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Between Dishwater and the River

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Chapter Summary

The ground of ecowomanist ethics is watered by multigenerational responses to racial and gender stereotypes in relation to communal knowledge of the land. This wisdom survived through centuries of violence and the daily lived experience of bigotry and abuse in a white supremacist world, and rests on pluralistic understandings of the sacred relationship between human and non-human nature. It remains today as part of the womanist call to accountability and spirit defined in Alice Walker’s writings. Emergent ecowomanist thought is uniquely situated to interrupt many of the stereotypes that serve to maintain a separation between black communities and environmental engagement. This article argues that a robust ecowomanist ethics should situate itself in the interplay between ecojustice and environmental justice approaches to environmental devastation. It draws on the poem “No Images,” written by William Waring Cuney at the beginning of the Harlem Renaissance period, centering on the lived experiences of black women as expressed through black women’s musical appropriations of his work. The clear lamentation and grief interwoven between the words of this short poem are given new life in the voices of Nina Simone and Ysaye Maria Barnwell with the women of Sweet Honey in the Rock. Engaging questions of environmental ethics through the lens of black women’s lived experiences of agency and struggle can create a theological foundation for ecowomanist thought that promotes the preservation of both nature and human dignity.



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