Women’s History Month: Celebrating Black Women

March 1, 2011

Who Will Speak Our Legacy But us?


The history of African American women is a corrective to racist and sexist history presented in the narrative of American history. Until recently, much of the history of black women was hidden or a footnote in Black and American history. Honesty and history compels us to recognize this fact without engaging in a nonproductive dialogue about who was “most oppressed” or making excuses for subordinating the achievements and struggle of black women. Poet Mari Evans reminds us to:

Speak the truth to the people

Talk sense to the people

Free them with honesty

Free the people with Love and Courage for their Being

Spare them the fantasy

Fantasy enslaves

As Mary McLeod Bethune teaches, “We as [blacks] must recognize that we are the custodians as well as the heirs of a great civilization. We have given something to the world as a race and for this we are proud and fully conscious of our place in the total picture of mankind’s development.” Black women, known and unknown have been an equal partner in our achievement and in the historical struggle to make America “a more perfect union.”

Ella Baker advises us do all we can in the way we can to make life better for those coming behind us: “If there is any philosophy, its that those who have walked a certain path should know some things, should remember some things that they can pass on, that others can use to walk the path a little better

Anita Baker tells us in lyric and song, Giving You The Best That I Got, advises:

The scales are sometimes unbalanced
And you bear the weight of all that has to be
I hope you see that you can lean on me
And together we can calm a stormy sea

Maya Angelou reminds black women that they are indeed Phenomenal:

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies…

I walk into a room/ Just as cool as you please
And to a man/ The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees/ Then they swarm around me
A hive of honey bees/ I say
And the flash of my teeth/ It’s the fire in my eyes
The swing in my waist/And the joy in my feet
I’m a woman/ Phenomenally
Phenomenal woman/ That’s me

Margaret Walker in her epic poem, For My People, encourages us to set afoot a new world and issues a bold challenge to black men:

For my people everywhere…

Let a new earth rise. Let another world be born. Let a

bloody peace be written in the sky. Let a second

generation full of courage issue forth; let a people

loving freedom come to growth. Let a beauty full of

healing and a strength of final clenching be the pulsing

in our spirits and our blood. Let the martial songs

be written, let the dirges disappear. Let a race of men now

rise and take control.

Join us in celebrating and saluting black women in history. And, oh yeah, celebrate the woman closest to you in your life.

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