How Angela Davis Changed My Life

I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept”. ~ Angela Davis

Women, Race and Class by Angela Davis is the first book on intersectional feminism that I have ever read. As the title promises, the book describes the historical development of the feminist movement in America in regards to race and class. I read this book two years ago and it has inspired me to go down a path that continues to shape the ways I live and love. As such, it is one of the few books that has made the greatest impact on my adult life so far.

Davis’ book impressed upon me the value of intersectional feminist activism. I am amazed by how much the overall rights and lives of women have improved since the time of slavery in America thanks to the advocacy of our feminist and abolitionist ancestors. This happened despite the many ways that the American feminist movement has failed to include women based on race and class. I also learned about the influential roles (both supportive and destructive) that Black and white feminist clubs have played in the struggle for equality, and inspired me to join the Feminist Club of Amsterdam as a way to participate in this struggle and to continue learning in the process.

This book has awakened a transformative rage in me that still remains in my body today. I am appalled by the atrocities that have been done to women – especially Black women – and the narratives that supported this oppression. I felt ashamed of how much I had taken my privilege and freedom for granted and how little I knew about the struggles of the women who came before me. I also felt deep disappointment over how little I was taught about social justice movements and intersectionality in school, and I still can’t help but wonder how things might be different if more people read Women, Race and Class or books like it.

My rage inspired me to learn more. Black radical feminist scholars like Angela Davis have an invaluable perspective on intersectional feminism because they have a deep understanding of systems of oppression in America (i.e. imperialist patriarchal heteronormative white supremacist capitalism) on account of their own experiences. They also offer practical wisdom on ways people can thrive within these systems and liberatory alternatives to the status quo’s version of the ‘good life.’ 

I joined a year-long study group curated by Black radical feminists. They have helped me to unpack the subtle messages, scripts and guidelines that patriarchal white supremacist capitalism hands us which has helped me to unshame myself from them. The works of scholars such as bell hooks, Audre Lorde, Sonya Renee Taylor and adrienne maree brown have helped me understand the ways I’ve been policing myself to benefit others instead of living for myself and the people I love. They have shown me alternative paradigms that feel more natural and nurturing compared to mainstream views of ‘success.’ I’ve learned counterculture practices that help me feel more free without having to wait for society to change. I am in communities with people who want to remake the world. We support each other in resisting, dreaming and creating shared enoughness because we refuse to wait for society to change. 

It is a privilege to be able to learn from Angela Davis and other writers who come from marginalized groups. This privilege comes with responsibility to embody change because we are all trapped in the same systems in different ways – and; as Arundhati Roy said, “once you see it, you can’t unsee it.” I look forward to wielding this responsibility as my journey into intersectional feminist activism continues. 

The Feminist Club of Amsterdam’s book club will discuss Women, Race and Class at 16:30 on 21 January at Nieuwland. Feel welcome to join.

If you are inspired to learn more from Black radical feminists, check out the following resources.

  • IG: @blackliturgies
  • IG: @reneebarreto_
  • IG: @projectbloomyear (Black radical feminist study group)
  • All About Love by bell hooks
  • Pleasure Activism by adrienne maree brown
  • Decolonizing The Body by Kelsey Blackwell

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