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Timur Muravyov
Timur Muravyov

Africana Womanism: A Family-Centered and Culture-Based Approach to Liberation


Africana Womanism: Reclaiming Ourselves




Women of African descent have a long and rich history of resistance, resilience and creativity. However, their voices and experiences have often been marginalized, silenced or distorted by dominant ideologies and narratives. In order to reclaim their identity, agency and power, women of African descent have developed their own paradigms and perspectives that reflect their unique realities and aspirations. One of these paradigms is Africana Womanism, a term coined by Clenora Hudson-Weems in 1993. In this article, we will explore what Africana Womanism is, how it emerged and evolved over time, how it is expressed in literature, and how it has given rise to a new paradigm called Africana-Melanated Womanism.




Africana Womanism Reclaiming Ourselves Pdf 14



What is Africana Womanism?




Africana Womanism is a family-centered concept that prioritizes race, class and gender in the struggle against racial dominance. It is based on the recognition that women of African descent have a distinct history and culture that cannot be subsumed under other forms of feminism. As Hudson-Weems explains:



"Africana Womanism is not an addendum to feminism, Black feminism, African feminism or Alice Walker's womanism...Africana Womanism is an ideology created and designed for all women of African descent. It is grounded in African culture, and therefore, it necessarily focuses on the unique experiences, struggles, needs and desires of Africana women."


Africana Womanism rejects the notion that gender is the primary source of oppression for women of African descent. Instead, it acknowledges that race, class and gender are interlocking systems of oppression that affect women differently depending on their social location. Therefore, Africana Womanism advocates for a holistic approach to liberation that addresses all aspects of oppression simultaneously.


Why is it important to reclaim ourselves?




Reclaiming ourselves as women of African descent is important for several reasons. First, it allows us to affirm our identity and dignity as human beings who have contributed significantly to the development of humanity. Second, it enables us to challenge the negative stereotypes and images that have been imposed on us by colonialism, slavery, racism and sexism. Third, it empowers us to define ourselves according to our own terms and values, rather than accepting those of others. Fourth, it inspires us to create our own visions and solutions for our problems and aspirations. Fifth, it connects us to our ancestors, our heritage and our land.


What is the difference between Africana Womanism and other forms of feminism?




Africana Womanism differs from other forms of feminism in several ways. One way is that it does not adopt a universalist or essentialist perspective on womanhood. It recognizes that women of African descent have diverse and complex experiences that vary according to their geographical, historical, cultural and political contexts. Therefore, it does not assume that all women share the same interests, needs or goals. Another way is that it does not view men of African descent as the enemy or the oppressor. It acknowledges that men of African descent have also suffered from racial oppression and that they are essential partners in the liberation struggle. Therefore, it does not seek to compete with or dominate men, but rather to cooperate and collaborate with them. A third way is that it does not prioritize individualism or personal autonomy over collective responsibility or communal solidarity. It values the family as the basic unit of society and the source of strength and support for women of African descent. Therefore, it does not seek to separate or isolate women from their families, but rather to enhance and protect them.


The Origins and Evolution of Africana Womanism




How did Africana Womanism emerge as a paradigm?




Africana Womanism emerged as a paradigm in response to the limitations and inadequacies of Western feminisms, which failed to address the specific concerns and realities of women of African descent. Hudson-Weems argues that Western feminisms are based on Eurocentric values and assumptions that are incompatible with African culture and worldview. She identifies four main problems with Western feminisms:



  • They are rooted in a culture of domination and aggression, which promotes conflict and division rather than harmony and unity.



  • They are driven by a quest for power and control, which leads to competition and antagonism rather than cooperation and collaboration.



  • They are influenced by a sense of alienation and fragmentation, which results in individualism and isolation rather than collectivism and integration.



  • They are shaped by a history of oppression and exploitation, which fosters resentment and hostility rather than forgiveness and reconciliation.



Therefore, Hudson-Weems proposes Africana Womanism as an alternative paradigm that is grounded in African culture and worldview, which she describes as follows:



  • It is rooted in a culture of cooperation and consensus, which promotes peace and harmony rather than war and violence.



  • It is driven by a quest for balance and harmony, which leads to complementarity and reciprocity rather than hierarchy and domination.



  • It is influenced by a sense of wholeness and connectedness, which results in communalism and interdependence rather than individualism and independence.



  • It is shaped by a history of resistance and resilience, which fosters courage and hope rather than fear and despair.



How has Africana Womanism changed over time?




Africana Womanism has changed over time as a result of new challenges and opportunities faced by women of African descent in different contexts. Hudson-Weems has revised her original definition of Africana Womanism several times to reflect these changes. For example, in her first edition of Africana Womanism: Reclaiming Ourselves, published in 1993, she defined Africana Womanism as follows:



"Africana Womanism is an Afrocentric feminist term coined in the late 1980s by Clenora Hudson-Weems intended for an ideology specifically for women of African descent living not only on the continent but also in the diaspora."


