Please upgrade your browser for the best Refinery29 experience. Read more.

Saved! Access Favorites in your account profile. Removed from my favorites

How I Became A Black Feminist Activist

Courtesy of Morgann Freeman.
Morgann Freeman is an intersectional feminist and pro-Black activist. The views expressed here are her own.

I never wanted to be an activist. I always saw activism as a practice for people who thrived in the spotlight, who seemed to be born to dismantle systems of oppression. You had to be so unapologetic in your opinions, in your presentation, in your identity. You had to be free from inhibition and free from the socially constructed ideas of “worth” that you felt bound by.

The activists I grew up idolising seemed to all have an ethereal glow to them — they radiated passion, dignity, truth, and justice. So when people started calling me an activist, I didn’t know how to react.

Suddenly my rants of self-awareness, of social ills, of feminism and intersectionality and institutionalised racism were resonating. I started to have followers. So, I started a blog.

I became an outspoken social media persona on the patriarchy, on anti-LGBTQ jerks, on white supremacy, on Black Lives Matter, on poverty, and social injustice. I was shocked that people started asking me to share my thoughts, in public — my perceptions of the movement, on how to move forward, on how to be better people. I remember calling my mom squealing when I found out one of my workshops sold out in less than three days. Why was I — this awkward Black girl with too many opinions and a history in corporate America — asked to speak? I didn’t get it.

I’m not sure when it happened, but I had pushed through what was blocking me from embracing myself as a happy, carefree, passionate, empathetic Black girl. Somewhere along the way, I saw a way to speak about how my people are drowning but they’re being told that they need to save themselves.

At the end of the day, I could be the next Sandra Bland. Mya Hall. Alton Sterling. Miriam Carey. Charles Kinsey. Vivian Strong.

In order to understand that, I need you to understand something. Nebraska — where I'm from — is as white as you think it is. Omaha’s actually a great physical representation of how institutionalised oppression has evolved — as the city grew, the initial design of segregation was maintained, and still has a heavy influence on how residents view each other and how we view ourselves.

So when area activists organised not one, but several protest rallies, in response to the police shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, I was terrified. I was empowered. I could feel the change happening.

Unapologetic, carefree, Black people are taking over the city. They are organising and speaking. They are posting and Snapchatting and blogging. They are writing and documenting. They are supporting the movement in ways that are true to themselves and their identities, and we are seeing change happen. Young and old, my people are mobilising.

I. Am. Here. For. It.

In Omaha, we had protests that radiated compassionate solidarity and pro-Blackness. The integrated crowd vibrated with chants of, “No justice, no peace!” They held signs calling people in the community to action to fight white supremacy, police brutality, and corruption, and to celebrate Blackness. A week later, the city of Lincoln held a Black Lives Matter rally clearly designed for a white audience. The Black activists in attendance called for accountability of each other, of the organisers, and of the public officials who attempted to use it as a platform to place the sole burden of progress and social change on the Black community. My Black folk weren’t having that. And it was beautiful.

Until now, community action has always been led by "respectable" Black men, but previously ignored voices are being heard. It’s so powerful to see transgender women, non-binary people, disabled people, and queer people who are carefree in their self-love, and are coming together to make social change happen.
It’s important to recognise that my story is my own. I do not speak for Black women in Omaha. I do not speak for Black women as a whole. However, I do speak on the systemic problems we encounter due to the nature of white supremacy, and how I have seen them manifest for many melanated (people with melanin-rich skin) non-men who live and work in this small city.

For example, in Omaha, only 5% of business leadership is female. Recently, I was sitting in a conference room at a Fortune 250 company, and another Black woman sat me down to tell me I was “too angry” and “too bold,” and that it was going to “ruin my career unless I learned how to tone it down.”

That’s the epitome of misogynoir, in which race and gender both play roles in bias. Most people don’t know, and aren’t trying to learn what this concept means, or how it manifests in their daily dialogue.

It’s important to the conversation. It’s important to human rights. It’s important to me.

Because, at the end of the day, I could be the next Sandra Bland. Mya Hall. Alton Sterling. Miriam Carey. Charles Kinsey. Vivian Strong. It could literally be me not making it home to my family tonight. Tomorrow night.
That’s not right.

Morgann Freeman is an intersectional feminist and pro-Black activist who writes, blogs, speaks, and posts about Blackness, feminism, and intersectionality; LGBTQIA+ issues, ableism, and other social ills that oppress people. She’s an Omaha native, studying at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, while running her inclusive communications consultant firm. Her blog, Melanin & Honey, focuses on Black women and non-men’s experiences in Omaha.