The “B” wordMar 09, 2023 02:00PM ● By Karen Warrington
It’s Women’s History Month, and it may be the appropriate time to discuss how and why so many Black women have become so comfortable using the “B” word. Whether referring to one another or referring to themselves, more and more women casually throw the once derogatory term out there with abandon. Sometimes the word is used in anger, and other times it is stated in embracing ways.
Many women of a certain age are perplexed by the use of the word by various young women, not-so-old women and reality show celebrities who are famous for being famous. What’s up?
Is this trend a reflection of the continuing debate about the “N” word? Some argue that the dreaded “N” word by Black people is an attempt to diffuse the sting of the hateful word.
While others, including myself, say the use of the word carries with it the complete terror and history of enslavement, lynching and racist thought that has no place in our lexicon today.
In the 60s, the Pan Africanism movement encouraged Black people to unite around a cultural and political ideology for Black solidarity.
In the U.S., Folk would greet each other as “sister” and “brother” in recognition of the origins of the struggle of African people against enslavement and colonization. It was an attempt to create a sense of brotherhood and sisterhood among all people of African descent, whether they lived in or outside the African continent. And labelling Black women as a “B” was not part of the practice.
That was the tenor of times when the song Respect Yourself was released in 1972 by the Staple Singers. The song became No. 2 on the Billboard soul chart when it was released, and the song’s question could be posed today. If women freely call themselves a “B”, what will anyone else call them? Ladies, where do we go from here?
I also offer the words of poet Mona Lake Jones. In her poem A Room Full of Sisters, she writes:
“... You see, it’s not about how these sisters appeared
Their beauty was in the values they revered.
They were smart, articulate and well-read
With all kinds of Black history stored in their heads
Jugglers of professions, managers of lives
Mothers of children, lovers and wives
Good-hearted reaching out to others
Giving back to the community and supporting our brothers.
All these sisters struggled the path
Suffered from prejudice, endured the wrath.
But they brushed off their dresses and pushed on the door And they came back stronger than they were before.
Now, imagine it you will
The essence and thrill
As you stand feeling proud
In the heart of this crowd
A sisterhood of modern Sojourners today
Still out in front blazing the way
A room full of sister like jewels in a crown
Vanilla, cinnamon and dark chocolate brown.”
No “B” word here!
Happy Women’s History Month.
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Karen Warrington has had a decades long career as a broadcast journalist, communications professional, performing artist, and documentary filmmaker. She has traveled extensively throughout Africa, the Caribbean, Europe, and Asia. She is committed to being a voice for the African Diaspora.
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