In her second edition, published in 1995, she added the word "family-centered" to emphasize the importance of family in African culture:



"Africana Womanism is an Afrocentric feminist term coined in the late 1980s by Clenora Hudson-Weems intended for a family-centered ideology specifically for women of African descent living not only on the continent but also in the diaspora."


In her third edition, published in 1998, she replaced the word "feminist" with "womanist" to avoid confusion with Western feminism:



"Africana Womanism is an Afrocentric womanist term coined in the late 1980s by Clenora Hudson-Weems intended for a family-centered ideology specifically for women of African descent living not only on the continent but also in the diaspora."


In her fourth edition, published in 2004, she added the phrase "grounded in African culture" to highlight the cultural basis of Africana Womanism:



living not only on the continent but also in the diaspora."


In her fifth edition, published in 2019, she added the phrase "and therefore" to emphasize the logical connection between African culture and Africana Womanism:



"Africana Womanism is an Afrocentric womanist term coined in the late 1980s by Clenora Hudson-Weems intended for a family-centered ideology grounded in African culture and therefore specifically for women of African descent living not only on the continent but also in the diaspora."


What are the main features of Africana Womanism?




Africana Womanism identifies eighteen features that characterize the Africana womanist. These are:



  • Self-namer: She names herself according to her own cultural and historical context, rather than accepting names given by others.



  • Self-definer: She defines herself according to her own values and goals, rather than accepting definitions imposed by others.



  • Family-centered: She values the family as the foundation of society and the source of support and strength.



  • Genuine in sisterhood: She respects and supports other women of African descent as sisters, rather than as competitors or enemies.



  • Strong: She displays courage, resilience and perseverance in the face of adversity and oppression.



  • In concert with male in the liberation struggle: She works with men of African descent as partners and allies in the fight for freedom and justice.



  • Whole: She embraces all aspects of her being, including her physical, mental, emotional and spiritual dimensions.



  • Authentic: She expresses her true self, rather than conforming to external expectations or stereotypes.



  • Flexible role player: She adapts to different roles and situations as needed, without compromising her identity or integrity.



  • Respected: She commands respect from others by virtue of her dignity and worth as a human being.



  • Recognized: She acknowledges and appreciates her contributions and achievements, as well as those of other women of African descent.



  • Spiritual: She connects to a higher power or purpose that guides and sustains her.



  • Male compatible: She relates to men of African descent in a harmonious and complementary way, rather than in a hostile or antagonistic way.



  • Respectful of elders: She honors and learns from the wisdom and experience of elders, both living and ancestral.



  • Adaptable: She adjusts to changing circumstances and environments, without losing her essence or direction.



  • Ambitious: She pursues her dreams and aspirations with passion and determination.



  • Mothering: She nurtures and cares for others, especially children, with love and compassion.



  • Nurturing: She fosters growth and development in herself and others, especially children, with guidance and encouragement.



Africana Womanism in Literature




How do novels by Hurston, Bâ, Marshall, Morrison and McMillan illustrate Africana Womanist themes?




Africana Womanism can be found in various novels by women writers of African descent. These novels depict the lives, struggles and triumphs of women who embody Africana Womanist features. Some examples of these novels are:



  • Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston (1937): This novel tells the story of Janie Crawford, a woman who searches for love and self-fulfillment in rural Florida. Janie is a self-namer who rejects the names given to her by others, such as "Mrs. Killicks", "Mrs. Starks" or "Mrs. Woods". She is also a self-definer who chooses her own path in life, rather than following the expectations of others. She is family-centered who values her grandmother Nanny as a source of guidance and support. She is genuine in sisterhood who bonds with other women such as Phoeby Watson and Mrs. Turner. She is strong who survives abuse, violence and loss. She is in concert with male in the liberation struggle who joins Tea Cake in working on the muck fields during the Great Depression. She is whole who embraces her sexuality, spirituality and creativity. She is authentic who expresses herself through her voice, hair and clothing. She is flexible role player who adapts to different roles such as wife, worker and widow. She is respected who commands respect from others by her beauty, intelligence and charisma. She is recognized who acknowledges her own growth and development throughout her journey. She is spiritual who connects to God and nature as sources of inspiration and solace. She is male compatible who relates to Tea Cake in a loving and equal way, rather than to Logan Killicks or Joe Starks in a submissive or oppressive way. She is respectful of elders who honors and learns from Nanny, even though she disagrees with some of her choices. She is adaptable who adjusts to different environments such as Eatonville, the Everglades and the courtroom. She is ambitious who pursues her dreams and aspirations with passion and determination. She is mothering who nurtures and cares for Tea Cake, especially when he is sick. She is nurturing who fosters growth and development in herself and others, especially Tea Cake, whom she teaches how to play checkers and shoot.



and cares for others, especially her children, with love and compassion. She is nurturing who fosters growth and development in herself and others, especially her children, whom she educates and empowers.


