Why I (Literally) Cite A Sista

Brittany Williams (hey boo!) and I came up with #CiteASista as a project for a course in the summer of 2016. Our professor tasked the class to create a project that challenged whiteness and white supremacy. We threw patriarchy right on under the bus for fun and crafted up a twitter chat about centering Black women’s voices in the academy and all areas of our lives. We had an affirming response from sista-scholars in the twitterverse and at our home institution. Since that first chat, #CiteASista has evolved into a Black Feminist/Womanist digital project that aspires to encourage a citational praxis that centers Black women’s knowledge, builds community across communities of Black women within and beyond the academy, and supports Black women who are developing a Black Feminist/Womanist identity, ethic, and praxis.

createherstock-big-bun-2On a more the personal is political level, I cite a sista because it is part of my ethic as a Black Feminist/Womanist because our society is shaped by both patriarchy and white supremacy.  Choosing to cite a sista is a purposeful and empowering practice that challenges us all to know more, to know more deeply, to know more complexly, and to know more intimately. Choosing to cite a sista is inherently oppositional to people and systems that do not recognize or are challenged by the wealth and richness of Black women’s individual and collective knowledge. I sincerely believe, and know for myself, that Black women have knowledge that comes from lived experiences at various intersections of identities, power, privilege, and oppression. When I was unsure of what I knew, it was Black women scholars (hooks, Crenshaw, Hill Collins, and Dillard) who (re)minded me that I know things beyond my book learning  because of who I am as a Black woman.

In the academy, C.R.E.A.M. means citations rule everything around me. Citations are the capital and currency of the academy. If I want sista-scholars to get their due, then I do my part to cite them when and where I can (manuscripts, syllabus, references to other scholars, etc.). I cite a sista because I want sista-scholars to get the reward for their labor.

london-scout-41030Before and beyond academic credentialing, research protocols, or IRB approval, Black women knew/know things *and* our knowledge is valuable, particularly when the knowledge of our position is structurally marginal (as women within patriarchy and Black within white supremacy). More plainly, my non-degree holding Black women family and friends all have knowledge that inform how I navigate and negotiate relationships, counter systems of oppression, manage the responsibilities of adulthood, and understand the ways of the world. While the citational practice might not carry as much weight in non-academic areas of my life, giving them credit for their knowledge is a culturally honest practice. Here’s what and how I cite often Black women beyond the academy.

  • “I don’t do ouuu’s and ahhh’s. Singing background is a trap.” Effie White (Dreamgirls) | I cite Effie White’s knowledge of the world in my own understanding that people will use your talents and gifts to highlight their own with little to no reciprocity.
  • “I don’t care how pretty other people are. You be beautiful because you are beautiful. Don’t ever let me hear you diminishing your beauty or light again. I won’t have it.” Pamela Anthony | I cite Pamela as a fellow #SistaBigBones whose knowledge of the world informed my own confidence, assurance of self, and the early stages of my re-evaluation and critique of “thinness as beauty” concept.
  • “Live your life the way you want to live it because folks will have something to say about it anyway and you’ll be the one living it.” Mama | I cite Mama for her knowledge that I will reap what I sow. So, make sure that I’m sowing what I want to produce, regardless of what others want harvested in my life.

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I say all of this to say that there is power in who we choose (not to) reference as a source of knowledge. Who we choose to include/exclude matters. Dr. Kishonna L. Gray established #CiteHerWork (2015) to encourage people to cite work that women do. Citing a sista is what we encourage at #CiteASista. Including Black women in your citational practice is not hard, but it is an intentional practice, not because Black women are quiet and keep our wisdom to ourselves, but because our knowledge is overlooked, erased, or silenced by systems of power that manifest in the delegitimization of Black women and Black women’s knowledge. The practice has transformed my work and my life in empowering, endarkening, and culturally honest and authentic ways. When you are figuring out whose knowledge to draw from or be inspired by in the future, don’t think long or hard: just #CiteASista.

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