“Each semester, DEEP Impact holds Cultural Series events that feature prominent speakers, performers, and films that have made a significant contribution to diversity. These events are tailored towards larger audiences to promote diversity awareness and education. Cultural Series events offer personal anecdotes or visual representations related to various social identities.”
On April 4, 2019, James Madison University was able to host Michelle Taylor, known as Feminista Jones as a speaker for the D.E.E.P Impact Cultural Series giving her the platform to speak on intersectional feminism, mental health, and her own accounts of activism and struggles as a black woman in America.
The discussion started with Feminista Jones declaring that she didn’t want the time she had with us to be her talking at us, she wanted to talk with us. She wanted to have a conversation about the topics of the night where she could tell us her accounts and we could respond. The conversational atmosphere she allowed the room to enter into captured the audience as she dove into her opinion on the reframing of history done to important Black figures. By her account she discussed the reframing of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech and how they changed the naming of it and Sojourner Truth’s “Ain’t I a Woman” speech, which contradicted the upbringing and therefore the dialect of Miss Truth. The reframing of history wasn’t done by Black people in this country. The naming of prominent women in history both in the feminist movement and out was primarily that of white women. This lead her into talking about intersectionality and Black Feminism. She discussed how to address white feminism and her account of the offence people took when she did boldly name it “white” feminism. She entered the tricky topic of the Black family unit and how that has shifted from the time of slavery.
She dived into changing the narrative of how society treats black women and how they treat themselves. Instead of seeing black women for being just strong and able to handle trauma, they also need to be celebrated for their beauty and intelligence quite simply.
From the account of a D.E.E.P Impact staff:
“I really liked her because she was personal and she didn’t put herself on a pedestal. Other speakers seem to have already gone through their hurdles so it seems as if they’re not as personal. She talked about her life, love, and her anger and it made her more human to me. What she was saying seemed more realistic. I could feel her emotions and she talked in a more conversational way and not like a lecture. I took inspiration and ideas from this speech and I felt empowered in the moment, she allowed herself to be vulnerable in discussing her mental health and that meant a lot to me. Overall I was very happy she took the time out to come to JMU and give such a powerful message.”
This was also an extremely empowering discussion for me as well. I loved that she talked about her mental health because that’s oftentimes not something talked about amongst Black woman. She talked about how she had to struggle through a lot of things to get to this point. It’s always nice for me to witness Black feminist’s who have such a powerful platform it gives me hope and it makes me feel as if I myself might one day be a Black feminist which will also empower young black women.
Featured Image: Feminista Jones | Photograph by Colin Lenton