By Michelle Gumede and Thembisile Dzonzi
The second installation of ForBlackGirlsOnly offered black women from across the province a space to engage and reflect on their everyday struggles.
In the courtyard of a converted women’s jail on a hill in central Johannesburg, hundreds of black women came together to celebrate their blackness, feminism and womanhood as part of the second ForBlackGirlsOnly (FBGO) event.
Hosted at Constitution Hill on Sunday, January 31 the event attracted young and old from across the province, all dressed in black for a day of book swapping, musical performance and an open panel discussion.
Many of the women agreed that spaces like FBGO are vital to the survival, resistance, and healing of black women in a society that ordinarily marginalises them.
“It’s empowering to be among people that look like you and you don’t have to explain or negotiate yourself. That shit feels really, really good,” said one woman, known by her street name, Vuyo.
She added that given the current events in the country and the conversations currently being had, it is important to have a gathering of this kind. “A mutual consensus is building that, you have to buy into black,” said Vuyo.
Billed as a “pro-Black [and] pro-Women feminist space”, the event is “deliberately and unapologetically committed to the upliftment of Black women”, according to one of the organisers.
The organisers, who did not want to be named, said they received threats from mainly white males via social media, who ridiculed the idea of the event. As a result, an additional R12 000 was raised to reinforce security and erect barricades for the event but no incidents were reported.
Pakamani Ngceni, media coordinator of the South African Young Feminist Activists,(SAY-F), said one of the challenges of being a black feminist in South Africa is the backlash one gets because people are generally uncomfortable with anything that is black or feminist.
“The backlash around the FBGO event is an example of these kinds of systematic attacks against people who dare to create a black girls only space,” she added.
Ngceni emphasises the need for intersectional work for which the FBGO is criticised. “Without this intersectional work, that black feminists are doing daily regardless of it being acknowledged and recognised as such, no movement, no group can be truly anti-oppressive,” she said.
The Wits Reproductive Health and HIV Institute (WRHI) were also present at the event. Gladys Msane of the WRHI says it’s important for their mobile clinic to be at events like this because women are the primary victims of domestic violence and rape. She also says that the mobile services help those who are too busy during the week to go to their local clinics where they are often faced with judgement and stigma.
Women at the event exchanged books and experiences over food within a space far removed from their daily environments that seek to undermine their agency and treat them as second-class citizens.