Each day, my goal is to live in the flow of my life and honor the dimensionality of my being. This can be tricky, in many ways. One dynamic of this “trickiness” is defining how to live in the space of my intersectionality as a Black woman. Despite the fact that Black women and other women of color have been writing and discussing this issue for over a hundred years, I have not come to a place where I feel like “I got this”. At times, I feel that I should choose feminist issues over Black issues, and other times I should choose Black issues over feminist ones. It seems that as different situations emerge, I am asked to re-examine my placement in the intersection and decide what is “the right thing”. Sometimes this leads to feelings of confusion, frustration, and isolation.
I have been thankful to have the works of hooks, Lorde, Hansberry, Collins, Sojourner Truth, Davis, Angelou, and others as reference points when I feel like I am going crazy. They are affirming, give me guidance as I figure out what works best in my life, and provide validity to my feelings and choices. While these readings are fulfilling and helpful on multiple levels, they do not provide the satiation that I get from conversing and connecting with other women on these topics. Because PhD work can be solitary, unless done with intention, it can be a long period of time before I discuss my intersectionality tension with another human being in my program.
I was fortunate enough to be presented with an opportunity to go on a retreat with other women in my program to discuss and write about women of color epistemologies (ways of knowing) and ontologies (ways of being) in early childhood education. At a point where I was feeling disconnection, I was able to build connection with some of my other early childhood colleagues. Drawing on the work of Black feminism, Chicana feminism, and Womanism, we, as a collective, were able to meld and craft our ideas to show how these ways of knowing and being impact our research, teaching, and approach to life. This retreat gave us to the space to think deeply about theories, practices, and ways of being from women of color, honor those who came before us, draw knowledge and inspiration from them, and connect this understanding and knowledge to our lived experiences. I found this experience to be enriching and affirming. I felt like the complexity of my being and the challenges and tensions of my daily life were being honored and recognized. I could completely be the layers of my being with no judgment, no evaluation, and no expectation.
Before leaving, I recognized that I need moments and experiences like this, where I can discuss the complexity of being a woman of color with other women of color. It’s not that I haven’t had this before. I have always sought to have this type of community around me. Yet, with moving to a different part of the country and navigating my new role in academia, I have had a hard time building this type of sisterhood. It has taken me time to find women that I trust and can present my layers of vulnerability.
Navigating intersectionality can be hard. Like my ancestors and elders, there will continue to be points where I feel the tension between being a Black person, a woman, and all my other identities. I will have more experiences that compel me to reassess my beliefs and provoke me to make tough choices. I will have to decide my position and ideas even if they differ from what others thought would be the “right choice”. This is a part of the journey that I didn’t know I was going to be visiting so frequently. At times, I feel compelled to be silent out of fear of making the wrong decision or action. However, this recent retreat reminded that sisterhood is a healing source that can help me when I am experiencing the intersectional tension. Sisterhood reminds me to listen to my flow, take guidance from women of color that have come before, and honor and love my complexity. Though PhD life can be solitary, I have to make intentional efforts to cultivate this new sisterhood as well as the others I have made along my life journey to authentically be the dimensionality of my being.