Well hey, it’s Black History Month so we gonna get into some Black literature and Black feminist thought (mine to be specific). An old man lent me this book in a totally non-weird situation and I’ve fallen in love with it. So instead of saying he lent it to me let’s say he GAVE it to me. My first thoughts were to write an analysis or reflection of the brilliant work of Paula Giddings’ When and Where I Enter. But page after page went on and it was saturated with potent points on the intersectionality of race and sex that no analysis (unless its a graduate thesis) would do justice to it. So instead I decided to write about me reading the book. I’m a millennial so ofc- me. Anywho, I think everyone and anyone needs to read this book, completely undisturbed, and I’ll tell you why.
*Sparkly transition in to a flashback* Like last week my phone was stolen and due to overwhelming anger and low funds I refused to buy another. I swore I’d live like the ole days and listen to performers and beggars on the subway or pay attention to where I was walking. That didn’t exactly make my day so I pulled the old man’s “donation” out and took it with me to work. As a twenty-three year old I usually read with headphones in for white noise so I can focus on my reading. Well I’ve found that I’ve been doing it wrong! I read a lot more and gained a deeper understanding of what I was reading when Drake isn’t crying in my ear at the same time that Patricia Collins was filling my brain.
Part I opens with a powerful ass quote from Toni Morrison that would make a great bio for a dope black women empowerment Instagram page. It says”…she had nothing to fall back on; not maleness, not whiteness, not ladyhood, not anything. And out of the profound desolation of her reality she may well have invented herself.” Sheesh! I read this over and over and felt the truth hit my core each time. The ideology of a strong independent Black woman can be an entire college program and Giddings would definitely be required reading. If you think about it, Black women don’t take after anyone or anything but themselves. We create, we take charge, we defy and we protect ourselves and others (even those who don’t have our best interest at heart). When and Where I Enter erected a pride and respect for Black womanhood that I was merely familiar with.
Everyday I squeezed onto the 2 train, and whether I was sitting or swaying with the sharp turns of the reckless conductor, I was glued to sentence after sentence. Giddings made use of every word, each one had a real impact on the entire text. There was so much history and stories of Black women killing it that I found something fresh and new to love as these complex womens’ lives were shared with me in 357 pages. And don’t get me wrong, I didn’t just absorb everything the book expressed without critique. In my head I was making counter arguments paragraph by paragraph but the chapter wouldn’t end without addressing my thoughts and setting me at ease.
But more than the theoretical, critical and historical (supa-hot)fire Giddings laid out was her unapologetic sass framing her honest and intelligent research. I would be snapping my fingers with one hand, clutching the text with the other and “mhmming” from the Bronx to midtown Manhattan. I gave no fucks about my fellow confused straphangers. Lowkey Paula and I were politicking through the yellowed pages. I caught myself laughing out loud at some points, smirking at her wit but also feeling deep sharp pain reading the cruelty she documented.
I hope this has convinced you to get acquainted with Paula Giddings and all the Black women she features in her book like, Maria Stewart, Ida B. Wells, Mary Church Terrell, Susan B Anthony, Anna Julia Cooper and soooooo much more. If not, at least silence your phone while reading for a more comprehensive interpretation