Sonia Sanchez

Stop talking. Stop talking girl. Write what you have to say. Just like you used to when you wuz little and you got tired of people staring at you while you pushed words out of an unaccommodating mouth.
—  Sonia Sanchez

We got to matriarchy in the syllabus and patriarchy, and I said, you know, the whole idea of patriarchy and matriarchy portends something called ‘power.’ We might have had these women-centered homes, but it didn’t mean power. These women were not going out there cruising with some high powered jobs, making a whole lot of money, doing steak every night. So I came up with a term—you know teaching makes you do more work—and I came up with a term called diarchy. I said Black families were diarchal, most of them, in that you might have had a woman there, a mother there, but you had a grandmother, you had an uncle, you had some cousins in there. Diarchy happens when a family is under duress, under stress from a society.

That was important, so therefore if you move to diarchy, then you leave the whole arena that Moynihan is talking about matriarchy, talking about ‘these women are the cause for all the problems happening in the Black community,’ and you leave the arena with the men who say ‘well I wanna be a patriarch’ and I say ‘well dude you ain’t making enough money to be a patriarch,’ being facetious, but at the same time saying ‘you didn’t come up in a family like that; tell me about your family?’ Tell me about your family; how is your composition of your family? And everybody, most everybody, most of them had a diarchy; had nothing to do with a matriarchy or patriarchy.


Sonia Sanchez

Quote is from a video where she discussed a course on Black women that her students theorized into existence and she taught only a few years after the notoriously anti-Black, misogynoiristic, ahistorical Moynihan report came out (responsible for many straight up lies and stereotypes about Black motherhood and Black families post-Civil War, invoking arbitrary pathology for not mirroring White families, while leaving anti-Blackness and White supremacy blameless).

Here she dissects the false equalization made between matriarchy and patriarchy themselves, and as pertaining to Black families, something I wrote about in Black American Families Are Not “Matriarchal”. There I deconstructed the ahistorical mess of Moynihan and more. I cited Patricia Hill Collins, Angela Davis and bell hooks in that older essay, but damn I would’ve loved to have cited Sonia there. 

Anyway, watch that short video! It’s wonderful hearing about how she engages in her classroom on difficult topics on gender, family and more with primarily Black students, especially during that first semester of this particular class back in ‘69.