Signatory Answers in WordArt

Our Voices

Our Voices is a regular series to highlight and amplify the voices of the signatories to the 1991 African American Women in Defense of Ourselves media campaign.  Today, we decided to look at signatory answers to one of the questions in our Sisters Testify survey.  

What did you hope to achieve by contributing to the African American Women in Defense of Ourselves proclamation?

The words we used

I created the word cloud at the top of this page by inputting the raw answers to this question into’s word art creator.  I wasn’t surprised to see Anita Hill’s name pop off the page.  Many recalled wanting her to know that she was not alone, and that she was believed.  Others wanted to raise the issue of sexual harassment, rape and workplace violence and sexual stereotypes and treatment of black women.

I was moved, however, to see the words “Voice” and “Heard” show up — over and over again.  In fact, many answers had identical phrasing.

“I hoped that our voices would be heard.”

“Have our voices heard.”

“I hoped to have African American voices heard”. 

“I hoped to have our collective voices heard.”

“I wanted the voices of African American women to be heard loudly and clearly.”

Signatories expressed this theme using other words, too.

“. . .let the nation and world know. . .”

“. . .let the general public know. . .”

“. . . advise Americans. . .”

Solidarity was another common theme, the desire to be part of a movement of black women organizing not only at the time but also at other points in history.

 In your words; excerpts from your answers and emails

“AWIDOO was a media campaign launched by Barbara Ransby, Elsa Barkley Brown and Deborah King, in 1991 to support Anita Hill, a sexual harassment survivor, who testified against Supreme Court nominee (at the time) Clarence Thomas during his confirmation hearings before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee. The group placed a collective statement in the New York Times and several African American newspapers to express its views. It included over 1600 African American women across the country, and existed as a political network for nearly five years after the hearings.” — Barbara Ransby

To show that not all black women supported Clarence Thomas because he was “a brotha” yet. . .

“To show that not all black women supported Clarence Thomas because he was “a brotha” yet as a black feminist was uncomfortable with the way the arguments against Thomas were framed in a stereotypical way again black men. I felt it (the ad) dealt with our intersectionality before such a word existed.” — Anonymous

I hoped to anchor myself in a tangible act of historical & cultural significance.

“I hoped to anchor myself in a tangible act of historical & cultural significance. I wanted to fortify the spirits of other African American women who were doing this difficult, essential work. I wanted to send a message to Anita Hill that we heard, recognized, believed & cherished her.” — Michelle T. Clinton

I wanted to make sure that as a woman of color my voice was heard.

“I wanted to make sure that as a woman of color my voice was heard. I also wanted to pay homage to our early sister ancestors who spoke in defense of our names against the likes of James Jacks and others who disparaged black women. As a new graduate student, I and other grad students, drove to Boston to attend the first *Black Women in the Academy: Defending Our Name 1894-1994*–the national conference focusing on black women academics held at MI) on January 13–15, 1994. We had to get there despite the snow! I was inspired beyond belief and so proud to be a part of new history-making. The experience shaped my entire academic trajectory…so many memories!” — Psyche Williams-Forson, PhD

I wanted to stop all forms of inequity in our society, especially that against the African American woman.

“I hoped to have our collective voices heard. I wanted to stop all forms of inequity in our society, especially that against the African American woman. I felt very vulnerable at that time in my life and didn’t feel safe or that anyone but other black women were invested in my safety.” — Anonymous


Looking for ways to stay in touch and participate?

If you’d like to add your voice to this question, or to any of the others in our survey, we’d love to hear from you.  You can also learn more about the history around Justice Marshall’s resignation, Justice Thomas’ nomination, and Professor Hill’s testimony on the Sisters Testify site.  

Here are a few other ways to stay in touch.

  • Sign up for the Sisters Testify Newsletter. This will go out two or three times a month and will contain content from our blog.
  • Complete the Sisters Testify survey. Tell us about your history with African American Women In Defense of Ourselves or about your experiences witnessing Anita Hill’s testimony.  
  • Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
  • There are still a few days left to participate in the January mini-survey.

In struggle,

Photo credit:   Powered by, under the Free License Agreement

Welcome to the 116th United States Congress

Mid-term elections

I enjoyed watching the 116th United States Congress get started on January 3, 2019. The media coverage was a bright spot.  It was fun, full of teachable moments, and the incoming class itself inspired me.  I welcomed it after the frenetic holiday news cycles about a volatile stock market, the government shut-down, and trade wars.

By now you know that this Congress is different from the others, but it’s worth recapping some of those differences.


What message do you want to deliver to the 116th Congress?

We are launching our monthly survey series with this question.  Tell us what you think by completing the survey below or by leaving a note in the comments.  We’ll summarize the results right here on our blog next month.

In struggle for harmony,

Sign up for the Sisters Testify Newsletter if you want to stay connected.

Complete the Sisters Testify survey.

Photo credit:  From left, Lauren Underwood D-IL, Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., and Ilhan Omar D-MN, during the swearing-in ceremony of Congressional Black Caucus members of the 116th Congress at The Warner Theatre in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 3, 2019. (Jose Luis Magana/AP)

The United States Reports, the official reporter of the Supreme Court of the United States

Four fun ways to learn about the Supreme Court

We are in the midst of midterm elections here in the United States.  This is the time where we educate ourselves about the choices we’re being asked to make.  My local and state ballot is full of subjects, some I understand and some I still need to study.  If you’re like me, you might also try to follow certain issues in other local elections, like Stacey Abrams’ run for Governor of Georgia.  I try to keep up by surfing the news where our attention is directed from issue to issue by news cycles and media outlets.

But issues come along that resonate enough for me to break from the news cycle and study a bit more.  The Supreme Court is one of those issues for me.  If you’re curious about it also, keep reading to learn about some great resources to help you see another perspective.

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Recycle a fairness standard for the Brett Kavanaugh hearings

Do not victimize any witness who appears here and …treat every witness with respect.  

– Senator Joseph Biden, Chair, Senate Judiciary Committee, 1991

Today begins Day 5 of Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearings on the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to be an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.

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Welcome to Sisters Testify

Did you sign the African American Women In Defense Of Ourselves open letter back in 1991?

I did.

And today I am launching Sisters Testify to to connect with other signatories.

What is the African American Women in Defense Of Ourselves proclamation?

It is an October 1991 statement by black women and their allies, responding to the Anita Hill hearings during Clarence Thomas’ nomination to the Supreme Court. It appeared in seven newspapers: The New York Times, the Atlanta Inquirer, the Chicago Defender, the City Sun (NYC), the D.C. Spotlight, the Los Angeles Sentinel and the San Francisco Sun Reporter.

Barbara Ransby, Deborah King, and Elsa Barkley Brown spearheaded the initiative.

Read more