African American professor to teach at Millersville. Last Wednesday evening, November 3, Feminista Jones visited Millersville University as the keynote speaker for this year’s lecture.
Jones is a feminist activist, author, social worker, and social media blogger. She is known for her literary works including “Push the Button,” “The Secret of Sugar Water,” and her most recent novel, “Reclaiming Our Space: How Black Feminists Are Changing the World from the Tweets to the Streets.” Jones also uses Twitter as a platform to advocate for Black feminism and contribute to discussions about intersectionality.
Students, faculty, and community members gathered in the Reighard Multipurpose Room at the Student Memorial Center to listen to Jones’ presentation titled “Intersectionality: Women’s empowerment in the 21st century.” Jones began by introducing herself and discussing some of the work she has done via Twitter.
Jones values taking a modern approach to feminism by utilizing social media platforms to encourage discussions about topics concerning intersectionality. “We can’t take for granted the technology allowing us to do this,” says Jones. #AreYouOkaySis is one hashtag Jones highlighted that went viral as a call to action in protest of violence against women.
Before Jones delved into her visual presentation, she spoke about the need to honor the space by recognizing Natives, enslaved people, and abolitionists of the past. Her powerpoint lecture itself focused on the history of the African American feminist movement. “We build upon the people who came before us,” says Jones.
Jones discussed influential women like Dr. Anna Julia Cooper, Audre Lorde, and Bell Hooks. Jones asked audience members if anyone knew who these women were after seeing their pictures on her presentation slide. Most audience members were unaware of the identities of most of the women mentioned. For instance, Jones revealed that Dr. Anna Julia Cooper worked with W.E.B. Dubois. “Why don’t you know that? Women get cut out of the story,” says Jones. Hooks’ literary work explored a question often asked of African American women: whether being Black or being a woman is more important to them. Hooks is “critiquing the eurocentric indoctrination of things,” says Jones.
Next Jones educated her audience on what intersectionality looks like in practice. Jones described intersectionality as “structural.” She provided the statistic that 70% of people being evicted in the Philadelphia housing crisis are African American women. Intersectionality is also “political,” says Jones. She used the example of consistency in bipartisan voting even if people inevitably vote against their own interests by sticking with the same party each time. Jones went on to discuss the representational aspect of intersectionality. She said that social media platforms reach out to her to inquire how they can do better.
To combat the African American community being denied equal representation on social media, Jones uses platforms like Twitter as a tool to bring awareness to social justice issues. She elaborated on other hashtags herself and others have used on Twitter including the trending hashtag, #YesAllWomen. Jones finds this particular hashtag problematic. “We all need to work together, but what can happen is we can erase the individual interests of groups of people,” says Jones. She also said she wishes someone had attended the lecture to do sign language because accessibility for everyone is important. “We have to be careful that we don’t erase people,” says Jones. Jones referenced how domestic violence against immigrants and queers being swept under the rug is another example of people being erased. “Black Trans women have a life expectancy of 35…We have an epidemic of Black Trans women being murdered for existing,” says Jones.
Another hashtag Jones critiqued is #BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color). She said this particular hashtag is “racist,” and she has personally opposed the use of this acronym on Twitter. Jones’ concern is that the term “People of Color” suggests white people are “people” while Black people are “other.” “Who says this?” Jackson asked rhetorically in regard to the acronym BIPOC. BIPOC “erases everybody who is included in this,” says Jackson. She continued to discuss aspects of identity, including her own identity as both an African American and a woman. “My cultural identity changes how I view womanhood or if I even have access to it,” says Jackson.
Jackson concluded her lecture by inviting audience members to get up from their seats, walk to a microphone placed at the front of the room, and ask questions. She also offered to come to anyone who was unable to walk up to the microphone, connecting with her earlier statement about the importance of accessibility for all.
During the Q&A session, more questions about identity arose. When asked if she feels the need to reclaim her identity from white people, Jackson said, “I have nothing to reclaim. The only thing I have to do is stop being so focused on white people.” Jackson questioned why Black people still juxtapose themselves with white people by continuing to use phrases like BIPOC, POC, and non-white. “Just say who you are,” says Jackson.
For additional information about Feminista Jones, visit her website: https://feministajones.com/ or follow her on Twitter @FeministaJones .