The Sistren: Their Words Filled Me

“The Sistren: Black Women Writers at the Inauguration of America’s First Sister President.” Photo: (c)
Susan J. Ross. 1988. Used by permission.

Can you name these women?

I cannot remember life without these sister-poets and writers. It seems their words have been with me all my life.

I was young–a preteen in most cases–when I was introduced to Nikki Giovanni, Gwendolyn Brooks, Mari Evans, Sonia Sanchez, Toni Cade Bambara. I don’t remember how I came to meet them, other than through my thirst for books, which often led me to my mother’s or older siblings’ book collections.

I encountered others later–when I was in college and in graduate school. I even met some of them in person.

Their names and words became part of my literary vocabulary, reserved for sacred moments, quiet time. Me and my sister writers. Their words filled me and spoke to an experience akin to my own–of black women speaking, loving, empowering–alive and thriving in their own spaces.

Only the black woman can say ‘when and where I enter, in the quiet, undisputed dignity of my womanhood, without violence and without suing or special patronage, then and there the whole Negro race enters with me.’ —Anna Julia Cooper, A Voice from the South, 1892


How many did you know? Top Row: Louise Meriwether, Pinkie Gordon Lane, Johnnetta Cole and Paula Giddings. Middle Row: Pearl Cleage, Gwendolyn Brooks, and Toni Cade Bambara. Bottom Row: Sonia Sanchez, Nikki Giovanni, and Mari Evans

Many thanks to photographer Susan Ross [website] who gave me permission to share her photo on my blog. You can find also find her on Instagram and Twitter @photogriot.

14 thoughts on “The Sistren: Their Words Filled Me

  1. kegarland says:

    You know what’s funny about this? I was just on someone else’s blog, where they paid homage to women, in general. They had a long list of white women, and, in the next sentence one Black woman (Angelou) and one Asian (Malala). I instantly thought, “I wonder what it would be like to have to search my brain for influential white women.”

    To answer your rhetorical question, I knew four.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Mali says:

    What a great list – I’m going to hunt up their books. Here in NZ I grew up with mainly UK authors and still gravitate that way (there are some wonderful women there writing with Caribbean or West African or Indian heritage), but I’ve read far fewer US authors, so I’m keen to look out for these women’s writings.

    Liked by 1 person

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