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Reclaiming Our Space: How Black Feminists Are Changing the World from the Tweets to the Streets, by Feminista Jones.

November 11, 2018

Reclaiming Our Space
Reclaiming Our Space: How Black Feminists Are Changing the World from the Tweets to the Streets, by Feminista Jones. Random House, January 2019.


A brilliant account by a leader of the new wave of Black Feminism, writing about how the movement is revolutionizing and community building in social media and on the streets.

Feminista Jones is the online name of Michelle Taylor, a social worker in Philadelphia and a compelling voice of the new online Black Feminism.  As she relates in her new book, she grew up in Queens, where her mother insured that she received the best possible education.  She attended boarding school and an elite Ivy League college.  She has been married, divorced and has a young son. Involved early in social media, she has won frequent awards for her innovative online activity.  She is an excellent writer, concise, deep, and sheer fun.

I am a white women grounded in the Feminism of the 1970s and interested in Black Women’s History.  I have watched from a distance as young, African American women, like Jones, have appeared in the forefront of recent protest movements.  I am grateful to Jones for explaining to me and others like me how and why they have achieved this prominence.  Theoretically, Jones points to the work of the Combahee Creek Collection in the 1970s to explain their “intersectionality,” the fact that race and gender intersect constantly in the lives of women of color.  Neither can be discarded or acquired at will, making black women essential for the liberation of all people.

Social media has broken down some of barriers between women according to race, age, sexual orientation, and education.  Under-educated women of color can have their experiences validated as they provide academics with information about the contours of their lives.  Jones herself is evidence of a previously rare mix of influences as she moves in the language of social media and of abstract theory. She carefully lays out the innovative ways in which Black Feminists have used Twitter to communicate with each other and the rest of the world.  She shows also how they have developed its capacity to explore ideas and experiences in ways which revolutionize community organizing.  For example, she shows how a comment she made when witnessing a woman being harassed on the street turned into a massive campaign in which women shared experiences and spoke out about the problem under the hashtag #YOUOKSIS.  She explains how “live twitting” can allow hundreds of people to become a community by sharing tweets during a performance or event.  Jones sees such activities growing out of the daily habits for survival of black women.


Jones addresses specific sections of the book to black men and white women, explaining to each group why Black Feminism is essential.  For years both of these groups have deliberately forced black women into distinctly subordinate roles.  Black women have been forced to choose between their identity as women or as blacks.  Setting up such a dichotomy is a way to avoid facing their needs and their anger from always being both.  Jones also addresses a variety of other concerns that tend to cluster in particular ways for black women, such as black motherhood.

Feminista Jones is a fine writer with a sure touch for the meaning of word or phrase.  I may disagree with her here   and there, but she has strong evidence for the positions she takes.  She is ever ready to admit to having changed her mind on some issues.  Her writing is generally easy to read and fun. She does, however, frequently write with words and styles that are unfamilar to readers like me.  Phrases from “Black English,” computer jargon, and abstract feminist theory are intermixed in her prose.  I loved the mix and all it signifies about crossing boundaries, but some readers may be annoyed.

Although Jones warns readers that we are all human and imperfect, she sometimes makes twitter and other social media too good to be true.  Yet if there is any truth in her descriptions of an expanded variety of women more engaged and involved in each other’s lives because of social media, we are all better for the process.  I strongly urge others to read this book, especially those for whom African American women and social media exist in worlds that seem distant from our own cloistered white neighborhoods.


Good and Mad, by Rebecca Taister.

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