In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens: A Womanist Understanding of Love En Route to Self-Determination

Publication Date


Document Type


Publication Title

2022 American Education Research Association (AERA) Annual Meeting

Conference Location

San Diego, CA


Following a sacred history of womanist scholarship (Christian, 1988; hooks, 2003; Walker, 1983), this paper centers the criticality of black, womanist love (Walker, 1983, Morrison, 2003) as a framework toward self-determination. According to Alice Walker (1983), a womanist, “Loves music. Loves dance. Loves the moon. Loves the Spirit. Loves love and food and roundness. Loves struggle. Loves the Folk. Loves herself (Walker, 1983, p. 140). Barbara Christian (1988) suggests that such a love--our research, our writings, our very presence--functions as a means to “save our own lives” (p. 77). Finally, bell hooks (2003), reminds us of the inextricable links between black sustainability and land stewardship. She states, “when we love the earth, we are able to more fully love ourselves (p. 30)”. Collectively, these medicines provide a critical praxis for understanding black self-determination through a framework of love.
The central purpose of this paper is to introduce and explore a Black Womanist Framework of Love (BWFL) that will allow researchers, health practitioners, community organizers and educators to intervene within dehumanizing spaces. This paper closely examines schools as violent sites of abstraction, detachment and social death, places in dire need of a black womenist framework of love. A BWFL acknowledges the constricting nature of white supremacy and the ways in which it creates multiple barriers to self-determination, the ways in which racism serves as a mechanism that influences access to land, the construction of one’s mind and the consequences on one’s body. A BWFL does not just seek to theorize the violence that is schooling (Marie & Watson, 2020), but to respond critically, by disrupting the continuing psycho-cultural (Ladson-Billings, 1998), emotional and physical assaults that black children experience within their communities and schools. Finally, a BWFL extends Paulo Freire’s critical praxis (1970), in the way that black women always inform live giving pathways, in order to transform the capacity of communities to confront death and transform the material conditions of black people.


Secondary Education