Shanita Hubbard is not a stranger to the writing world. She’s made her voice heard as a journalist, social justice advocate, author, speaker, and what she’s described as “a student of motherhood.”
In 2020, she received the prestigious LA Maison Baldwin Writer’s Residency Fellowship for emerging Black writers who are doing work in the spirit of James Baldwin. She’s written pieces regarding the empowerment of black women for years, and has been featured on several renowned platforms from The Root to The New York Times. Now, she has reached a new feat in releasing her newest work, and her first book, Ride or Die: A Feminst Manifesto for the Well-Being of Black Women. A story circling the Ride or Die trope that has shown to be a detriment to women in the Black Community.
During a time where we are constantly shouting within the black community to protect our Black women, Hubbard uses her voice and this moment to ensure this truly means all of our Black women.
Using hip-hop as a device, Hubbard explores the argument that falling into the “ride or die” trope has led to black women pouring into friends, families, and even their partners, but not taking the time to fill their own cup. Her value is instead equivalent to how much she is able to give to her community rather than who she is. She’s left overwhelmed and overworked, with others mistakenly assuming there isn’t a reason to pour into her because she’s a strong, independent, black woman, who doesn’t need help. The truth is she does. Hubbard challenges and calls for Black women to hold onto and hold up each other and, more importantly, hold each other accountable.
In a chapter from Ride or Die, Hubbard also unpacks a distinct form of homophobia experienced by Black queer women that is typically overlooked. The chapter, titled “My Sister’s Keeper,” asserts that “Black sisterhood has always been powerful enough to love us back to life when the world kills our spirits,” (p. 137) while also addressing that “We are long overdue for a call in around some cishet Black women’s homophobia.” (p. 137) Here, Hubbard calls attention to the ways in which conversations and relationships between Black queer women and other non-LGBTQ Black women and friends can be peppered with homophobic phrases or behavior. Hubbard notes that, while such sentiments might appear and be framed as mindless banter, to the eyes and ears of a Black queer women, they are actually dangerous, uncomfortable, and harmful.
Hubbard attributes these moments of unrecognized homophobia and anti-LGBTQ sentiment, however inadvertent or unintentional, to the fact that, historically, “it’s usually the physically violent vitriol spewed by men in hip-hop that has served as the odometer to measure toxicity and homophobia.” (p. 143) Taking personal responsibility for her own past misgivings, Hubbard goes on to say “I couldn’t imagine that I too could have ever been destructive in any way toward queer sisters because I was never threatening their personal safety. When our bar becomes [physical violence], it’s harder to recognize the mental, emotional, and social forms of homophobia that cisgender, heterosexual Black women engage in.” (p.151-152)
“My Sister’s Keeper” serves as an acknowledgement of the way cisgender and heterosexual Black women can better serve their Black queer sisters by full recognizing their identities and working to protect them from all forms of homophobia and harm. She paints a hopeful picture for a better sisterhood, stating that Black queer women “deserve our love and full embrace of who they are.” (p. 154)
Perhaps most importantly, Hubbard calls on all Black women to do the work, to call each other in rather than calling out, and to do so with love and understanding.
We caught up with Shanita Hubbard to celebrate the debut of Ride or Die: A Feminist Manifesto for the Well-Being of Black Women. Check out what she had to say below:
GLAAD x Shanita Hubbard
GLAAD: What made you decide to write this project? What was your why?
HUBBARD: When I was younger Susan L. Taylor’s column in ESSENCE Magazine used to speak to me in a way that felt like I was her target audience. Not just me as a Black woman, but me, Shanita Hubbard. Like she knew my life and wanted to share pieces of herself with me so that I could somehow move closer to becoming the best version of myself. I wanted to write a book that made Black women feel that way.
GLAAD: As a black woman, in the book you touch on how you even found yourself at one point, not having the same level of rage towards a black man going off on your friend who is a queer, black woman as you may would have if it were a white man. Why do you think so many straight, black women find themselves in that same narrative, even if unknowingly?
HUBBARD: There are layers to this answer. For one, I was raised under a cultural narrative that constantly reinforced the premise of the “endangered Black man.” I grew up in the crack era and it’s now common knowledge that drug policies of the 90s disproportionately impacted Black men. I also grew up during an age where police violence against Black men was just as common as it is today, we just didn’t have cell phones to document it. Even when it was documented, like in the case of Rodney King, there was still no accountability for hurting Black men. So yes, Black men were (and still are) in need of collective community support. Anything that is considered “endangered” calls for protection. When you are conditioned to—an innate desire to protect something or somebody it can make it challenging to notice when that “endangered” being is the reason somebody else needs protection. It makes it hard to immediately notice when they are causing harm. Add this with the idea that we live in a patriarchal society that stipulates men’s needs are greater than women’s needs, factor in homophobia and it spells disaster for our queer sisters. Homophobia, patriarchy, and racism are so etched into the fabric of this nation that it is impossible to escape. Sometimes it’s difficult to notice when we have internalized it and are replicating.
I walked in a Barnes and Noble w/ my mom and daughter and they had a display of my books set up a wk before my launch. My fam was proud. Today I decided a “successful book” means writing a book that will make me and those I value feel proud. Anything beyond today is extra pic.twitter.com/ztx2DqFpSh
— Shanita Hubbard (@msshanitarenee) November 3, 2022
GLAAD: You’ve received a lot of good feedback from many notable names, from Gabrielle Union to Mikki Kendall. But I’m sure you’ve gotten probably the most meaningful feedback and learning moments from those closest to you or who even influenced the work. What were the most impactful words you gained during or after writing this?
HUBBARD: A male friend of mine who I respect a great deal told me it’s taking him a long time to finish reading my book because it is challenging him to explore areas where he fell short in his life. A cousin of mine read the first chapter and she said it’s helped her to think differently about some of the decisions she needs to make for her life. I will forever cherish those words.
GLAAD: What was the hardest part in writing this book or even having this discussion in preparation for this book?
HUBBARD: The hardest part of writing this book is knowing that I am putting my truth and pieces of my life into the world for folks to consume. You never really know how people will receive your work.
GLAAD: What is the message that you hope is received from the audience reading this book
HUBBARD: I hope audiences reading my work will feel free enough to interrogate their own thoughts and lives and consider how we can be better to ourselves and each other. Our community is depending on it and we deserve it.