The following is part one of the paraphrased conclusion from Dr. Tangela Serls’ “The Spirit of Friendship: Girlfriends in Contemporary African American Literature.” After exploring the elements of girlfriend relationships and sisterhood in contemporary works like Sula, The Color Purple, and Sugar, Dr. Serls discusses girlfriend epistemology as it relates to fiction and reality, especially among Black women.
Black women create in a world that doesn’t appreciate our labor, genius, and passion. Since we have not routinely had our beliefs honored by the systems in which we operate and create, friendships have played an important role in the formation of our knowledges. It is for this reason, among others, that I felt compelled to research and explore the significance of friendship and sisterhood; it is, as Alice Walker would say, “work [my] soul must have.” There is something intellectual, spiritual, and beautiful in the bonds I have studied and see reflected in reality.
In pursuing the topics of girlfriend relationships and sisterhood, I recognized some would see it as a conflict of interest, at least in some ways. Distancing oneself from the subject matter is upheld in many academic disciplines, but I have believed my research to be a labor of love. My work is influenced by my own experiences and how I have come to recognize Spirit in friendship.
Girlfriend epistemology is inherently tied to the past treatment of Black women. It acknowledges power structures that fight against the cultures and connections among us. The sharing of knowledge, experience, gifts, and intelligence through friendship allows for intellectual and spiritual development that seeks to dismantle various structural obstacles we face. Thus, the essence of girlfriend relationships results from acquiring knowledge, sharing knowledge, and subsequently attaining spiritual freedom.
Girlfriend relationships, sisterhood, and friendships are things of beauty. They are the conduit through which Black women have served as empowered guides for individuals of all walks of life. In the prospect of liberation from bondage–physical, intellectual, spiritual, and otherwise–girlfriend epistemology takes into account both innate and cultivated knowledges in order to navigate oppressive, restrictive environments. Girlfriend epistemology and girl friendships in the discussed context can occur between a Black and non-black woman, as well as between a Black woman and an individual who doesn’t identify as a woman. If this is the case, though, recognizing and respecting the lasting influence and impact of Black women in the process of developing knowledge and truth as we know it is crucial.