We are called angry Black women because we are not afraid of bare arms. We pay close attention to our arms, holding our children tight inside of them. We are called angry Black women because we use our arms to wave to each other, because we boldly swing our arms when we walk, because we know arms reach out, give regard, sometimes we even hire haute couture designers who have done their homework, who know we are no armless hipless mannequins.
I have decided that when I hear another fine Black woman fallaciously referred to as an angry Black woman during Black History Month this year, that I will stop whatever I am in the middle of and meditate on my personal list of other Black women who had great regard for their bare arms: Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Ida B. Wells Barnett, Barbara Jordan, Modjeska Monteith Simkins, Lorraine Hansberry, Beulah Butler Davenport (grandmother), Frances Davenport Finney (mother), as well as the fierce line of great aunts: Otelia, Nanny, Mary, Bertha. Here on these sacred black winged things, I will zoom and linger for the duration. Black amber, caramel, elegant, muscular, long, pillow-like, black bare arms akimboed at the hip or side. American history has not acknowledged the black arms of Black women. But Black History knows the arms of Black women very well.
Black arms on Black women are valuable apparatuses: for escaping, pointing to North Star freedom; recruiting Black troops for the Union Army; penciling notions of women’s suffrage; documenting, detailing the horrors of lynching (circa 1892), and thereby inventing investigative journalism in America; pecking out, scene by scene, manual typewriter blazing the timeless A Raisin In The Sun. Brave black arms assist in the raising of a historical hand. Remember that day in the House of Representatives, 1972, ‘the Inquisitor’ she called herself at the impeachment hearings for President Richard Nixon. Bare black arms show up like early travel signage of American history: STOP— GO - TURN HERE. To make a young country stronger, better, more just.
Black arms on Black women defended themselves from raging policemen and sex-crazed guardians of the old guard. Wiser Black arms taught us to high fly our younger Black arms like proud banners of the Black country we dreamed our lives forward from. The Black arms of the Black women of so many families drove buses and carried weighty purses that doubled as hammerheads. Barriers might need dismantling between breakfast and supper…
The Bare Arms of Angry Black Women, Nikky Finney