Sister Souljah Speaks on Womanhood

Holly Rothbard

On Tuesday, Sister Souljah, author of two best-selling novels, hip-hop and recording artist and an “outspoken and prolific activist” came to Colgate University as the keynote speaker for Colgate’s Africana Women’s Week. Africana Women’s Week is meant to raise awareness about and garner support for the lives and contributions of women of color all over the world. The Sisters of the Round Table (SORT), the group that sponsored Africana Women’s Week, was very excited to have been able to bring the “proud and bold” presence of Sister Souljah to campus, according to senior Courtney Richardson.

“Sister Souljah has come here to offer constructive solutions to today’s youth and society, and to speak her mind and open yours,” Richardson said

Sister Souljah began her discussion of African womanhood and the role of black students on white college campuses with a biographical story from her childhood.

“You should always know about the person who is coming to speak to you because their background will largely influence what they do and do not believe and what they do and do not tell you,” she said.

As a child, Souljah was an avid reader and the first book she ever read by herself was the autobiography of Harriet Tubman. Tubman, and the portrait she presented as a strong, successful and moral woman was the initial image and definition of African womanhood in Souljah’s mind. She grew up basing herself on that image, demanding respect from those around her and doing everything in her power to expand her mind. Souljah explained that as she grew older, she seemed to be the only woman with this kind of mindset.

“America has come to define women by the visuals, celebrating them for looking good and putting them down if they’re smart,” she said.

“How come women who descended from the mothers of civilization, who were celebrated with huge monuments, came to be so universally disrespected in the world?” Souljah said, citing the idea that each generation is supposed to progress farther than the previous one. “What happened from ancient times to now?”

She explained that until African women had become “morally clean, spiritually powerful and psychologically sound,” they could not do anything to change the condition of their race. Advocating the removal and disuse of “decorations and synthetics on our bodies,” Souljah conveyed that a woman’s original self is her beautiful self, and only when she has learned to love her original self can she live a healthy and successful life as an African American woman.

Souljah also discussed the identity crisis many African Americans encounter by attending racially white-dominated universities and colleges. She emphasized the fact that college is an optimal time for African Americans to engage in every opportunity they can get their hands on, because “college is about more than academic honors because success means more than being good at doing what you’re told.” According to Souljah, African American students go to predominantly white universities because they are displeased about the negative portrayals of African Americans in American media and want to strengthen their “white affiliations.”

By not coming together and celebrating their black identity, African Americans are creating a “psychologically and emotionally cold campus for themselves,” said Souljah. She encouraged the African American students at Colgate to listen to their African blood and build a collective identity on campus in order to show that they are confident in themselves and their history. Unite, love, and become powerful, Souljah said, because what is the point of being “academically successful if culturally, you fail?”