Totally Awesome Women! (Thanksgiving Edition)

Thanksgiving is upon us again and (obviously) it’s a time where reflection is due…particularly reflection of thanks (duh).

 

But, an area where I think it’s easy to throw thanks out the window (particularly when we’re stuffing our faces and watching football during a holiday that glorifies the special “relationship” we had with Native Americans before we stole their land and forced them across the country…yum!) is feminism.

 

 

Maybe fem is the first thing on your mind as you heap yet another serving of mashies (and gravy and butter and salt) onto your plate, but for me…not so much.  I’m more thinking, “I wonder how many potatoes I can consume in one day?” Challenge accepted.

 

But, I am going to depart (slightly, only slightly) from my traditional Thanksgiving routine (which will still happen) and take a few moments to reflect one of the many reasons I am thankful for feminism.

 

As you may or may not know, I sort of want to know everything about Angela Davis.  This semester, I am studying about the blueswomen of the 1920s, particularly, Bessie Smith and Ma Rainey.  Some of you may be wondering how Angela Davis fits in with all of this.  Well….

BOOM!

Have you ever seen such greatness?

 

Personally, I have not.

 

An entire book (by Angela Davis) on the early blueswomen, particularly Bessie Smith and Ma Rainey!  Billie Holiday is also discussed in the book but she was more of a jazz singer.  So, for now, I will focus on the blueswomen.

 

Some reasons to be thankful for this book:

 

  1. Angela Davis literally offers the first compilation (and documenting) of all of Bessie Smith and Ma Rainey’s remaining songs.  Can we talk about how difficult a task that is in and of itself?  Let me tell you, I listened to many of those songs and (much like how I am with every other song), I am completely inept when it comes to identifying lyrics (buzz off, lyric police…).  Either way, many of these songs are in rough shape: either the recording technology was not that stellar (it was the 1920s) or they just didn’t survive well over time.  These lyrics provide the foundation for not only Angela Davis’ excellent analysis, but for the analysis of anyone else who wants to study blues music.

 

  1. Angela Davis identifies and debunks several key stereotypes of African American women and blues singers.  I’ll be honest, when I first thought of blues music, my ideas were sort of along the lines of this….

 

  1. Her work not only changed that perspective (a lot) but also showed me how important these blueswomen were for early feminism.  In Patricia Hill Collins Black Feminist Thought, Collins identifies the early blueswomen’s techniques of call and response as expansions of early Africanisms, but she also indicates that these techniques are examples of the early foundation of what she calls,  “Black feminist epistemology.”  For more on this, check out her book or this Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article.

 

 

To sum this up, because I know you’re all hankering to get back to the turkey (I understand. I’m eating some right now…), Angela Davis’ book is, simply put, quite awesome.

 

I would recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in feminism, blues music, Africanisms in music, examining stereotypes, Black feminist epistemology, etc.  This book has given me a furthered knowledge of Black feminism in practice and a great expansion of my music library.  For that, I can definitely be grateful (there is only so much Backstreet Boys one can tolerate….).

 

So, go back to your Turkey Day festivities and remember that we will pick up with our regular ShoutOut! fun on Monday, November 26 (2012).  We’ll talk to you soon!

 

 

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