Black women are the very backbone of this country. Through pain, strife and glory, they have sown the seeds that allow this nation to grow and thrive. Over the past few years, we have seen Black women continue to break barriers and reach new heights. Because we are the authors of our own history, veteran journalist and White House correspondent April Ryan believes that we must capture this moment and pay homage to Black women past, present and future.
Ryan spoke with EBONY about her new book, Black Women Will Save the World: An Anthem, and how we should celebrate our wins as culture and history progresses forward.
What ultimately pushed you to write Black Women Will Save the World?
April Ryan: I wanted to celebrate this moment, primarily, because we are walking by history. No matter what you think of Kamala, Ketanji, Karine Jean-Pierre, Shalonda Young—or any Black woman in the height of their career right now—I don't want to gloss over this moment. When you gloss over the moment, you lose the moment and we've worked so hard to get in this space. It's my love letter to America, to Black women and to the world that we are here. We have finally risen to the heights. But in the midst of that, sometimes we don't feel like we belong. So, I want us to put an exclamation mark on this moment. I don't want a period because it ends a sentence. We will place an exclamation mark because we are here, and then put the comma so we can keep on going.
Why do you feel it has become the Black woman’s responsibility to heal America’s growing pains?
From the time the trans-Atlantic slave trade was brought to this nation, Black women, in particular, were viewed like a piece of meat on the auction block. They used our breasts as a signal to see if we were spoiled or not. If they sagged, we weren't going to make the journey because we were spoiled and already had children. They wanted foreign, perky, fresh vessels to carry to the "New World," so that we could bear the burden—be wet nurse to their children, cook their food, plow their land, pull their cotton and cut their cane. We bred the nation for the next generation of enslaved people for them to make money. Yet, while we were in the field, we had to then strap the child on our back and still work. That's who we were and that's, unfortunately, who we are now. We can't stop as we lift up the church house, lift up our familial house, lift up the schoolhouse and lift up the community. They see Black women as the workhorse who will keep going. Cornell Belcher, president of Brilliant Corners Research & Strategies, said to me, "When we get into politics, we do it for love of community. Whereas, men do it for ego and power." We keep going for that love to make a better day. We are the nurturers. We are the builders. We are the homemakers we are everything. We are the glue to the family.
In the Healing chapter of your book, you essentially outline that we have so much work to do. How do we prepare the next generation of Black women while dismantling a patriarchal mindset that they must follow and create new holistic and inclusive traditions?
Someone once said to me that there was a generation that believed in them. So in order to believe in the next generation, we have to be cognizant about what the other person's going through. We have to say things like, "Sister, you look good. How can I help you?" I think that through doing this, we will get to the space where we ultimately really want to be. Additionally, I think we have got to stop always thinking that everyone is out to get us. Yes, sometimes we get burned but we get back up. Black women are leading Black women and pulling us out of some of the worst places that we've ever been. We have to choose to uplift each other and commit to not letting it happen again. That's how we do it. I think if we have more of an empathetic ear, empathetic heart, empathetic mind, we will move in a better space.
Black women experience a lot pain, but that can't be a primary narrative. What joy do you personally find in your identity as a Black woman?
I always admired my mother and her femininity. At 55, I'm learning that there are so many things that I like about my womanhood and the joy that I find in my womanhood. The fight doesn't have to always look like we're in constant battle. We can come at it in so many different ways. There's a sense of femininity to it. We can come to a table and be stern without having to lay fists down on the table. Stern femininity does not mean that you're weak and that's what I like about it. My femininity is the legacy of my mother, my grandmother, my great grandmother and my great great grandmother, who was married to Joseph Tyler Brown, a slave. All those other African women that I just found out about through 23andMe. It's about the femininity and the strength of those African women who still kept going. The embodiment of her femininity was not taken from her. My femininity is owning myself, walking in spaces as the queen that people have bestowed on me. That crown is heavy, but my femininity keeps me in battle. My fierce and determined femininity will allow me to stay in that room.
What is your ultimate piece of advice for Black women of all intersections to help them tap into their voice and respective superpowers?
Our voice, our inner voice, is important. That inner voice is so key. That voice is like a North Star to guide you. If your compass is leaning towards doing the best and doing the right thing, you will never be steered wrong. That's my thought. I've relied on that inner voice more times than not in this crazy journey called life, and it's not letting me down. We all have issues and battles but, ultimately, we must celebrate our strength, who we are and our fortitude to move further.