We’re not so far from a time when Black people were denied the right to vote. These dismal times perpetuated slave-era subjugation of our community and foretold of a future without opportunity.
I’m not sure whether those who conspired to deny the vote to Black people, Black women particularly, understood how we’d use our vote, but they couldn’t have been happy guessing we’d vote in our own interests. This couldn’t be truer for Black women.
Recently, including 2008 and 2012, Black women have participated in increasing numbers and solidarity against persons or policies that erode social gains made in the last half-century and reverse racial and gender equality and justice.
Combined with other recent elections such as in Alabama’s Senate race, we understand the significance and power in our vote, especially that of Black women. Look beyond elections under national scrutiny. My home state, Louisiana, is a case-in-point. When I ran for Congress, few women ran for office, but, look at Louisiana now!
A long list of cities, towns and villages now have Black female mayors. They don’t just serve in smaller jurisdictions. The state’s 3 largest cities – New Orleans, Shreveport and Baton Rouge – have Black women mayors. Having run for office in Louisiana and knowing the dangers and challenges of doing so, I’m naturally ecstatic about this progress.
It’s not hyperbole to state that no women have ever had to endure what this nation’s Black women have had to endure. Despite the rigors of our circumstance, we enthusiastically strive for the betterment of ourselves, our children, families, and our nation.
Like all women, Black women have faced sexism, sexual harassment/abuse, domestic abuse and even rape. We’ve also faced the struggles and violence of racism and classism, but we still rose to the challenge of strengthening our communities.
When Sojourner Truth spoke of her trials and asked, “Ain’t I A Woman?” her question was relatable to nearly every Black woman. When Rosa Parks refused to rise on that Alabama bus, uncertain about the consequences, she shared the uncertainty and concerns of every other Black woman.
Doing for self
When Fannie Lou Hamer was chastised by her plantation owner for her audacity to register to vote, she demonstrated the courage of millions of Black women as she replied, “I didn’t register for you; I did it for myself.” We honor these women and the long list of famous and not-so-famous Black women who endured to make our lives better.
On Dec. 16, the National Congress of Black Women’s Baton Rouge, La., Chapter said “Thank you” to the late Dessie Lee Patterson, Louisiana’s first Black woman mayor. Mayor Patterson is the wind beneath the wings of current Black women mayors of Louisiana.
I celebrate this new generation of mayors and pledge continuing support. They are Mayor/President Sharon Weston Broome (Baton Rouge); Mayor-Elect LaToya Cantrell (New Orleans); Ollie Tyler (Shreveport); Lori Bell (Clinton); April Foulard (Jeanerette); Irma Gordon (Kentwood).
Also: Rose Humphrey (Natchez), Shaterral Johnson (Grand Couteau), Donna Lewis Lancelin, (Baldwin), Erana Mayes (Melville), Wanda McCoy (Rosalind), Alma Moore (Boyce), Trashier Keysha Robinson (Village of Tangipahoa), Dorothy Satcher (Saline), Johnnie Taylor (Powhatan), Josephine Taylor-Washington (Clayton), Erana Mayes (Melville), Jennifer Vidrine (Ville Platte), and Demi Vorise (Maringouin).
They’re all to be commended. The rising tide of their success floats the boats of us all. Their stories and ours tell the importance of our achievements and steel us against future challenges.
Dr. E. Faye Williams is national chair of the National Congress of Black Women, Inc. Contact her via www.nationalcongressbw.org.