Read. Write. Do what’s right.

Radical Words is an Initiative started by teenage poet, writer and advocate Malaika Phiri. Radical Words educates about intersectional feminism and anti racism through the mediums of reading, writing, poetry and more. (Instagram @radicallywordy)

About Malaika: Malaika’s writing covers themes such as social justice, mental health, nature and identity. She hopes that her work will contribute, (no matter how small) towards building a society that has been radically transformed into one that is just, equitable and respects, accepts and celebrates differences (gender,race,sexuality neurodiversity, religion disability etc.) instead of hierarchizing, dividing and marginalizing people because of them.


Feminism, Womanism and Intersectionality

By Malaika Phiri

Terms to Know

Sex: The sex a person was assigned at birth is determined by specific physical, biological and hormonal attributes. Sex assigned at birth can be male, female or intersex.

Gender: Gender is a mix of a person's deeply held sense of their own gender (their gender identity) and the socially constructed expressions, identities and roles of women, men and non-binary people. Gender influences how people view themselves and interact with other people. Gender/Gender Identity may be the same as the sex they were assigned at birth (cisgender) or it may be different than the sex they were assigned at birth (transgender). Gender is not binary, and exists along a continuum, contrary to popular belief.

Patriarchy: A patriarchy is any culture that overtly and covertly operates based on and perpetuates the belief of the inherent superiority of men over other genders and thereby the right to dominance.

Patriarchy has influenced all aspects of our society such as our beliefs and values (what we view as worthy, good, attractive, wrong, and how we explain how the world works).

Patriarchy justifies all forms of hierarchy and oppression by notions of inherent natural differences, and that the strong must dominate the weak or anyone who does not adhere to the standards the dominant believe people should fit.

Sexism is a result of patriarchy.

Sexism: Sexism is a wide range of ideas, prejudice, practices, and mistreatment based on gender in which women and transgender people are belittled, oppressed and exploited.

Sexism exists in laws, practices, and family dynamics in the U.S all over the world.

Gender roles (what women/men are naturally good at, what types of jobs they should do etc.), gender essentialism and stereotypes are a form of sexism.

Misogyny: Deep rooted prejudice, hostility and disdain towards women.

Misogynoir: Misogynoir is a unique mix of sexism, racism and misogyny directed towards Black women.
Includes stereotypes exclusive to black women such as “the jezebel”, “the angry black woman”.

Includes the adultification bias Black girls experience (being viewed as more mature, less innocent.)

The historical hypersexualization of Black women and the beliefs that Black women have a higher pain threshold, or are angry/threatening is an example of misogynoir.

Black women have maternal mortality rates 3x higher than White women, and have historically experienced inequality in the healthcare system, and forced sterilization due to misogynoir.

The term “misogynoir” was coined and popularized by Black Queer feminist Moya Bailey.

The many ways heterosexuality and being cisgender is produced and seen as a natural, unproblematic, taken-for-granted, ordinary phenomenon.

This ranges from institutions to interpersonal relationships.

Based on the beliefs that there are only two sexes and genders, and that it is only ‘normal’ or ‘natural’ for people of different sexes to be attracted to one another.

Also that these attractions may be publicly displayed and should be celebrated. And, that social institutions such as marriage and family are well organized around different-sex pairings; and same-sex couples are (if not ‘deviant’) a ‘variation of’ or an ‘alternative to’ a heterosexual couple.

discrimination or prejudice against gay and queer people based on the assumption that heterosexuality is the normal sexual orientation.

The system of Heterosexism, just like racism, exists in part due to colonialism.

Racism: Racism is a system evolved from the construct of race. It can be defined as “a system of denial, deformation and destruction of a people’s history, humanity and human rights based solely or mostly on the construct of race” (Dr. Maulana Karenga, paraphrased)


Feminism: The movement to end patriarchy and sexist oppression which proposes an alternative social system of love, mutuality, and acceptance to our current patriarchal societies. Feminism is not about granting women power within the patriarchy, but dismantling the patriarchy itself.

Intersectionality is the intersecting nature of socially constructed identities such as race, gender, class, sexuality, disability and religion, as well as the way these identities' respective forms of oppression have historically intersected and operated similarly. People who identify as intersectional feminists make a commitment to represent, fight for and include those who have historically been ignored in the feminist movement. The term Intersectionality was popularized by Kimberle Crenshaw.

