Niecee Cornute is an activist in Dallas, TX. That comes with risks, including harassment, either online or at protests. One thing that she didn’t expect, however, was physical abuse when she entered a relationship with a man that she met through her involvement in two militant Dallas organizations.
Of course, there are abusive people in all walks of life, and everywhere in the political spectrum. It knows no color or ideology. But as she left the relationship she saw the Movement subtly close ranks behind her.
“We were together for about a year before things began to escalate.,” she recalled. “It became verbal, and eventually it went further.”
“There can be a lack of advocacy. Even among those who are outwardly supportive, there is still a lot of victim blaming. Having dealt with domestic violence, I had to create a means to address it. These women feel powerless. Nobody was rallying around them. They were alone.”
The Black Woman’s Defense League was her response. Founded in September 2015, the 26-year-old sought to empower Black women who might otherwise have been met with apathy, excuses or disbelief.
The BWDL is a coalition of women of color from all walks of life on who share the goal of liberation. Their mandate encompasses many of the areas of concern that face black women at large, including…
- Domestic Violence / Rape Counseling
- Health/ Sex Education
- Pregnancy/ Teen Pregnancy Prevention
- Education: Political / Social / Illiteracy
- Police Brutality
- Economic Stability
The BWDL is designed, first and foremost to provide a safe space. To that end, they offer training in martial arts, focusing on rape prevention and weapons of opportunity, among other things. The training prepares them to use their surroundings against their attacker.
They also take weekly trips to a local gun range where they focus on the basics. More importantly, they allow the new members to work through their fear of firearms in a safe space.
“If I was talking to someone who was uncertain around guns, that’s the first thing I would do.” she remarked. “I would take them tot he range with a friend. It introduces how they feel. I’ve found, most of the women really enjoy it.”
The first time Niecee used a gun, she was 19 years old. It was her uncle’s idea of keeping her safe. “He was cool,” she said. “but he was protective of me, so he said that he was going to teach me. It was empowering.”
If there were any guns in the house when she was growing up, she wasn’t aware of them. It was a sheltered household. Her mother had been a Marine. She wasn’t afraid of guns. She would just rather her daughter grow up never having need of them.
Niecee said that her goal was to see Black women defended and involved. “I want to see a day when Black women take part in the militant aspects of the Movement. It’s important. Black women bring something to the table… we bring balance. We have a different kind of intuition. We have to work in unison. But to do that, we have to address the wounds suffered at the hands of our brothers, and everyone else.”
“Bell Hooks argued that as long as sexism divides black men and women, they cannot focus on working together in the fight against racism… wherever there is a “master/slave relationship, an oppressed/oppressor relationship”, legacies of racial imperialism, “violence, mutiny, and hatred will permeate all elements of life.”
Currently the Black Woman’s Defense League has about 20 active members in the Dallas area, but there are plans to open branches in Philadelphia and Baltimore. For more information, check their Black Woman’s Defense League Facebook page which can be reached at BWDL.info, or call 828-Revolt-0.