This Movement is Not For Us: the Appropriation and Misapplication of Black Feminist Voices




Iqbal, Noor

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The Donna Novak Coles Georgia Women’s Movement Archives contains a reprinting of Ntozake Shange’s poem about domestic violence against Black women, “With No Immediate Cause”, in the Newsletter for the Southeast Coalition Against Domestic Violence of the 1980s. Comparing this reproduction to an earlier reprinting in a Combahee River Collective political pamphlet and its original publication by Shange highlights changes in the poem’s features throughout. The inclusion of Shange’s work may appear as if the poem’s impact is preserved; however, a rhetorical perspective distinguishes the artifact’s material impact on relevant communities. Analyzing the literary and visual features, historical and archival context, and intended audience with this perspective emphasizes a shift in meaning- ignorance of Black women-specific issues while appropriating their voices for a message towards all racialized women. Applying a rhetorical lens of intersectionality founded in the work of Kimberlé Crenshaw, Stacey Sowards, and Raka Shome stresses the required specificity of intersectional feminist messaging to solidify the necessity of Black feminism-specific ideology. From this analysis, it is clear that using rhetoric as a perspective when viewing artifacts of ongoing social movements enables focused speech, tangible impact, and empowerment of marginalized communities as they rightfully deserve.

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