I love that there are months to celebrate African American History and Women’s History. It is the opportunity to tell the stories of people like you and me who accomplished things that moved us further along on life’s journey.
My current photo project is inspired by a group of women who changed life for the people around them. These women taught us about freedom, self worth and beauty. They walked us to freedom through dark woods in the dead of night. They built fortunes washing clothes and combing hair. They leave a legacy that the impossible can be done.
I call them Queens because these women led when it wasn’t easy. Anyone can do it when it is easy, but these women did it when there was nothing in it for them. When all of the odds where against them. They made a difference.
Because of women like Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth, Betsy Ross we are free. We are not restricted by someone who owns us. Because of women like Elizabeth Cady Stanton we can own property and manage our own lives. We can be lawyers, architects or millionaires. We can be what God created us to be and not limited by what man thinks we should be.
Bessie Smith was raised during a difficult time in our country’s history in 1892. She lived in the segregated South. Her parents died when she was young, so she and her brother would dance and sing on the streets of Chattanooga, Tennessee to earn money. In 1912 she started her career as a dancer traveling with a troupe. She would later get a job as a singer, which would lead to better paying jobs.
By the 1920s and 1930s, Smith was known as the Empress of the Blues. She would headline shows and traveled around in her own custom made rail car. What was more important is she gave voice to a style of music that got its roots in America. Bessie Smith understood the blues, it was her life. She poured everything she had into it until it consumed her.
If we don’t tell these stories who will tell them? Young girls need to know you can climb out of hard times if you have perseverance and a dream.