How African-Diasporic Religions Are Inspiring Modern Feminism

How African-Diasporic Religions Are Inspiring Modern Feminism

African-American women who encounter African derived religions in North America often attest to profound experience of affirmation of both their blackness and their female-ness. African derived traditions such as Yoruba offer a means for explaining new possibilities of black womanhood as such exploration relates to the reverance of female deities.
— Tracey E. Hucks

From the first moments they were abducted and brought to the Americas, Africans in America have been taught that they are not beautiful, that the religions and spirituality of their homeland was unacceptable—that everything about who they were was unacceptable. The patriarchal nature of the Christian society forced African women to repress their very nature of being revered as equal to men. Perhaps, this is why Black women today are gravitating more toward religions of the African Diaspora and are using it to strengthen the modern feminist movement.

In the 1950s and 60s, Black women began to embrace their ancestral heritage, shunning the force-fed religion of Christianity and its accompanying standards of beauty. In her book Yoruba Traditions and African American Religious Nationalism, Professor Tracey E. Hucks discusses how African Americans challenged the centuries of White, American Christian dehumanization, and devaluing of Africans in America. Yoruba and other Diaspora religions helped Africans in America feel closer to Africa and reclaim the humanity and culture that was beaten out of their ancestors. Black Women were at the helm of reintroducing African spirituality to Africans in America.

While many of the Diaspora religions survived in some form in the Caribbean and South America, the new versions of these religions were born out of the resistance to slavery and imperialism. These new or disguised religions fused Christianity with traditional African rituals that allowed enslaved peoples to practice their religions openly without question. In that same manner, African Americans, primarily women, are flocking to reclaim African religions to rebel against the enduring colonialism and forced Christian patriarchy.

Across the continent of Africa, spirituality is about balance or duality between masculine and feminine, a message that resonates with Black women in America. In Christianity, like American society, boys and men are at the forefront of stories, decision-making—a patriarchal society that forces women to fight for their due diligence. And Black women, even more so than White women and other non-White female counterparts, must fight twice as hard just to have their humanity and beauty respected. Choosing the spirituality denied their ancestors, Black women are rejecting all that the American patriarchy stands for.

In embracing the African spirituality Diaspora religions, Black women are declaring their equality, not begging for it. Black women are embracing their beauty, not trying to emulate America’s White beauty standards that have been the status quo for centuries. By embracing the spirituality of our ancestors, Black women are healing.

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