“Power concedes nothing without demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will submit to, and you have found out the exact amount of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them; and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both.” –Frederick Douglass
This month marked the passing of Ron Dellums, 82, former Congressman and mayor of Oakland, CA. Mr. Dellums accomplished a lot during his leadership tenure at the big “O,” a City known as much for being home to rappers MC Hammer and Too Short as it is for its incredible Bay area views.
But there is one specific act Dellum did that stands out in my book–his support of the late, great Shirley Anita Chisholm, his fellow activist and political pal, when she announced her presidential bid one chilly afternoon in January 1972. On that day, Chisholm stood in front of packed pews at Concorde Baptist Church in Brooklyn, NY, and said the following:
“I stand before you today as a candidate for the Democratic nomination for the Presidency of the United States of America. I am not the candidate for Black America, although I am Black and proud.
“I am not the candidate for The Women’s Movement of this country although I am a woman, and I am equally proud of that.
“I am the candidate of the people of America. And my presence before you now symbolizes a new era in American political history.”
Say wha??? A Black woman had the NERVE to toss her hat into the ring for the highest post in the land–President of the United States of America. Harriet Tubman must have adjusted her turban. Sojourner Truth probably said, “Now ain’t THAT a woman?
As I await the release of my second book, Leading from the Heart, where my chapter focuses on the life and leadership lessons I learned from dynamic, brave women like Shirley Anita Chisholm and my family matriarch, Lucille Jones, aka Great Grand. Great Grand was a woman, who, like Ms. Chisholm, Mamie Till, Fannie Lou Hamer, Lorraine Hansberry and Ida B. Wells (who recently had Congress Pkwy named in her honor, based on the hard work and tenacity of a whole bunch of folks, most notably her great, grand daughter, Michelle Duster), were brave, big-boned and/or big voiced, in spirit and demeanor, whether loud or soft-spoken. Women like Great Grand had learned from THEIR mothers how to carefully craft their words into narratives that were life lessons, intended to assist their families to safely navigate their way through the world. They represented what Black women today know: we put in the WORK. In numerical terms, think 100, or at least 94 percent–that’s the percentage of Black women who voted for Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton to be the first woman to become president of the United States. Black women have pushed polls and people, working in front of or behind the ballot since the civil rights movement.
Chisholm later wrote of her unsuccessful bid, “The next time a woman runs, or a Black, or a Jew or anyone from a group that the country is ‘not ready’ to elect to its highest office, I believe that he or she will be taken seriously from the start… I ran because somebody had to do it first.”
She made moves and spoke words that were so bold, so bodacious, so BOSS that it illuminated paths for other politicians who dared to be “firsts” in their respective White House bids that followed. Among the most noted are Jesse Jackson, Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton. Now Stacey Abrams is on that same path as a top contender to become the first Black female governor of Georgia. Abrams appears on the cover of this month’s Time Magazine, which has been dubbed “The South Issue.” I appreciate the title since a lot of my writing as an author focuses on the South. I write a lot about Great Grand, a native Southerner, who cooked Collard greens and made biscuits that tasted so tough, that after the first bite, you’d get up and slap somebody. And after the second taste, you’d slap yourself. Repeatedly. The title of this column, On the Front Porch has Southern connections to my childhood visits to Brinkley, Ark. So, when I opened my mailbox to see Ms. Abrams standing there, tall, full-figured and confident, daintily poised on top of the magazine, staring assuredly at me, I immediately gave her a fist pump. Ms. Chisholm was with us at that moment as well, somewhere off in the distance, mouthing the words, “Unbought and UnBossed.” Believe it. Be it. Achieve it.
Chisholm dealt with a lot during her political career, including racism, sexism, AND idiotism. But through it all she remained focused on the REALISM of who she was, her own person. My kind of woman.
Shanita Baraka Akintonde is a wife, mother, author, professor, professional speaker, podcaster, consultant, columnist and community leader, who is propelled by love. Her new book, The Heart of a Leader, will be released in September 2018. Reach out to her today for book details or to find out how she can be hired to inspire. Email: email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @SHAKINTONDE and connect with her on Linked in: http://www.linkedin.com/in/shanitaakintonde/.