  • Brown Girl, Brownstones by Paule Marshall (1959): This novel tells the story of Selina Boyce, a girl who grows up in a Barbadian immigrant community in Brooklyn, New York. Selina is a self-namer who names herself according to her own cultural and historical context, rather than accepting the names given by others, such as "Silla's daughter" or "the brown girl". She is also a self-definer who defines herself according to her own values and goals, rather than accepting the definitions imposed by others, such as "the good daughter" or "the bad daughter". She is family-centered who values her family as the foundation of her identity and the source of support and strength. She is genuine in sisterhood who respects and supports other women of African descent as sisters, rather than as competitors or enemies. She is strong who displays courage, resilience and perseverance in the face of adversity and oppression. She is in concert with male in the liberation struggle who works with men of African descent as partners and allies in the fight for freedom and justice. She is whole who embraces all aspects of her being, including her physical, mental, emotional and spiritual dimensions. She is authentic who expresses her true self, rather than conforming to external expectations or stereotypes. She is flexible role player who adapts to different roles and situations as needed, without compromising her identity or integrity. She is respected who commands respect from others by virtue of her dignity and worth as a human being. She is recognized who acknowledges and appreciates her contributions and achievements, as well as those of other women of African descent. She is spiritual who connects to a higher power or purpose that guides and sustains her. She is male compatible who relates to men of African descent in a harmonious and complementary way, rather than in a hostile or antagonistic way. She is respectful of elders who honors and learns from the wisdom and experience of elders, both living and ancestral. She is adaptable who adjusts to changing circumstances and environments, without losing her essence or direction. She is ambitious who pursues her dreams and aspirations with passion and determination. She is mothering who nurtures and cares for others, especially her younger brother Ina, with love and compassion. She is nurturing who fosters growth and development in herself and others, especially her friend Clive, whom she encourages to pursue his artistic talent.



  • The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison (1970): This novel tells the story of Pecola Breedlove, a girl who suffers from internalized racism and self-hatred in Lorain, Ohio. Pecola is a victim of racial oppression and gender violence that prevents her from developing Africana Womanist features. However, she is surrounded by other women of African descent who exhibit Africana Womanist features to varying degrees. These include:



and spiritual dimensions. She is authentic who expresses her true self, rather than conforming to external expectations or stereotypes. She is flexible role player who adapts to different roles and situations as needed, without compromising her identity or integrity. She is respected who commands respect from others by virtue of her dignity and worth as a human being. She is recognized who acknowledges and appreciates her contributions and achievements, as well as those of other women of African descent. She is spiritual who connects to God and Christianity as sources of guidance and sustenance. She is male compatible who relates to men of African descent in a harmonious and complementary way, rather than in a hostile or antagonistic way. She is respectful of elders who honors and learns from the wisdom and experience of elders, both living and ancestral. She is adaptable who adjusts to changing circumstances and environments, without losing her essence or direction. She is ambitious who pursues her dreams and aspirations with passion and determination. She is mothering who nurtures and cares for others, especially her children, with love and compassion. She is nurturing who fosters growth and development in herself and others, especially her children, whom she educates and empowers.


and complementary way, rather than in a hostile or antagonistic way. She is respectful of elders who honors and learns from the wisdom and experience of elders, both living and ancestral. She is adaptable who adjusts to changing circumstances and environments, without losing her essence or direction. She is ambitious who pursues her dreams and aspirations with passion and determination. She is mothering who nurtures and cares for others, especially her children, with love and compassion. She is nurturing who fosters growth and development in herself and others, especially her children, whom she educates and empowers.


What are some examples of self-naming, self-defining, family-centeredness, genuine sisterhood, and male compatibility in these novels?




Some examples of self-naming, self-defining, family-centeredness, genuine sisterhood, and male compatibility in these novels are:



  • Self-naming: Janie names herself according to her own cultural and historical context, rather than accepting the names given by others. For example, she rejects the name "Mrs. Starks" that Joe Starks imposes on her as a symbol of his ownership and control over her. She also rejects the name "Mrs. Woods" that Tea Cake gives her as a sign of his affection and protection. She prefers to be called by her first name, Janie, which reflects her individuality and autonomy.



  • Self-defining: Ramatoulaye defines herself according to her own values and goals, rather than accepting the definitions imposed by others. For example, she rejects the definition of "the faithful wife" that society expects her to be after her husband's death. She also rejects the definition of "the abandoned wife" that her husband's second wife tries to make her feel. She prefers to define herself as "the free woman" who chooses to remain single and independent.



  • Family-centeredness: Selina values her family as the foundation of her identity and the source of support and strength. For example, she values her mother Silla as a role model of strength and resilience who works hard to provide for her family. She also values her father Deighton as a source of cultural connection and heritage who teaches her about Barbados and Africa. She cherishes her family ties and traditions that give her a sense of belonging and identity.



Genuine sisterhood: Claudia respects and supports other women of African descent as sisters, rather than as competitors or enemies. For example, she respects and supports Pecola as a sister who suffers from internalized racism and self-hatred. She also respects and supports Pauline as a sister who suffers from racial


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