‘Black Women’s Bodies Have Always Been Under Attack’: Marcela Howell on Reproductive Justice and Why We Must Listen to Black Women

Marcela Howell, an advocate and policy strategist, is retiring after 35 years of advocating for women’s rights and reproductive freedoms. The founder and former president of In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda, Howell spoke with Ms.’ Janell Hobson about the current state of affairs, reproductive justice, and why more of us need to listen to Black women.

“If Black women in their full force come out and vote in elections, conservatives lose; their policies lose. If you want to control Black women, you control their bodies, control their votes, control what they learn in school, control their history.”

Harriet Tubman’s ‘Shadow of a Face’: New Monument Advances Inclusive History

Friday, March 10, is Harriet Tubman Day, which marks the 110th anniversary of Harriet Tubman’s passing on March 10, 1913. Last year, we celebrated Tubman’s bicentennial birthday with Ms. magazine’s Tubman 200 project. Today, we continue in the celebration of our Black feminist hero as we recognize the latest Harriet Tubman Monument. Designed by artist Nina Cooke John, Shadow of a Face opened to the public yesterday in Newark, N.J., in Harriet Tubman Square, renamed from Washington Park on Juneteenth of 2022. 

The new Harriet Tubman monument replaces a statue of Christopher Columbus, which was removed in 2020. Newark’s arts and cultural affairs director Fayemi Shakur said the city’s choice to replace of a symbol of conquest with “an ideal figure for democracy and freedom” is part of a larger project of healing. 

Shine Bright: Rihanna, the Super Bowl, and Performing While Black and Pregnant

Rihanna’s pop star persona has always maintained this edge of “regular woman” meets “island girl” realness. During her 13-minute halftime show, America rejoiced at the simple magic of a Black woman being herself and resonating across the spectrums of humanity. 

Such hopeful images are especially powerful against the backdrop of disturbing stories of Black women experiencing higher maternal death rates and the realities of how Black pregnant people are devalued in our healthcare system.

When Black Women’s ‘Excellence’ Isn’t Good Enough

There is a pattern here: Black women must ride on the coattails of protective manhood—a respected dad, a Hollywood white male “bodyguard”—to secure the top prize.

In a world that constantly tells women in general, and Black women specifically, that we just might be “imposters,” Beyoncé affirms us and allows us to luxuriate in a Black woman defiantly and truthfully announcing that “I’m the bar.” We revel in her excellence, even if some would try to diminish that greatness as “not good enough.”

‘Why We Still Love Zora’: Irma McClaurin on PBS Documentary ‘Claiming a Space’ and Zora Neale Hurston’s Legacy

PBS’ American Experience premieres documentary film on pioneering writer and anthropologist Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960). Directed by Tracy Heather Strain, Zora Neale Hurston: Claiming a Space is the first film to explore Hurston’s life and ethnographic work in great detail.

“Anthropology only started looking at the literary styles of novels and non-scholarly writing in the late ’80s. But Zora had already been there and done that,” said Irma McClaurin, Black feminist poet, anthropologist and Hurston expert.

Rest in Power: R. Dianne Bartlow, Emmy-Winning Producer and Director

The Ms. community, family, friends and colleagues recently said goodbye to R. Dianne Bartlow—professor, scholar, feminist writer, Emmy-winning producer and director. She’s left too soon, at the age of 67 after a short battle with lung cancer.

I remember Dianne for her easygoing temperament and her patience. Dianne was humble and down-to-earth, which is why I was surprised to learn of her accomplishments as an award-winning television writer-producer.