Ms. has a short but thoughtful article on Oprah Winfrey’s school for African girls that might be useful for teachers. Without denigrating what is being attempted, the author reminds us that goals and ambitions are being brought to the girls; in a real way, they end up absorbed into the corporate world, which is hardly sensitive to their perspective. As a quote has it:
“When [people] approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves, or figments of their imagination—indeed, everything and anything except me.”
—RALPH ELLISON, INVISIBLE MAN (1952)
The article, by Nikki Ayanna Stewart, is a reminder of some important contributions black women’s studies have been made. Among them is:
At the core of black women’s studies is an insistence on building knowledge from black female points of view. Historically, almost all knowledge within Western culture has been built from a white male point of view; “others” could only gain credibility by first mastering and then carefully innovating within what black feminist scholar Patricia Hill Collins calls “Eurocentric masculinist” traditions. When black women’s views become central, new concepts and ways of thinking emerge.
The article also contains an implicit invitation for the girls to speak of their own experience, since
Both Winfrey’s mainstream project and black-feminist alternatives seem influenced by a desire to work through issues faced by black girls in the past—perhaps even issues from the producers’ own remembered girlhoods.
There is a lot more thought in Stewart’s short piece.