New Daughters of Africa: An International Anthology of Writing by Women of African Descent
Margaret Busby does it again!
New Daughters of Africa is an international treasure that brings together fresh voices of women from Africa and the African diaspora.
In a time when blackness is embraced yet rejected, and women have the nerve to press harder for gender equality, this anthology is essential.
Busby organizes her work into chronological decades, starting with pre-1900s; she moves to the 1900s up through the 1990s.
Busby showcases over two-hundred brilliant black women who skilfully express their experiences through poetry, short stories, speeches, letters, memoirs, essays, and more. One of the first women featured is Sarah Parker Remond, who was born in Salem, Massachusetts in 1815 and “grew up in an educated, abolitionist household.” In her work, Why Slavery is Rampant, Remond discusses how “free colored people of the northern states are, for no crime but merely…complexion, deprived of…rights.” Perhaps her most profound indications are the laws of the day. She points out that freedpeople could be arrested if they didn’t prove their freedom. If freedpeople were not claimed within a specific period, he or she could be sold to pay the jail fees. Furthermore, anyone who spoke to “the slave”, and supposedly provoked insurrection, could be jailed up to twenty-one years or even put to death.
The collection covers topics of race, gender, equality, class, and other relevant discussions that expose oppression around the world. I thoroughly enjoyed New Daughters of Africa. I highly recommend this work to all people of African descent, and I believe that it has the power to connect us. We have endured many of the same evils. Nah Dove in “Race and Sex: Growing up in the UK,” can easily connect with “mixed” or “light-skinned” African-Americans and/or “Coloured” Africans when she writes, “I remove myself from the label mixed “race” that is grounded in the patriarchal belief that there are several “races” of humanity, largely identifiable by colour…there is one race…the label of “mixed-race” privileges people like me in that whiteness separates us from blackness or ethnicity because we “appear” closer to “white.”
New Daughters of Africa is not only for people of African descent; it is for everyone. It is for any person who wants to understand women who descend from Africans. It is for people eager to begin a new tradition that does not penalize a woman born with dark skin and kinky hair.
Poet Zena Edwards writes about Sara Reed, a black woman who succumbed to mental illness and took her own life after her baby died. Reed ended up beaten by London police and imprisoned before her demise. Edwards acknowledges that society normalizes beating and imprisoning black and mentally ill folks when she writes, “I have not yet shed a tear for the deaths my social media timeline has fed me.” She implores us to recognize Sarah Reed and her impossible situation, “#SayHerName Sarah Reed, #SayHerName Sarah Reed, #SayHerName Sarah Reed,” she writes.
I believe the most important reader of this work will be girls; girls who need to know who they are. There may be girls in the world like Nawal El Saadawi who grew up in Egypt, not knowing that she was an African woman. This work was assembled for a time such as this, and it will echo the unified voice of women of African descent for generations to come.
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