The Meaning of Sisterhood for Black Women
Courtesy of BET.

We’re oftentimes told that as Black women, we’re all we have. This year, that was proven when our solidarity and unity were tested by time, a worldwide pandemic and social movements. Black women are undoubtedly the backbone of society. Not just as mothers and caregivers, but teachers, nurturers, friends, partners and human beings who deserve love, support, honor and equality. In a world where there’s one crisis after another, it’s important that we’re reminded that we’re not just on this earth to give counsel and support, but to receive such as well. 

The terms “women empowerment” and “sisterhood” are seen almost everywhere, right? T-shirts, crewnecks, buttons and even trending hashtags, but what do they truly mean? Fortunately, with shows such as Sistas on BET, which follows the life and times of four best friends as they navigate through life, love and careers, we’re given a positive demonstration of the meaning of sisterhood on and off screen for Black women. The editors  of ESSENCE have shared their definitions and examples of what women empowerment and sisterhood truly mean to them.

“Sisterhood to me means having a circle of like-minded women around you that support you,” Lifestyle Editor Victoria Uwumarogie shared. With characters such as Andi, Danni, Sabrina and Karen, the aforementioned BET show, which returns on June 9 for a third season, there’s an overwhelming showcase of support and love for one another. When it comes to being there for one another, Uwumarogie’s definition of empowerment is aligned with the premise of the show—lack of judgement and unconditional love regardless of our shortcomings and mistakes. “As for empowerment, I consider it to be when you’re validated and encouraged or provide that same thing to other people so that one can go through life more confident, able to live without concern of the judgments or gaze of others. Both are very important for Black women to have.”

When it comes to the essence of sisterhood and leaning on each other, Charli Penn, Lifestyle Director at ESSENCE, says it’s less of a yearning want and more of a need for survival, self-awareness and reassurance. “Sisterhood is and has always been my lifeline when I need to remember who I am, why I am, and what I’m here to do. The bonds I have with my sister-friends sustain me when all my other self-care tricks fail me. They are my constant and knowing that there are people out there who constantly have your back whether you win, lose or fail, is one of the most empowering feelings I’ve ever experienced,” she explained passionately.

For ESSENCE’s Girls United editor Brooklyn White, sisterhood is more than talking the talk but walking the walk. “Sisterhood is about supporting women with your words and actions. It’s offering a listening ear and giving a helping hand. There’s more than enough room for all of us to thrive and we have to uplift each other in word and deed for that to be so,” she told ESSENCE.

As the conjoining Generation Z editor for ESSENCE as well, White recognizes the importance of young Black women seeing positive portrayals of sisterhood onscreen in television and media projects. “It shows them that life isn’t about competition. That’s an important message to take in at an early age,” she said. Shows such as BET’s Sistas which demonstrate Black womanhood and the necessity of sisterhood by addressing topics such as career ambition, romance and day-to-day life adversities are a clear indication that these are the shows that we need on-screen to create better narratives for our younger generation.

As the Entertainment Editor for ESSENCE, and all-around respected Black woman in entertainment journalism, Brande Victorian notes that representation on TV and in film is nice, but the work doesn’t stop there. “Representation is an example. It shows how things can be,” Victorian said. She recognizes that women empowerment is bigger than being defined by self, but by her ability to afford opportunities to others. With every accomplishment, accolade or opportunity that she has gained, she wants to be able to reach behind her and afford other Black women with the same positions.

Victorian continued, “The more we see sisterhood displayed among Black women in entertainment, the more realistic that ideal becomes in people’s minds and we will then begin to act on it and recreate the positive images we see.”

With the media and entertainment industry finally showcasing positive images of Black women uplifting, championing and caring for one another, we’re finally getting the accurate representation we deserve. From movie premieres and TV pilot orders to engaging on social media platforms, sisterhood and women empowerment have become more than just words and phrases. They are actions with a meaning behind them. Be sure to check out Sistas Wednesday nights at 9/8c on BET.