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SEEN UP NORTH – Push for black women

Tony Best

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The tentative title of the scholar’s next book, Lost Bodies, is eye-catching but doesn’t hint at the full story Professor Julia Jordan-Zachery wants to tell the world.
That’s why readers would have to zero in on the second part of the title Black Women, Representation, Ideology And Politics to begin to understand where the Bajan intellectual is coming from.
“This book looks at how black women talk about other black women who are HIV-positive, mentally ill and or who have been abused,” said Jordan-Zachery, a political scientist and director of the Black Studies Programme at Providence College, a relatively small liberal arts school in Rhode Island.
 “The question I am trying to get at is this: how do we talk about these women, who might not necessary fit into what some may call ‘good society’? I argue that as a result their bodies become lost in our public discourse.
“If we don’t talk about them, then we don’t represent them in our politics, policies and in our activism. So, in essence, they really become lost.”
It’s not surprising therefore that the former student of the Alleyne School in St Andrew, who is the mother of an 11-year-old daughter, would be putting the finishing touches to her second book about black females.
Her first, Black Women, Cultural Images And Social Policy, won at least two prizes, including the 2009 W.E.B. Dubois Best Book Award. Her more than a dozen scholarly articles and chapters in several books addressed a host of issues.
Jordan-Zachery, 40, the daughter of Monica and the late Evan Jordan, of Arthur Seat, St Thomas, would be the first to tell you that the foundation of her intellectual curiosity and the aggressive pursuit of knowledge was laid in Barbados.
Her first degree in economics came from Brooklyn College of the City University of New York while her master’s was awarded by the University of Connecticut at Storrs. In 1997, she was awarded a Ph.D. in political science at the same university.
“It was a tough but interesting journey in education,” she said. “Along the way, I decided to move away from economics to political science and I haven’t regretted it.”
Her studies, commitment to education and success in the classroom and in research led to teaching positions at several colleges and universities, ranging from Howard University in Washington; Wheaton College and Western New England colleges in Massachusetts; Connecticut’s University of Hartford and Trinity College also in Hartford; and at the University of Connecticut at Storrs.
She described black studies as an “inter-disciplinary programme” that gives students a different perspective on the history and culture of black people wherever they are.
Little wonder then that at a time when most colleges and universities have ended or curtailed their black studies programmes, Jordan-Zachery was full of praise for Providence College, the vast majority of whose students are from white middle class families in the north-eastern area of the United States, for keeping it as part of the curriculum.
“It tells a very positive story about Providence,” she said.
White students who take the black studies course come away from the classroom with a different and refreshing perspective on black people, often remarking: “I didn’t know that.”
Jordan-Zachery laments that far too many people in and out of Barbados and the rest of the Caribbean don’t know enough about the important roles black women played during the anti-slavery movement, particularly in the 18th and 19th centuries.
“Women played vital roles behind the scenes in the drive towards the abolition of slavery in the Caribbean and the United States,” she told the Sunday Sun. “Women were always strategizing with the black men to bring slavery to an end. But unfortunately, we don’t know enough about them.”