Celebrating [Black] Women’s History Month
Julianne Malveaux | 3/17/2014, 9:40 a.m.
(NNPA) – Do you know about Elizabeth Keckley? Maggie Lena Walker, Sarann Knight Preddy, Gertrude Pocte Geddes-Willis, Trish Millines Dziko, Addie L Wyatt or Marie-Therese Metoyer?
What about Ernesta Procope, Dr. Sadie Alexander or Dr. Phyllis Wallace? What about Bettiann Gardner, Lillian Lambert or Emma Chappell? What about Ellen Holly, Mary Alice or Edmonia Lewis?
If we knew anything about these women, it might cause all of us, African American men and women, to walk a bit more lightly, hold our heads a bit higher, and revel in March as Women’s History Month. It’s an ideal time to celebrate Black women who often get overlooked by other women as well as their own race.
History belongs to she who holds the pen, she who will speak up, speak out and tell the whole story. If the names of the sisters listed above aren’t as well known as others – like Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth and Mary McLeod Bethune – it is because no one has chosen to tell their stories.
There are thousands of unsung heroines for every one we lift up and know, women who have made phenomenal contributions to the arts, literature, money, finance and economic development.
Why write this now? African American History Month (February) is usually about notable Black men. Women’s History Month (March) is usually about notable White women.
A book edited by Gloria T Hull, Patricia Bell Scott and Barbara Smith is titled But Some of Us Are Brave: All the Women Are White, All the Blacks Are Men: Black Women’s Studies.
As the title suggests, some of us are brave – and our young girls need to know that.
What difference would it make to our daughter and nieces if they knew about Septima Clark or Claudette Colvin? Had they read Lucille Clifton’s poetry, would they find it easier to breathe life into their words?
It pains me to watch Black women’s history so swallowed that we are almost invisible. The most benign interpretation of this phenomenon is that those who lift history up are too myopic to consider African American women. Is there a sinister interpretation? Is it that both racism and patriarchy combine to swallow Black women’s history?
International Women’s Day was March 8. Annually, the United Nations sets a theme for the commemoration. This year it was, “Equality for Women Is Progress for All.”
According to the UN, countries with more gender equality have better economic growth. Companies with more women leaders perform better. Peace agreements that include women are more durable. Parliaments with more women enact more legislation on key social issues such as health, education, anti-discrimination and child support. The evidence is clear: equality for women “means progress for all.”
We can’t make progress if we bury our history. We can’t put Melody Hobson in context if we don’t understand Maggie Lena Walker. We can’t truly celebrate women’s history unless we celebrate Black women’s history. Black women’s history is women’s history, too. It should be realized that both the African American community and the world community cannot progress if any segment of that community is relegated to the sidelines.