Those who were historically ignored, excluded and discriminated in the feminist movement were Black women, women of color and Queer women.

The suffragette movement, and the second wave feminist movement were not immune to racism and queerphobia, and many leaders in the movement did understand the way all forms of oppression connect, or see the necessity to have a movement that works to eradicate not only patriarchy, but racism, classism, heterosexism and ableism as well.

In order to have a truly effective feminist movement, the movement must be intersectional. Some Women are Black, Native, Asian, Latinx and belong to their respective communities, and therefore to end the sexist/patriarchal oppression they face, we must fight to end racism as well. Some Women are Lesbian, Bi, and Trans and belong to their respective communities, and therefore to end the sexist/patriarchal oppression they face, we must fight to end heterosexism as well. Some Women are disabled, deaf, neurodivergent or have mental health conditions, and therefore to end the sexist/patriarchal oppression they face, we must fight to end ableism as well.

Womanism: A form of feminism that has a special focus on the unification of people to nature, the environment and spirituality and affirming and speaking to the experiences and history of black women and women of color. The term womanism was popularized by author Alice Walker.

Who To Know
Elizabeth Cady Stanton
Susan B. Anthony
Eleanor Roosevelt
Sojourner Truth
Harriet Tubman
Angela Davis
bell hooks
Gloria Steinem
Audre Lorde
Virginia Woolf
Sylvia Plath
Patricia Hill Collins
Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Hillary Clinton
Simone De Beauvoir
Adrienne Rich
Alice Walker
Rebecca Walker
Coretta Scott King
Roxanne Gay
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Ida B. Wells
Mary Wollstonecraft
Dr. Rev. Pauli Murray

Essential Reading
Sister, Outsider-Audre Lorde
Feminist Theory: From Margin To Center- bell hooks
Ain’t I A Woman? Black Women and Feminism- bell hooks
Women, Race and Class- Angela Davis
The Bell Jar- Sylvia Plath
A Room Of One’s Own- Virginia Woolf
Bad Feminist - Roxanne Gay
Ain’t I A Woman- Sojourner Truth (speech)
Declaration of Sentiments- Elizabeth Cady Stanton (essay)
Modern HERstory- Blair Imani
The Color Purple- Alice Waller
The Second Sex- Simone De Beauvoir
Black Feminist Thought- Patricia Hill Collins
I Am Malala- Malala Youzafai
I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings- Maya Angelou

Second-Hand Smoke

by Malaika Phiri

Second-Hand Smoke
By Malaika Phiri
The flame of freedom can not be extinguished by the polluted air of ignorance nor smothered by the tainted cloth of deceit.

It will not be stifled by previous limitations
—rather succeed despite the situation, and burn down the haven of hatred with nothing left remaining but the gray ash the haven once begun.

It would be better yet if the ash is none. But it slips under the radar disguised as dust it sneaks into the tongue, slowly deteriorating the empathetic lung.

This is how I know the job is not yet done, and why I have not heard freedom rung.

I just see the disease ridden dung, of denial portrayed as confusion.

But it’s hard to tell if that’s the case, or affluenzic delusion

We’re battered and scared, and yet we are numb—desensitized over time to the unrelenting stung.

This is how I know the job is not yet done, and why I have not heard freedom rung.

Still the white flag has not been hung—Start...begin...CONTINUE the beating of our drum.

At The Intersection of Black and Queer

by Malaika Phiri

At The Intersection of Black and Queer
by Malaika Phiri

Revolution cannot be achieved without trust and solidarity. I was enraged with those who “are for the people”, “activists”, and “want unity among Black people”. Those who are livid over the horrendous murders of Black Cis-het men but remain mute when Black Trans+Queer people are killed by both police and by their own. “The master's tools will never dismantle the master’s house”, but you do not recognize this undeniable truth. You are the ultimate hypocrite. By picking and choosing which of us you fight for, you use the same tactics as the one you are demanding change from. By believing that some lives and experiences are unnatural and unworthy of respect and mutuality, and therefore give you the right to discriminate, dominate, hierarchize and violate them...you are, consciously and unconsciously, engaging in the same thought and praxis as the oppressor.

