Member Spotlight: dana e. fitchett

 
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Who are you?

I identify first as a student and lover of life, and as a creative. I’m a mixed-race black womxn; the daughter of a black American father and white American mother, both with longstanding working class roots in the northeast U.S. I approach life as a radical in the true sense of the word, concerned with getting to the root of things. 

How and why did you connect with BlackFemaleProject?

I first heard about BlackFemaleProject not long after relocating to Oakland from Boston; a friend shared a flyer and I was immediately interested in getting connected, both because the work felt resonant with my professional experience and also because I was new to the Bay and looking to build a community of like-minded black women. 

Once I got connected to Precious and learned she was doing most of the work on her own, I offered to volunteer and help out in whatever ways I could. Some of the support needed included writing and editing text, which is what I now (three years later) spend much of my time doing for BlackFemaleProject, as an employee of PJS Consultants. 

What is your role with BlackFemaleProject?

My primary role with BlackFemaleProject is lead editor on the story collection. I also provide writing and editing for our blog, newsletters, member spotlights, and more. 

What about the BlackFemaleProject has kept you involved?

The affirmation I get from hearing my own feelings, challenges, joys, and more reflected in other sisters’ stories, and the satisfaction I feel from investing my time and energy in the support of black women. Giving to BlackFemaleProject gives back to me. 

How has BlackFemaleProject impacted you?

BlackFemaleProject provides a constant space of community, even when the community isn’t physically sharing space. The gathering and archiving of our stories is and always has been a radical act: the racist, sexist, and classist institutions around us fail to see us, hear us, or honestly represent us; when we create our own archives—which is precisely what BlackFemaleProject does—we take back the narrative and stand in our power. Having access to this new, self-determined set of narratives has helped remind me that my story and my struggles aren’t isolated. 

What resonates for you in the BlackFemaleProject content you’ve heard or seen so far?

So much! Stories about what it feels like to be “the only” are super resonant, and so are stories that dig into the patterns surrounding perception of black women in the workplace. I’ve heard myself reflected in women grappling with how to be real without being perceived as brash or negative, how to be emotional or passionate without becoming the so-called angry black woman, and how to balance a sense of obligation to the betterment of our people and our society with a concern for self-care and self-preservation.

What is your greatest personal takeaway from editing the inaugural story collection?

A theme that became clear to me after a short amount of time was our frequent belief that we (black women) don’t have stories that are worth telling. We think they’re not that remarkable, or not that extreme, and I believe this is a product of the ways we’ve been socialized to normalize and internalize the acute intersectional oppressions we experience as black women. Like my sisters, I struggle with this dynamic. And to be real, I continue to struggle with it even when I know rationally that I have a story worth telling, and even in the context of space exclusively occupied by black women. This is largely because of the ways that white supremacy, anti-black racism, and white “privilege” have contributed to the complexity of my experiences as a light-skinned, mixed-race black woman as compared to those of my darker-skinned sisters. I tend to downplay my hardships or minimize my voice to be sure I’m not perpetuating problematic patterns relative to the ways colorism plays out among us. Despite this continued struggle, BlackFemaleProject provides me with abundant reminders that my story is valid and sharing it is impactful. 

What do you think is the most important thing that came out of the story collection effort for the healing component of the Project? For the professional skills development component of the Project? Or, in general?

Personally, I think that the healing of the contributors and participants themselves is what rises to the top in terms of what’s most important or most powerful about the work. The fact that many other women can find solace and comfort in our content is a really great bonus, and also a testament to the power we create when we prioritize ourselves and our own healing. The origin story of BlackFemaleProject is a perfect example, since Precious truly just did the thing she needed to do for herself, and the demand for BlackFemaleProject grew organically from there. It reminds me of a quote from black womxn poet Kate Rushin’s “The Bridge Poem”: “I must be the bridge to nowhere but my true self, and then I will be useful.” 

What was it like doing podcast interviews with the women who submitted stories?

It was a total treat to get to sit down and chat with some of the women who submitted stories for the collection. After getting to know them through their contributions, I was grateful to have the chance to get to talk with them in real time, and to follow up on themes that came up in their stories that begged for some deeper digging. 

What do you recommend to someone who is considering getting involved?

If you’re a black woman, the beauty is that you can get involved in different ways, depending on what you’re looking for. If you’re seeking community and a space to share and build with other black women, I highly recommend coming out to a networking event, conversation, or workshop. If you’re more introverted and would prefer to seek virtual community, I recommend listening to some podcast episodes, checking out our blog features, and reading the powerful inaugural collection of BlackFemaleProject stories. If you’re not a black woman, I recommend making a financial contribution and/or reaching out to us to ask how you can be most helpful. 

At this stage of development in the Project, what do you think are the critical components to keep doing? What do you think we should let go?

It’s really hard to think of something that should be let go! I think the most important things to keep doing are creating space for black women to talk with each other, and to create and share quality online content that black women can access beyond the limitations of our geographical reach. I also continue to feel the importance of connecting directly to younger black women with the work we do.


DANA’S BIO

dana e. fitchett is a multi- and inter-disciplinary artist (movement artist/dance educator, visual artist, writer), and content and copy editor with a specialty for applying an equity lens to language. dana is a mixed-race Black woman who uses her relationship to music, visual art, and movement as a sandbox for exploration of identity and issues of justice, and for seeking healing from racism and capitalism through the reimagination of possibilities.

Follow dana at def_artinmotion and connect with her on LinkedIn.