The Black Lives Matter movement (BLM) was distinct from the historical mass movements that resisted state sanctioned violence and structural racism in two ways. The founders of the BLM 501 (c) (3) centered queer and transgendered identities adding an intersectional lens that had never been present in the Civil Rights or Black Power Movement. Secondly, in the aftermath of the organized protests, Black women decried the media representation and the cost of participation as masculinizing Black women’s image, especially darker skinned Black women. Unlike previous generations, Black women are now en masse resisting psychic wounds perpetuated from within the community, such as colorism, as equally noxious as the external harm from white supremacy. The challenge is against any person, Black or otherwise, who undermines the social location of Black women and the narratives that they use to do so. Most dominant among these rejected tropes are The Strong Black Woman (indefatigable and exhausted); The Mammy (disempowered and domesticated); Sapphire (angry and emasculating) and the hyper sexual Jezebel, all of which remain relentlessly as present and noxious as Aunt Jemima’s makeover. These tropes are considered enduring legacies of trauma from previous Black generations who failed to resist or develop healthy coping mechanisms. Black women have created “emancipated spaces” in the social media stratosphere where these tropes are actively dismantled and in the process introducing new tropes, such as the “Pick me,” or Black women considered treacherous for loyalty to “undeserving” Black men. The strategies for change are wildly diverse from fastidious attention to beauty and fashion, therapy, promoting interracial dating and economic self-sufficiency, ending colorism, forfeiting motherhood, and divestment from relationships to Black men and social justice causes. These emancipated spaces dare to move the litmus test from the macro identity of being Black to a mezzo level group vetting of the Black male’s individual ethos towards Black women as either affirming or underserving of Black women’s support.
April Grigsby is currently a third year candidate in the NYU Silver School of Social Work Doctorate of Clinical Social Work program. April’s research focus is on Black mental health, and the complexity of relationships between African-American, Caribbean and African immigrants, culturally informed interventions as well as training and curriculum development for social workers. April has a broad range of direct practice experience serving the diverse communities of NYC working in a city hospital and both large social service agencies and small, grass roots not-for-profits. She has partnered with prisoner families, children in foster care and immigrants. April is a LCSW, SIFI certified Field Instructor and currently works in private psychotherapy practice. April attained her BS from Yale University and her MSW from Columbia University.