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Hood Feminism Author to GSU: Be authentic

011Mikki Kendall Mar 3, 2022 at 1130 AM

Mikki Kendall tried being nice. She tried being liked.

She scrapped both.

Kendall, learned quickly that it’s best to simply be yourself.

“I could have made myself small to make other people comfortable, but I wanted the world to look different.” This doesn’t mean that she thought she could change the world overnight, but she knew that “nobody else was going to come and save us,” she said. “Nobody else was going to fight for us the way we can fight for ourselves.”

Kendall spoke at Governors State University (GSU) on March 3 during Women’s History Month. She was the second of three speakers in a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Distinguished Speaker Series that is designed to advance the university’s goals to make a positive and impactful change through its DEI initiatives.

Her message to the GSU community was that you should follow your own north star and be authentic. “What people expect of you, for you, is their business. What you expect for yourself is your business. And, sometimes you have to mind your business and let other people worry about whatever they have going on,” Kendall said.

029Mikki Kendall Mar 3, 2022 at 1130 AM


She said that a lot of the women who are routinely looked at during Women’s History Month, i.e. Coretta Scott King, Fannie Lou Hamer, Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, or dozens of other women who have written themselves into the world, did not do what people expected. “They were who they needed to be,” she said.

Kendall, who grew up on Chicago’s South Side in the Hyde Park neighborhood, graduated from Whitney Young High School at the age of 16, and later served in the Army.

She married at a young age, soon realized she made a mistake, moved to Champaign, and graduated from the University of Illinois as a single mom. She was a non-traditional student who began her college education at the age of 25. She then worked for the government, and eventually became a successful writer. Kendall said its never too late to start. To the GSU community she said, “Think about the students you’re bringing in (because) these students will change the world.”

Kendall exploded on the national scene in 2013 when she created the hashtag #Solidarityisforwhitewomen. Since then, she’s appeared on numerous TV news programs worldwide and has become an admired author.

098Mikki Kendall Mar 3, 2022 at 1130 AM

Kendall, who began writing as a young girl, is the author of “Hood Feminism,” a best-selling book that’s been translated into five languages. In the book, she questions how inclusive the feminist movement is regarding race and class, saying hood feminism is less about becoming a woman achieving lofty goals and more about basic needs like food and shelter.

Her book has attracted plenty of attention. It angered some people. So be it. Remember, she learned the importance of speaking out, something she urged her GSU audience to do.

She is now in the midst of a speaking tour. Of her life she said, “Sometimes, you have to take a leap. Sometimes, you have to take a couple leaps.” She remarked that each move she has made on the path to where she is now, was a leap of sorts.

Ultimately, Kendall urged the audience to fight for what they think is right. “There is a fight going on and when we fight, we win,” she said. “We may not all win together, we may not all get to the other side, but we can’t just lay down.”

After speaking for an hour, Kendall fielded questions from the audience.

Among those in attendance was graduate student Jasmine Washington, of Chicago’s South Shore neighborhood. Washington is working on her doctorate in interdisciplinary leadership.

“I got confirmation on some of the things I’ve been questioning in the chapter entitled ‘It’s Raining Patriarchy’ in her book,” Washington said, “Government agencies are supposed to be for the people. But even when marginalized groups hold executive level positions, do they actually hold decision-making power?

Washington was impressed by how Kendall spoke out and took a stand despite receiving death threats: “And she was saying what was right. People don’t want to hear it.”

Crystal Harris, assistant professor of interdisciplinary studies, said Kendall was “appropriately challenging.”

“My personal commitment to social justice requires me to think deeper about books that may make (students) feel a little uncomfortable. I want to do more of that. I felt really inspired. She definitely pushed those of us who are already in the game to go a little deeper and further,” Harris said.

Dr. Phyllis West, director of social justice initiative, said Kendall “was actually telling our story and our journey.”

“You take a risk and the risk is worth it if it means you are at peace with who you are and your own integrity is not compromised,” West said.