By Angela D. Odom
"Fear is the main source of
superstition, and one of the main sources of cruelty. To
conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom."
Our Image As Lesbians of Color: Are We Invisible?
The platform on which FemmeNoir stands is
one of collective consciousness among women of African heritage
generally and lesbians of African heritage specifically;
throughout the world. Why does FemmeNoir wish to carry such a
heavy burden and weld such a double-edged sword? Because as
Black women we are currently being denigrated in the popular
culture and as lesbians, unfortunately, we are still invisible.
As lesbians of African heritage, we
fought, lived and died in the struggle for civil rights. We
were hosed with water, beaten with sticks, and placed behind
bars for the belief in our fight for racial equality. Yet, in
our neighborhoods, we have to fight stereotypes, homophobia, and
ignorance. We stood next to our mothers, brothers, sisters,
aunts and uncles as we marched to Washington, through Selma, and
Cicero. Yet, some of us became disowned and excommunicated from
our families, churches, and friends; thus, becoming sexual
exiles upon the proclamation of our sexuality.
What one does not understand, one fears;
and what one fears, one attacks. This statement has never been
truer than it is today. It would be easier to find a young
woman who can call the names of Lil Kim, Destiny’s Child, Missy
Elliott and the like, than to find a young woman who will know
the works of Nikki Giovanni, Maya Angelou, June Jordan, or Alice
Walker. Thus, many of our young women today are walking around
with a pocket full of put-downs – skeezer, skank, bitch, hoe,
bitch dyke, and bulldagger – which they fling mindlessly and
effortlessly at one another. Considering the current political
climate, words such as these conjure words such as "cultural
suicide" and/or "genocide" to mind.
Akilah Monifa, in an article on Sister
Speak ('The "Miss" Education about African American
Lesbians'), spoke about the Vanguard Award presented to
Whoppi Goldberg in 1999 by the Lesbian Alliance Against
Defamation (GLAAD). The presenters said that Whoopi helped
" . . . educate millions about the experiences of African
In the article, Akilah states:
"Now I'm not knocking Whoopi, quite
the contrary, I have a great deal of admiration for her. I
just think that it is a sad state of affairs when the basis of
educating folks of the experience of lesbian sistahs comes
from movies especially one that was released in the 80s and
the other one where Goldberg's character was lesbian in theory
Not that one has to be in a relationship to be a
lesbian, but in particular "Boys on the Side" as well as 1999s
"The Deep End of the Ocean" featured Goldberg's lesbian
characters as one-dimensional beings who were isolated. I know
that we are hungry for positive images in the media and some
may ague that some visibility as long as it is not negative is
better than no visibility at all. I would beg to differ.
Which brings me to question as to
why GLAAD could not find an African American lesbian dead or
alive, to honor rather than someone who portrays one in the
media. Maybe it has to do with the scarcity of visible openly
out lesbians in the media.
Akilah continues in this article with a true breakdown of the
"'Miss' Education about African American Lesbians.
Her article goes into great depth and detail about OUR history
as lesbians of color in Africa and in music.
Which brings me to why I started FemmeNoir. It is a
network or portal, which leads you to other sites of interest to
OUR community -- lesbians of color. Here you will
find writers, filmmakers, educators, intellectuals, activists,
entertainers, communities, etc. We need to reach for our
inheritance from those lesbians of color who have gone before us
-- Ruth Waters, Ruth Ellis, Audre Lorde, Barbara Jordan and
others -- and strengthen ourselves in the richness of their
lives and move, positively and visibly, forward.
In summary, Akilah Monifa concludes her article making a very
"There always has been and always will be African
American lesbians. We must tell our stories, of our lives, in
song, word, but most importantly through life itself. We must
as Barbara Smith suggests ". . . manifest our lives in every
way possible." This in my opinion means being out and visible
to the greatest extent possible. For we cannot afford to be
invisible. Happy African American history month to all sistahs
and their families. Let's educate ourselves and others about
Akilah Monifa is a lesbian of African descent and
freelance writer living in Oakland, CA.