Angela’s Story

angela-davis-sm

 

Ask three people about Angela Davis, and you’ll probably get four or five different descriptions.

Feminist? Communist? Criminal? Scholar? Vice Presidential Candidate?

If nothing else, she’s a #blaxit superstar. Her escape and the wisdom she brought back had a powerful impact on societal discourse in the United States.

Born black and female in Birmingham, Alabama in 1944, Angela’s life might have been brief and violent. She knew the four girls killed in the Birmingham Church bombing in 1963.

 

You’d have to ask Angela if she participated in a Junior Year Abroad in order to escape America, or to expand her own mind.

The experience certainly informed much of her life. According to Alice Kaplan, Angela’s time in France transformed herself, and “in turn transformed the cultural and political life of the United States”.

Kaplan’s book, Dreaming in French takes a look at the lives of three American women whose time outside of the United States influenced the rest of their lives.

Here’s an article featuring Angela that should be required reading for intelligent, empowered women considering an escape abroad.

Dreaming in French: On Angela Davis

 

 

 

 

Image credit

Black Girl

I don’t like talking about race.

I’ve always wanted to be seen for what I am: an individual, just a person. I have never wanted to be defined by my exterior.

But, for most of my life, the outside world has constantly and consistently reduced me to my exterior in just about every interaction.

I fought against that, and with time, proved other individuals wrong in their reductive assumptions.

I have always tried to move attention away from my exterior.

So why am I drawing attention to it now?

In part, there is something in the air. It’s a good time to be black, in terms of public discourse. A growing segment of the general population seems to be more amenable to discussions about race.

There also seems to be an increased solidarity among black folk from a multitude of backgrounds, discussing shared experiences and creating community.

That community and sense of belonging gives me the courage to consider trying to engage with a different group of people.

The “I have a black friend” folks.

The ones not quite sure how to feel about #blackgirlmagic. Or what seems to be a surge in “angry black people” all over the place.

The ones who would like to consider themselves allies, but aren’t sure how or what exactly that means.

The ones who might have accidentally “rented a negro” in the past, and want to distance themselves from that experience.

The ones who wanted to rock “boxer braids” and didn’t understand why black people got all wound up.

The #alllivesmatter crowd and the “slavery was a long time ago” crowd are not welcome.

This is not a space for debate.

This is not a space to get your “black card”.

I’m just going to do what I have done all my life: Be Me.

I have been the one black face in the group, and therefore the de facto authority on “blackness”. I don’t like that role, and I’m changing it.

I’m going to talk about issues that resonate with me, Gia, the individual human being. If I talk about race, if I post things where people are upset about racism, that does not make me “anti” white/majority.

If I try to dissect why some white folks get all bent out of shape, that does not make me “anti” black.

If I criticize anti-woman behavior, that does not make me a man-hater. (I quite like men, actually. Very much a fan!)

It all makes me human. Just like you.

Josephine’s Story

image credits: mental floss, you plus me equals, bowery boys history

 

Ernest Hemingway called her “the most sensational woman anyone ever saw”.

Time Magazine called her a “Negro wench”.

Most people just call her Josephine Baker.

After leaving the US at 19, she rose to fame in the City of Lights, eventually becoming the most famous American entertainers in Europe. While she was at the right place at the right time, Art Deco influences and interest in non-European art, Josephine’s willingness to take risks, to step out before conditions were perfect, was what allowed her to free herself from the painful experiences she had back home.

The Ziegfeld Follies came calling in 1936, and Josephine returned to the US, only to encounter virulent racism, as expressed in the quote above. What else could she do but return to France?

She fought for her country of adoption, working as a spy for the Free French during WWII. Her efforts gained her one of France’s highest honors, the Legion of Honor. But her allegiance to the difficulties faced by American blacks remained. She supported the Civil Rights Movement, even speaking beside Martin Luther King, Jr. Though France remained her home until her passing.

Josephine is an inspiration as an artist, an expat, a philanthropist and a mother.

If you should find yourself in Paris, don’t forget to stop by Josephine Baker Square in the 14th arrondissement, or go for a swim in her piscine in the 13th.

Learn a little more about her here.

Here.

And here.