Title page for ETD etd-06302008-182302

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Blackmon, Janiece L
URN etd-06302008-182302
Title I Am Because We Are: Africana Womanism as a Vehicle of Empowerment and Influence
Degree Master of Arts
Department History
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Bunch-Lyons, Beverly Committee Chair
Farrar, Hayward Committee Member
Shadle, Brett L. Committee Member
  • Nation of Gods and Earths
  • Black Panther Party
  • Gender
  • Africana womanism
  • Rastafarian
Date of Defense 2008-06-16
Availability unrestricted
The purpose of this research project has been to shed light on the experiences of Black women in Afrocentric groups—Nation of Gods and Earths, the Black Panther Party, and Rastafarians—that operated on the fringes of society during the 1960s through the early 2000s. This work articulates the gender dynamics between the men and women of the groups. In it, I trace the history of Black nationalism and identity in the United States in the late 19th century to the 20th century which set the framework for the formation of the Nation of Gods and Earths (NGE), the Black Panther Party(BPP), and Rastafarianism and its members to see themselves as a part of the Black nation or community and the women of these groups to see their identity tied in with the goals and desires of the group not as one set on individualistic ambitions.

The Africana womanist did not see herself as an individual but rather a vital part of the entire Black community. From a feminist perspective, it would appear as though the women of these Afrocentric fringe groups were marginalized and oppressed by the men but this perspective fails to give credence to the fact that Rasta women, Earths—the female members of the NGE—and women Panthers saw race and racism as a more pressing issue than that of sexism. That is not to say that women in these groups did not question or challenge some of the sexist actions of their male counterparts. When there was a challenge it was done so in a way that reminded the men of the tenets of their respective group and their responsibility to uphold those principles; principles that required the men to consider the women as equally valuable in the cause of the group and deserving of just treatment.

While adhering to a gender order that afforded the male members a more visible position, the women of this study did not view their positions as mothers, wives, and sister members as a hindrance to their own personal joy or freedom. In fact, using an Africana womanist point of view, they would argue that it was in the best interest of the entire Rasta, NGE, or BPP and by extension, the Black community for them to own their statuses as a form of empowerment. For it was through their wombs and nurturing that the next generation would be born, through their providing a stable home that would allow their husbands to focus their attentions on the issues concerning their communities outward and through their role as supportive “sisters” encouraging the men that the community could advance socially.

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