Dionne Brand
and Ginny Stikeman (1991),
“Sisters in the Struggle”

Sisters in the Struggle is a 1991 National Film Board directed by Dionne Brand and Ginny Stikeman. The film features Black women activists discussing the combined impacts of racism and sexism, immigration policies designed to exclude and marginalize Black women, anti-Black racism in Canada, and police violence against Black men and women. Dionne Brand is a foremost Canadian poet, filmmaker, and intellectual. Ginny Stikeman is a Canadian filmmaker who led the National Film Board’s “Studio D” — dedicated to films about women, from 1990 until 1996.

As you watch:

  • Think about how the women in the film articulate a distinctly Black feminist intersectional perspective by identifying the ways racism and sexism impact Black women’s experiences in Canada
  • Note how the women in the film identify the same issues of police violence that the Black Lives Matter movement is resisting today

Content warning: this film features discussions of anti-Black racism and hate speech.

Combahee River Collective,
“Combahee River Collective Statement 1977”

The Combahee River Collective (CRC) was a group of Black queer feminists from Boston, Massachusetts, who met in 1973 at the National Black Feminist Organization’s (NBFO) regional conference. Dissatisfied with the NBFO’s inattention to Black lesbian women’s experiences and desiring a more radical politics, the Combahee River Collective formed their own organization in 1974.  They anticipated Crenshaw’s concept of intersectionality when they argued that “racial, sexual, heterosexual, and class oppression” are “interlocking”.  Their collective statement asserts the need for a unique Black feminist political movement to achieve liberation from “the manifold and simultaneous oppressions that all women of colour face”.  Based on their lived experiences of oppression, they exposed the separation of ‘race from class from sex’ oppression as a failure to account for Black women’s experiences. They argued for “the development of integrated analysis and practice to account for these interlocking oppressions”.  

As you read:

  • Pay attention to similarities between the CRC’s statement and Crenshaw’s discussion of intersectionality
  • Note how the CRC describes their relationship with Black men, the Black civil rights movement, and the white women’s movement 
  • Note how the collective articulates alignment with various feminist ideologies. Does the CRC statement align with liberal feminism? Socialist feminism? 
  • Note the CRC’s critique of biological determinism
  • Think about the CRC’s definition of feminism in relation to other authors and perspectives we have considered thus far in the course
  • Reflect upon the ways the CRC statement connects feminist theory with activism

You will find the reading here and on eClass.

Patricia Hill Collins (1990),
“Defining Black Feminist Thought”

Patricia Hill Collins’s “Defining Black Feminist Thought” is a foundational text in Women’s and Gender Studies. Hill Collins begins with the question of who can be a Black feminist. Hill Collins challenges biological determinism, particularly the notion that being Black and being a woman creates a distinct Black feminist consciousness. While Hill Collins rejects a definition of Black feminism that assumes that all Black women are Black feminists, she maintains that it is important to emphasize “the special angle of vision that Black women bring to the knowledge production process”.

As you read:

  • Try to summarize Hill Collins’s definition of Black feminism in your own words
  • Pay attention to Hill Collins’s discussion of the foundations of Black feminist consciousness — does Black feminist consciousness emerge from biology, from experience, from culture, or from resistance to white domination?
  • Identify examples of Black feminist resistance in the article  
  • Pay attention to Hill Collins’s discussion of the need to center Black women in Black feminist thought and of the role diverse coalitions play in amplifying Black feminist ideas.

Content warning: in the section on “The Core Themes of A Black Women’s Standpoint,” there is mention of sexual violence

You will find the reading here and on eClass.