How It Came To Be

Dr. Ruth D. Edwards (Photo Credit: EYESEEIMAGES)

BY DR. RUTH D. EDWARDS, GUEST WRITER TO THE TIMES

WINTER PARK – Years ago, a friend introduced me to the term “G.R.I.T.S.” She had to write it out for me because both of us being Southern girls, I was acquainted with this other name for hominy. She explained that her reference was about our origins in the South, not about the food staple. She was identifying us as Girls Raised In The South…aka, GRITS. I appreciated this new expression, and we laughed about our new-to-me, identified state.

Years later, while in graduate school for my doctorate, the phrase returned to me. I had decided to investigate Black women, specifically our socialization. I wanted to know “how we got like this.” My committee chair understood what I wanted to study. He gracefully said to me, “You have to call the study something else, your title needs to sound more academic.

I agreed, and I held onto the phrase because it stated, quite simply, what my intention was with the research. As I conducted my review of the literature, I discovered that there was not anything about Black Women in the human development canons. I became frustrated and consulted with the professor who taught my human development course. This gentle Latino (his term) listened to my frustrated rant. When I finished, he said, “You have to look in the feminist literature. That is where you will find writings and scholarship by and about Black Women.”

I searched, researched, and read everything I could find about Black women in the feminist canons. What I learned is that everything written about women is based on white women. The scholarly community had decided that white women’s experiences reflected ALL women’s experiences, regardless of color and acculturation. The human development research I had come across focused on Black men and the assumption was that everything about Black men applied to Black women because of ethnicity. As I read the experiences and life learnings, I realized that none of those findings applied to me or any Black woman I knew. None of their feminist leanings connected to Black women.

In my idealism, I had gone looking for Maya, Nikki, and Zora. I discovered Patricia and Kesho and rediscovered Paula. About forty others contributed to my answering the question of “how did we get like this?” specific to Black women. Too many to name in this space. My research resulted in a new contribution to the field of Human Development: Internalized Collective Consciousness. To learn more, drop by the Winter Park Library on Sunday, May 19 where I will be in conversation with noted poet, historian, and author, Valada Flewellyn. Bring your curiosity and your questions.