What have I been watching during the quarantine? Queen Sono, Miss Virginia and Self Made, Inspired by the Life of Madam CJ Walker. These are stories of women of African descent who overcame their adversities, but not because they were celebrities or born into the right family. It was a choice of everyone or no one doing better.
This is my salute to African American women during Women’s History Month. As much as I appreciate the Elizabeth Cady Stantons in women’s history, my heart is with Harriet Tubmans and Sojourner Truths. They not only had to deal with sexism, but racism also.
Stories like these remind me of the superpower of women of African descent and even more so of African American women. We save the world. Everyday. It is in our DNA because in this mix of Africa, Europe and Asia there is some fight in us that others do not possess. It is a strength that allows us to stand beside our men or even move on in front of him if he is too slow.
I say American because we have been put in a place and time that we really have the power to change the world. We are no longer limited to our communities but have a greater global community. Struggles like this pandemic turn on our creative juices so that we do better than survive, we thrive. I know great stories will come out of this.
Throughout history the strength of these women have threaten the establishment causing them to create laws, like the Tignon Law and the South Carolina Negro Acts, which were designed to create a slave class of people. You see they want our strength and work, but they do not want to give us the credit or profit from it.
When a woman of color ideas are stolen, the story of her work is not told. History is left thinking people of color cannot accomplish anything. Decedents of people of color are left thinking their people accomplished nothing. It tells African Americans that we are a useless people who can do nothing except what someone tells them to do.
I tell the stories of my people to my people so they know they built this world that others enjoy. That they are an incredible power waiting to change the world around them. That they are strong and resilient and have so much to offer, that they are a gift of God.
Our mothers fought through these laws and passed that on to us. Those African women in French America were told to tie up their hair and look like slaves. They created wraps that we still continue to emulate today. Centuries later African American women have the kind of hair styles that set trends around the world. We create clothing designs that empty pocketbooks from Asia to Europe.
I draw images of women with dark skin to so that everyone can see the beauty in it. For centuries beauty was not associated with melanated skin or skill. African Americans had been limited to a few skills, like cooking, cleaning and sewing, but could not be chefs or fashion designers. We as a people have made some progress since those days, you can still walk into organizations today and see no one who look like us. I want to remind people that just because you don’t see us there, doesn’t mean we aren’t doing it.
I tell stories about these women to deepen the fractured confidence of African American women. Our strength does not come without challenge, adversity, and dire circumstances. I want them to know that they can do anything regardless of their age, status, or education. I want to uplift my people in a time when they need it most. You are a beautiful incredible people.