In light of the murder of George Floyd and sentiments of anti-blackness in our society and institutions, a professional network of Black women faculty and administrators has been organized to support, mentor, and empower community college women. Unfortunately, colleges have been slow and ill-equipped to respond to the needs of their Black employees and students. Recognizing the gravity of this problem, a group of Black women coordinated virtual community healing forums during summer 2020 for Black students and employees to be affirmed and heard. The group of women felt they needed to continue their work together in a far more organized fashion with an intentional focus on centering the voices of Black women while decentering practices rooted in anti-blackness and patriarchy.
Nandi, who was a Zulu queen, warrior, and devoted leader, seemed like a fitting name for the group of women as they began meeting to formalize their work and collective goals. Nandi is comprised of a counseling faculty member, English faculty member, Umoja Faculty Coordinator, Faculty Professional Learning Coordinator, CalWORKS Director, college presidents, vice presidents, and an Executive Officer of Equity and Engagement. The professional work of the Nandi members individually and collectively has been integral in advancing Black student success, Umoja efforts, men of color efforts, justice impacted efforts, and other diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts in the community college system. Nandi recognizes that the need for representation and engagement of Black women is imperative to advance Black women’s issues in the community college system.
DISPELLING THE MYTH OF THE ANGRY BLACK WOMAN
There is a unique type of discrimination that Black women experience that is categorically different than the type of discrimination experienced by other groups. Black women are often stereotyped as the superwoman archetype, angry Black woman archetype, or the mammie caricature, which dehumanizes Black women. One not too uncommon experience that many Black faculty members share, more specifically Black women, is being called aggressive, contentious, and/or uncivil when having uncomfortable conversations with certain colleagues. The weaponization of words used to villainize Black folks and induce a false sense of fear and lack of safety is a century long tactic used to control and cause harm to Black people. The century long myth of the fragility of others when it comes to their uncomfortable interactions with Black people is often used to excuse and
legitimize the harm, disrespect, and mistreatment toward Black people. The problem, however, is that the fragility of others confuses fear with danger and comfort with safety. Stated differently, when others feel “frightened” or “uncomfortable” with a Black woman’s assertive, direct communication they perceive that there’s an actual threat when no threat exists. Black women should be allowed to assert themselves, and they should be able to do so without being stereotyped as aggressive, attacking, and/or angry.
The negative stereotypes serve to perpetuate oppressive discourse that induce fear and causes harm to Black women. Therefore, creating a network for Black women that serves to support, mentor, and empower is essential to supporting the success of Black women on a community college campus. Moya Bailey coined the term misogynoir which is misogyny directed toward Black women. Misogynoir explains how race and sex intersect, and it describes the hatred, dislike, distrust, and disparate treatment towards Black women (Bailey & Trudy, 2018). Institutions are unaware of misogynoir and how it manifests to collectively harm Black women. The first step to dismantling and disrupting misogynoir is awareness. Furthermore, the most critical components to dismantling misogynoir is listening to Black women.
CENTERING THE VOICE OF BLACK WOMEN
The Nandi organization has four areas of focus: research, scholarship, mentorship, and professional development. Nandi will give voice and awareness to the experiences of Black women to help institutions move toward accountability and action that ultimately dismantles misogynoir in the community college system. Despite the many equity efforts statewide across our system, the plight of Black women continues to be overlooked and consequently Black women are holding back their voice due to fear of being villainized, punished, or worse, terminated. Addressing the negative perceptions, disparate treatment, and hostile environment will be imperative to ensure the success and wellbeing of Black female students, staff, faculty, and administrators on community college campuses.
Understanding the importance of turning data into meaningful action, Nandi will conduct research to capture the challenges, barriers, and overall lived experiences of Black female students, faculty, staff, and administrators. The action research approach will provide opportunities to engage colleges in the effective use of data in order to help build and sustain institutional capacity to support the success of Black women. Further, Nandi will coordinate workshops, webinars, and learning institutes that will focus on addressing systemic barriers that impact the success of Black women, as well as ways to better support their success. Nandi will host an annual conference to motivate and inspire Black women personally, academically, and professionally through relevant and engaging keynote speakers, workshop topics, and presentations.
Bailey, M. & Trudy. (2018). On misogynoir: citation, erasure, and plagiarism. Feminist Media Studies, 18:4, 762-768. DOI: 10.1080/14680777.2018.1447395
Bailey, M. (2020). Misogynoir transformed: Black women’s digital resistance. NYU Press.