Alright, take a good look at the selfie below (which I have permission to post). That’s me — and Dr. Angela Gilliam. Angela and I just hung out. I met her at her house, we then ran a few of her errands and afterwards had lunch at the Wandering Goose in Capital Hill — and I have been beaming because of it.
In case you’re not sure who she is, let me give you a bit of a run down, and of course you can also google her. Angela (who bears a striking resemblance to the other Angela — Davis, who she knows personally, btw) is a Black feminist anthropologist, retired professor, researched in Cuba, taught university in Portugal, Mexico, Brazil, and Olympia (WA), has published an insane amount of work on race, gender, class (and Black feminist anthropology) in the U.S. and in other countries, speaks a number of languages, ran for public office and a zillion other attributes that are too numerous to name is someone I was introduced to by someone else in my department.
This introduction happened just the other day via email and did not connect her name to the work I had read, which made me feel like an utter and complete mother-effing idiot. In fact, I’ve referenced her work before, but it’s not like I ever expected her to be right here, which is perhaps why things didn’t click. But I honestly do not know how I would have found this had it not been for one of the professors in my dept, upon seeing my posters hanging around the place advertising my upcoming class on African American Anthropology, offered to introduce me to someone who he knew and said she ‘is a self-described Black feminist anthropologist.’ Of course my antenna extended as high as it could when he told me this and my ears perked up. She and I ended up meeting, talking Black feminist anthropology, the history of anthropology, the future of anthropology, who’s doing what in anthropology, racism in anthropology, decolonizing anthropology, what she did in anthropology, what I’m doing in anthropology and more.
I felt kind of corny because I started getting teary when I realized who she was because I just think it’s incredible to meet her and am so thankful for all of the work she has done to highlight racial inequities and do such important work that many of us follow. Meeting another Black woman anthropologist in this field is just necessary, I think — not too many folks ‘get’ this branch of science. And in case you’re not sure of this significance trust me when I tell you that a Black woman anthropologist is rare. There are very few of us in the country, and one who refers to herself as a Black feminist anthropologist — and has done the work that she’s done — almost unheard of. Also, when I was an undergrad and on the cusp of ditching the discipline of anthropology because of its racism and imperialism — the overwhelming amount of white supremacy, but found Faye Harrison’s work on reworking anthropology, and took an independent study class to find Black women in this field and also used the text Black Feminist Anthropology — Angela has a chapter in it and so she also is one of the reasons I ended up staying — who knew?! I’ll just say I feel very fortunate to have been connected with her.
She responded positively when I asked if she’d be interested in visiting my class this summer, and either giving a guest lecture or just talking, which is incredible because I have an entire week I’m dedicating to talking about no one but Black women anthropologists. I just wanted to share this moment that still has me on kind of a natural high. I’m already waiting to hang out with her again so she can teach me everything she knows!