Blackness cannot be contained nor categorized. As a Black woman and student here at the University of Toronto Mississauga (UTM), the double jeopardy of being both Black and a woman connected me to the past colonial social constructions of Black women as a subset of humanity. This began to define and redefine Black women from past colonial introduction to modern day repercussions, and their lived experiences negated by social and cultural construction.
The embodied realities and conceptions of ourselves as Black individuals are mediated through our bodies within time and place through regulation, discipline, control, and serves as a symbolic function and social inscription.
As one of the few Black female students specializing in Biological Anthropology, I realized the need for focused Black studies in Anthropology. The focus on African Diasporic Archaeology, exploration of Black Feminist Archaeology and intersection of Critical Race Theory into Anthropology gives authorization to Black individuals’ ways of life in the past. I faced challenges in my attempt to diversify anthropology by incorporating these theories and intersections. Being the “token” Black student while discussing post-colonial effect on anthropology remains monotonous.
The lack of diversity is problematic. The disproportionate number of non-Black archaeologists ignoring the perception of past ways of lives that establish context to material culture and shapes how we learn and are taught to interpret archaeological evidence. Therefore, my identity of being Black, female, and a student as part of the Anthropology specialist program, is crucial to demystifying race, gender, and social construction in the field of Anthropology. Recognizing the socio-historical treatment of Black people justifies agency among Black students to interchange ideologies among these topics.
A well-known and exceptional professor, social activist, author by the pen name of bell hooks, who recently passed away in December 2021 is one of the few individuals that have shaped me into the woman I am today. Many of her written works include the Black perspective on familial relationship, community, and self-love. In her book All About Love, she writes, “By choosing men who were not interested in being loving, I was able to practice giving love, but always within an unfulfilling context—I got what I was accustomed to getting—care and affection, usually mingled with a degree of unkindness neglect and on some occasions outright cruelty.”
I was ashamed to have encountered unrequited love by individuals who lack self-awareness. I became an object, a care-taker who stood behind men for their use instead of the person that illuminated their own light. Her books made me realize what it means to encompass real love as a Black woman individually and the struggles Black women and men face within platonic and romantic relationships. The intergenerational trauma that resurfaces within many relationships among families and relationships are embedded in our community. Her analysis highlights the multiple voices of diversity, richness, and power of Blackness to combat these traumas. This has changed my outlook of who I am and who I will become.
Many individuals believe they will never know fulfilling love and are willing to settle for strategies to ease pain. Therefore, we look to self-help books and the bestsellers list to transform our lives, but that simply isn’t enough. Love cannot be defined by workable and useful definitions. Addressing love and our capacity to be self-actualized isn’t simply a feeling. It is honesty, responsibility, commitment, and respect. Therefore, I am unfinished.
I spent five years in a program that is beginning to change every year and I am proud to finish my degree this year. A special thank you to Dr. Madeline Mant for being an amazing professor, mentor and individual. She has shown me my love for Medical Anthropology. Thank you to Dr. Michael Brand and Lisa Small for introducing African Diasporic Anthropology into this year’s special topics.
I am forever grateful. I have more to become and more to give.