Collins’ Challenge

Black Feminist Thought a.k.a. Social Justice: Still Needed?

The verdict on true social justice in America: We’ve still got work to do.

As the keynote speaker at the 2013 Women of Color Leadership Conference, Patricia Hill Collins talked about her work and research on that topic over the course of her illustrative career as a professor, author and national and international speaker.

Her focus has been and is Black Feminist Thought, a.k.a social justice.

“I consider this social justice work, and my message – looking back – of accessing the here and now is part of the process that we all must go through,” said Collins.

Collins’ “Black Feminist Thought” – one of the best known of her books – was published in 1990 and is said to “have made her one of the leading American thinkers of our day.”

She spoke briefly about black feminism as part of a larger movement; African American women and political activism; and the role of women of color in the academy.

“The doors of the academy didn’t just open, they were pushed open inch by inch,” said Collins.

She challenged those who are interested in social justice to make their work more impactful in the world today, and in the future.

She acknowledged the changes – the improvements, the progress – that have taken place in America. And she emphasized the attention needed in the area of education and how it is being marketed currently.

“Many universities are adapting business models to operate – competing for students, faculty, funding and prestige,” said Collins. “But we can’t lose sight of the students, the freedom of thought and the intellectual ideas that can become lost.”

According to Collins, people are often placed in boxes – race, class, gender, education, religion, sexuality. She encouraged everyone to “think beyond one’s own box and hope to imagine that something can be better.”

“I ask you to pick an area – education, health, food, poverty, reproductive issues, violence or the environment– and make it your life’s work. Make a difference, one area at a time,” concluded Collins.


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