FORUM

  • Vivian Phillips

LETTER FROM THE EDITOR - I Want To Be A Dora Milaje For The Black Women Who Are Leading

Okay, it needs to be said out loud - Black women are taking arts and cultural institutions to new levels in a wave of leadership that ripples across the entire world!


There, I said it! This does not in any way diminish or exclude anyone else's contributions. But we have known for decades that Black women bring the ideas, lead the community engagement and programming in major institutions, volunteer until they are worn and unhealthy, and who are overlooked, denied leadership appointments, and are obviously undervalued. Of course, this is not just in the arts — it is pervasive across all industries — but in the arts and culture realm, apparently, change is coming! Hallelujah!


Over the past year or so, there has been announcement after announcement of Black women who are leading institutions into a new era. In directorships, board leadership, artistic and curatorial positions, these women are inexhaustible wells of fresh takes on old institutional ideas. Across all art expressions, we are now seeing more Black women in positions of decision-making power. It makes me a bit giddy, but also cautious.


As more Black women take on these roles, they take on more responsibility and are faced daily with expectations about how they will conduct their business. There will be those in Black communities who expect more, and there will be others who expect them to fail, and there will be sabotage to cripple their success. I know from which I speak. But just as they are taking on the challenges before them, we should be ever vigilant about standing behind them. Have you ever seen an episode of Iyanla Fix My Life where she positions people to get the back of someone in distress? She literally stands people back-to-back to bolster them through their challenges. Knowing that you are being supported at a critical time can make a world of difference.


Having someone's back is a real thing. As we celebrate and 'like' and spotlight the women who are highlighted on these pages today, and all the others who are out in the world making our culture more complete and representative, we must also support them. Stand in front to shield them from the arrows. Stand behind them when they are tired, withered, and ready to fall. And stand beside them so they are not alone in lonely spaces where all eyes are always on them.


When I think about how I want to stand in the community of women as a supporter, I think about The Dora Milaje warriors of Wakanda. While fictional in the film Black Panther, this all-female African military corps is fashioned after the Dahomey West African women military from the Republic of Benin. I want to be a warrior with my sisters, to encourage and reassure them in their newfound positions to be unafraid to lead, and most importantly, unafraid to win!


Screenshot of the Dora Milaje Warriors from the Marvel film, Black Panther