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.

The result was remarkable.

It was remarkable because it memorialized the voices, or the testimony, of 1600 African American women and their allies. It was crowdfunded before crowdfunding was a part of our vocabulary.  In an era without the Internet, cell phones, ubiquitous email, texting, or video chats the signatories raised over $50,000 in less than six weeks.

It was remarkable because it represented unconditional support for Anita Hill — a woman who dared to testify before the United States Senate Judiciary Committee when societal forces, and just plain old meanness, might have made it easier to stay silent.

It continues to be remarkable because the November 17, 1991 publication marks a place where 1600 separate signatories gathered before moving forward along their own individual historical arcs. Some of the news headlines that we researched from 1991 could have been written today.

Sisters Testify connects signatories. Each signatory is a multi-faceted primary resource who can illuminate history and speak to issues that remain ripe.  I want to get to know you.  Please, tell us your story.

Sisters Testify also wants to hear from those who did not sign.  Maybe you did not know about the proclamation at the time, you were too young in 1991, you didn’t agree with the proclamation’s intent, or you supported Clarence Thomas’ nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court.  Please, tell us your story.

2016 was the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Anita Hill’s testimony and the African American Women in Defense of Ourselves initiative. It also marked the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Black Panther Party, the last year of the first African American president’s final term, and the year in which another Supreme Court nomination became ripe. Oh yes, and the country just elected a new president.

This is a good time to gather again and ask ourselves, “what would we say today?”

Did you sign the proclamation? Fill out our survey.

If you did not sign, we want to hear from you too. 

Answer the question, “what would we say today” in the comments below.

One comment on “Welcome to Sisters Testify

  • I don’t remember signing the petition. I was dealing with my mother’s health issues which lead to her death. I remember very clearly the disrespectful treatment of Anita Hill and arrogance of Clarence Thomas, and support he received from men. I admire her continued strength and am saddened to have to admit that things have not changed for African American women!

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