This book is several things. It’s positioned against the 2016 presidential election, especially the role that Black women played in this election. Taylor begins her introduction acknowledging the important role while also lamenting the percentage drop in participation. She begins to think through how this shift and this particular language speaks to the broader struggles of her politics. She then gives us a history in the Combahee River Collective, a group of Black feminists who met and created an ethos in the mid-1970s, positioning themselves as a post-Civil Rights era movement and as we now know pre-culture wars of the 80s and 90s (such as they were). From there, we are given the statement of purpose and rights created by this collective. The book then presents several interviews with original founding members of the group. Finally we end with an interview with Alicia Garza, one of the founding members of Black Lives Matters.
So all told the book is a historical document read against the present day, with a kind of oral history (and these are very good interviews that are both reflective and instructive — you can hear in the answers present thinking along with reflection), and then brought round to the present. The book works as both the historical document as well as a bibliography. What I kept thinking of, especially looking at interview with Alicia Garza, and hearing some of the responses of the reflection, is what victory looks like politically. I am not super politically active in terms of putting work in, though I try to pay attention, to read, to listen, and to think about what matters and how I can support it. But think about politics a lot like my teaching: a practice that I trying to improve year by year, and one that is responsive to day to day if not minute by minute changes. I am working within the context given to me (ie the students in front of me) and trying to achieve step by step successes that can be recognized and built upon. But I am finding that a lot of people speaking the loudest in politics right now see only the final goal as the thing that matters and anything less than is failure. That could be ok is that failure is instructive and motivating, but it often means more defeatism. Part of what happens in this book is the recognition of those “failures” and how they were built upon, and in some cases (specifically the recognition of not being as inclusive as they felt they should have been) how mistakes became opportunities to grow, not places that proved those same failure or unpardonable sins.