On the 28-30 July 2017, the Mwasi Collective plans to host a festival in Paris dedicated to the building of African feminist strategies designed to end “racial, patriarchal, colonial and capitalist violence”.
However in this new world order with Donald Trump, elected US president and the UK moving towards its European Brexit, white supremacists worldwide continue to feel emboldened.
As a result many are seizing the opportunity to attack and attempt to purge all progressive activists and movements by labelling them as extremist or radically racist.
In a particular on Bank Holiday Monday, May 29th, a distasteful radio broadcast by LBC’s Bill O’Reilly equivalent, the UK shock Jock Nick Ferrari argued ‘how backward a step it is for black women to have a meeting where white women couldn’t go’.
The very idea of Ferrari pretending to valiantly defend his ‘white sisters’ against the racism of African feminists is ludicrous. None of these detractors publicly challenge the existence of private mens clubs or have campaigned against venues where women who are dark skin are excluded. Yet this is ignored and sadly as if to give weight to Ferrari and his ilks facetious arguments, a woman calling herself ‘black’ called into his show in order to agree with his attack on this means of empowering African woman.
If these attacks were limited to so-called far right groups and deluded radio listeners that would be one thing, however the Paris mayor, Anne Hidalgo, an alleged socialist, has now joined the fracas and called for the feminist festival to be banned, claiming on twitter that it is “prohibited to white people”.
She also has suggested that she reserves the right “to prosecute the organisers for discrimination”.
Her comments have no doubt been welcomed by the National Front party, the French legal white supremacist political group who has described the event designed to empower African women as “blatantly racist”.
Poster for Nyansapo Festival
Challenging a whitriarcal system
This united front with the French government and white supremacist organisations across Europe combining in this Afriphobic attack upon African women is a serious threat to justice and security everywhere.
There can be little doubt that many feminists movements across the world have failed to fully embrace and address the struggles of African women as their sisters. This is not a new phenomenon. Scholar-activists like bell hooks and Oyeronke Oyewumi in her must read book ‘African women & Feminism: Reflecting on the politics of sisterhood’ have critiqued the racism within the movement for many decades.
Despite the western appropriation of the brilliant author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichi as a feminist icon after Beyonce’s inclusion of her words into a song, the distinction between Western feminism and African womanism remains and has spawned many books, articles, poems and songs. Dr Ama Biney has powerfully addressed the subject of why the sisterhood needs a space to speak to its own realities whilst the words of the spoken word artist Ursula Rucker calling for a lyrical space for sistas and the deeds of Hackney's Ngozi Headley Fulani in organising a physical ‘SistahSPACE’ also comes to mind.
No one is suggesting all European women are racist, but even they themselves have acknowledged that many of them hold Afriphobic views, are responsible for the election of Trump despite his racist, misogynist views and have a history of commercially and domestically exploiting African women on low incomes.
As a man I am wary of any interpretation of my support and defence as mansplaining for my sistas or adopting stagnant Manafricanist pomposity in their defence but I am angry at the Afriphobic rhetoric spreading across the British media claiming the Nyansapo festival scheduled to take place in Paris is somehow racist because it has reserved a safe space for African women.
Mwasi is more than able of articulating the problem themselves. One member Omankov explains;
“By excluding our experiences, white feminists do not critically analyze their own role in this whitriarcal system. This leads us to reflect on privilege deconstruction mechanisms in movement groups, regarding racism or sexism. How to deconstruct racism when one is white without awareness of one's privileges? How to deconstruct sexism when you're a man? It therefore seems essential to us to deconstruct these privileges. For us, Afrofeminism seeks to eliminate these oppressive systems in their complexity. We aim to bring together the experiences of African women, women who are black, mixed, and of African descent, in a struggle that is itself both decolonial and anti-patriarchal”
Ligali belives that it would be unreasonable to expect paedophiles to be present at a support group meeting for victims of child abuse. Why should not African women who face the triple oppression of racism, sexism and capitalism not have a space where they can share experiences and organise in order to heal?
The Ligali organisation stands fully behind the Mwasi Collective and their right to host their Nyansapo festival. Any group that can make the self-determining mission statement of ‘don’t liberate us, we’ll take care of it’
is one we can roll with.
External LinksParis mayor demands black feminist festival that prohibits white people be bannedParis mayor may ban black feminist Nyansapo festivalNyansapo Festival WebsiteAfro-feminism in France: The Struggle for Self-EmancipationMs Afropolitan - 7 popular posts about African feminism
An earlier African feminist protest © MWASI - Collectif Afroféministe
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Is it racist for African women to create a safe space where they can openly talk to each other about the multiple oppressions they face? Why is this being seen as controversial?
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