Rapper and political rights activist Sister Souljah spoke to a crowd of around 400 students and community members in Strong Auditorium Wednesday. Souljah, who is well-known for her work as a rap artist and author spoke in honor of Women’s History Month. Souljah delivered a message on the importance of education, empowerment and self-respect, especially in the black community.

“It is possible for you to be academically advanced and culturally retarded,” Souljah said. Throughout her speech, she stressed the differences between the roles and images of both men and women as seen in ancient African cultures and current American culture. Souljah used these ideals to illustrate how the black community can learn to empower themselves through the return an African definition of the ideal woman.

“The empowerment of African people will happen only through the African women, because the African woman is the model for all life,” Souljah said. The description of the ideal African women is one of the “sacred African mother, the sacred African queen.”

Souljah explains that “the American definition of a woman is to be cute and stupid and most of us have achieved [that].” She also used the example of a college woman getting ready for and attending a party to illustrate her point. “As you begin to prepare for the party, you make yourself as cute and stupid as possible,” she said. “I wear a size 12, so I’m going to wear a size nine.”

“Your voice turns into the voice of a kindergartner.” She continued to describe what happens at the party with dim lighting and crazy music. “We don’t want to see each other because we know what we are about to do isn’t right. The music is crazy because you’re crazy. The entertainers are crazy because they follow you and you follow them.”

Souljah continued to explore the evolution of women from “the sacred mothers and queens” to “bitch.” She clarified the “bitch” she was talking about was the type of girl who let animal urges take over, “see what she wants in the room and goes over to hump it.”

The problem with these images of “bitches,” according to Souljah, is that one person represents their entire community. She used examples from her studies abroad in Spain.

“Since I was the black person there, anything that happened with black people anywhere — they wanted an answer from me,” she said. “People will view you as a collective.”

This can also be seen through the pictures that most Americans have of Africa. “Whenever you see coverage of Africa on television it is the same coverage. That same baby with the bloated belly and the big head,” she said. “Any good discussion on Africa is about elephants.”

As a result of this one-sided view of Africa, Souljah explains, “you can find grown black students explaining that they aren’t black.” Souljah tied this divisive denial of blackness into the problems with disconnecting from the black community. “Because you are out of touch with the real world you rob yourself of the ability to be a provider to your family.”Souljah noted that one of the most influential women in her life — because of her strong desire to continue to help her community — was Harriet Tubman. At the age of five, Souljah read her first book — a Scholastic Reader of Harriet Tubman’s life. “This one woman could determine in her mind, in her heart and in her soul that she was not a slave,” she said. “Once she got free, she didn’t just chill. She said, ‘There’s no sense in being free if momma’s not free, if papa’s not free, if my brothers and sisters aren’t free, if the people in the plantations [or] ghettos aren’t free.'”

Tubman’s life inspired Souljah to try to educate herself and then to help her community. Throughout the speech, she encouraged others to do the same. “You are ready to do what you need to do to be in charge of your own life. Once you are powerful you can go back and get the rest of them.”

Souljah’s message was well received by members of the audience. “I thought it was inspiring and something that moves you to act and it moves you to change,” senior Odetta Fraser said. “It makes you see yourself as you are.”

Miller can be reached at amiller@campustimes.org.

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