You’ll share quotes by Martin Luther King and Desmond Tutu that speak about the dangerous nature of silence—and yet you stay silent during these horrific events. You won’t be outraged, you won’t demand change, won’t look to educate yourself on the issues, and do you ask yourself why? Why are you willing to be complicit with the killings of black trans and queer people. The only reason I was even moderately aware of the 19 trans women of color who were killed in 2019 was because of Black Trans+Queer people who spoke out. I did not hear from a single Cis-Het Black person with a platform speak out about it. This experience was similar for Sandra Bland and countless other black women killed by the police. They did not garner as much attention or outrage as their male counterparts.

When discussing racist actions, violence and murder, it’s important to think about whose instances of racial violence and brutality are being centered in the discussion. Is the epidemic of violence and killings of Black Trans+Queer women and men being highlighted and acknowledged at the same rate at Black Cis-Het men? Is police brutality and racist violence against Black women being talked about equally?

The theory of Intersectionality attests to the fact that all oppression is connected in the imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy. All of the systems of domination that bring about inequity, struggles and hardships are connected, and the only way to build a truly just society is to have one that takes values, respects, and cultivates all of our differences, and takes into account our specific needs.

Being Black does not make you immune to transphobia and homophobia. As anti-racist Black people, we have a duty to examine and dismantle all the ways in which racism has permeated our lives, experiences and histories. This includes Transphobia and Queerphobia. Trans/Queerphobia are colonial systems that have been thrust upon Black people since we were first enslaved. Before enslavement, African culture and society as a whole was not a heterosexist one. All black lives have inextricable meaning and value. We must dismantle and unlearn colonialist and racist thought and teachings. Decolonize Ourselves . Only then can we begin our fight for much needed change.

This is not an attempt to start division, in fact it is the exact opposite. By refusing to talk about trans or queer Black lives, you are engaging in the same tactics as those who shout “all lives matter”. All Black lives do matter, All lives do matter, and by making sure the majority understands this, we are creating unity and solidarity. The people who beat up, attack and brutalize trans men, women and people do not realize that we are all Black, so who are you to state this in response to the affirmation of “Black Trans Lives Matter” or “Black Queer Lives Matter”? The need for an overarching black lives matter does not change the fact that black trans people are being killed. There can be no overarching black lives matter umbrella, until all Black lives are included under that umbrella.

Cissexism as Defined By Malaika Phiri

A system of denial, interpersonal/mental/physical violence, prejudice, discrimination and negative attitudes towards and of a person, their humanity and/or identity—which negatively impacts and marginalizes Transgender and Gender-Variant people. Cissexism is based on the belief in both the gender and sex binary, and is interconnected with Queerphobia, Heteronormativity and Patriarchy. The wide range of negative attitudes and actions towards Trans people and being Transgender includes harassment, bullying, violence, exclusion, and negative comments.

Graven Haven

by Malaika Phiri

Graven Haven
By Malaika Phiri
“With lines from “In LA, Poverty on Skid Row Defies US’ Humane Reputation” by Simon Ostrovsky and Zach Fannin, a Pulitzer Center reporting project"

You complain of the lockdown, of your palace of a prison
So, I beg you to heed my words, to listen.

I am not safer at home...when my home is the street,
How could I stockpile masks and gloves, when I can barely afford to eat?
I am the one who heaves,
The leaves of hope— crumple loudly beneath my feet and knees.
I am the one you pity,
You’ll feel sorry as you pass through the city
But you won’t think of me from day to day,
On the hard, germ-ridden pavement I continue to lay.

...nearly 1,800 unsheltered people in Skid Row....makes it look like a refugee camp.
Too many of us to stay six-feet apart, masses in tents underneath the onramp.

Sharing access to 9 toilets. The authorities know hygiene is an issue.
When you’re homeless in a pandemic, there is no hoarding tissue.
Help stop the spread. Wash your hands. Cover your face.
The richest country in the world, yet on Skid Row, there is no “shelter in place.”

My heart, it bears so much sorrow.
The government spews empty words…
of better resources, and interim housing in a distant Tomorrow.

The lies blitz my ears with a hiss
My stomach churns and twists

While wealth fattens their pockets and threatens to burst.
In ignorant bliss—they satisfy their hunger, their thirst.
A national disgrace, I am left to wither...to waste.

Yet, I am the one who believes
That the world cannot continue to grieve.

To stop the chaos you must hold out your hand.
We need a human rights-centered response; show empathy
for your fellow human.

Oppressive Systems are what create barriers, not the identities of the people they oppress.
-Malaika Phiri