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Tamara Winfrey-Harris on Black Girls and Freedom


On the finish of her 2021 ebook, Expensive Black Lady: Letters from Your Sisters on Stepping Into Your Energy, Tamara Winfrey-Harris wrote, “We are going to get free collectively.” 

Now, the creator and president of the Girls’s Fund of Central Indiana is again along with her recipe for residing authentically and unapologetically in her ebook, A Black Girl’s Information to Getting Free (Berrett-Koehler Publishers: July 9, 2024).

Winfrey-Harris detangles what it means to be free by way of vital evaluation intertwined with private narratives written from interviews she carried out. We interviewed her about her expertise writing the ebook and interviewing Black girls about freedom.

(This interview has been edited for readability and size.) 

Q&A with Tamara Winfrey-Harris

SUCCESS: Inform me in regards to the expertise of interviewing girls for the profiles on your ebook. 

Tamara Winfrey-Harris: This is a chance to see how private the thought of freedom is. There’s not one concept, and I believe if there’s one takeaway folks can have from the ebook, it’s that liberation is yours. My freedom will not be your freedom. 

A part of us getting free is being in an area the place we will all understand these visions of freedom—it doesn’t matter what they’re.

S: Within the ebook, you spoke about spending a long time preventing biases and the way you at the moment are able to vary these [through your career in philanthropy]. Think about you’re retiring tomorrow and also you’re wanting again—what would you prefer to see? 

TWH: I would really like folks to say that I used to be a storyteller of the black femme expertise, and extra importantly, that I amplified different girls’s voices and their experiences, and that I labored alongside them to unravel the challenges that we face and seize the chance that exists for us to be nice. As a result of I believe it’s not me doing both of these issues. It’s me working alongside my sisters. If folks suppose that I did that, then I believe I’d have carried out a very good job.

S: This matches the truth that A Black Girl’s Information to Getting Free was an interview mission and provides to the idea of strolling alongside different girls.

TWH: It’s inadequate to simply say “Black girls” and suppose you recognize everybody’s view of freedom and everybody’s expertise. After writing my first ebook, I appeared again, and I noticed that the entire girls I had interviewed had some form of academic or socioeconomic privilege. 

Even in some circumstances I talked to girls who might have been battling their payments, however have been in a doctoral program and there’s a certain quantity of privilege there. If I solely communicate from my perspective [as a middle class, educated, straight Black woman], I’d omit a number of the feel of what it means to be a Black girl. 

S: One of many suggestions within the ebook that actually stood out to me is that you simply problem your readers to see free Black girls in all places. Inform me about how free Black girls present up in your day-to-day life.

TWH: The piece that’s essential in how I view Black girls that’s laborious, will not be requiring that you simply or some other Black girl dwell in my picture of freedom. I say that as a result of one of many anecdotes I exploit in my ebook is the dialog that was form of began across the comic Monique across the younger Black girls that she noticed in public carrying bonnets on their hair. That was only one instance of respectability and the methods that fairly often we demonize girls and younger Black girls for the methods they present up in public. [Thinking that way] impedes our freedom. 

It isn’t my place to dictate what one other Black girl ought to appear like… or due to the best way I believe it’ll replicate on me as a result of the truth that it actually does replicate on me is racism that we don’t want to purchase into. Having the ability to see Black girls in all places is definitely having the ability to say I need to see you might have the liberty to dwell your life in the best way you need to, not the best way I need to. 

Liberation itself [is] a follow to attempt to get your self to a degree the place you aren’t judging different Black girls for the way they present up.

S: Is there anything you want to add?

TWH: If we need to see future generations be comfortable, wholesome, secure and free, that doesn’t occur until we free ourselves. It doesn’t occur until we get free. That solely occurs by way of proactive work. As Black girls, we put our wants final due to issues we’ve been taught. However actually, in placing ourselves first… our liberation for it is going to be therapeutic to our households, to our kids, to our communities.

I’d like to see folks prioritizing our freedom. I’d like to see Black girls prioritizing their very own freedom and our collective freedom.

Picture by Grace Michael Images/Courtesy tamarawinfreyharris.com

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