ABSTRACT

To make a difference in the lives of Brazilian Black women, we have more to do than just hope for a better future. . . . What we have to do is to organize, and to never stop questioning. What we have to do, as always, is plenty of work. — Sueli Carneiro 1995, 17

Brazilian feminist Sueli Carneiro’s words identify the work facing Black Brazilian women in fostering their own empowerment. Because U.S. Black feminism participates in this larger social justice project of Black diasporic feminisms, it too must “never stop questioning” social injustices. Within this larger endeavor, U.S. Black feminist thought can make a special contribution. By stressing how African-American women must become self-defined and self-determining within intersecting oppressions, Black feminist thought emphasizes the importance of knowledge for empowerment. Ideas matter, but doing “plenty of work” may matter even more. Historically, U.S. Black women’s activism demonstrates that becoming empowered requires more than changing the consciousness of individual Black women via Black community development strategies. Empowerment also requires transforming unjust social institutions that African-Americans encounter from one generation to the next.