On International Women’s Day, I saluted my mom, a good representative of all the women who struggle to raise and educate healthy children and provide them with the tools needed to deal with racism and other obstacles in life. She was one of the countless women who cook, clean, and iron; care for elders; help raise neighborhood children in need, as well as helping with their grandchildren. The neighborhood women who garden for food & beauty; pick, pickle & can what they grow for winter meals; cook from scratch, every single day; work outside the house to pay for “extras” like art supplies, swimming & piano lessons, sports gear, etc.
Women who believed that love was shown, not spoken, but sometimes spoke it just for our sakes. A woman who loved music but only shyly sang; who baked for pleasure and to express love, a true homebody, yet my mother also boldly fought for us, privately and publicly. She would fight police for our sakes but made it clear that if we ever wound up in jail, she’d only visit if we were serious political prisoners “on the level of MLK and Malcolm, honey, or else you’d better stay out of trouble!” Still, when I was involved in protests, she sent food. She worried for the occupiers on Alcatraz like they were her own children, but her eyes watered with pride that The People were standing up in that way again.
She read constantly, mostly for pleasure and to better understand how to maneuver around the systems that oppressed her and threatened her loved ones. She supported other women who struggled, taught me the history of unions and suffrage, and honored the likes of folk like Harriet Tubman,Paul Robeson, Helen Keller, Mary McLeod Bethune, Ida B. Wells, Marian Anderson, and for her, “St.” Fannie Lou Hamer. I grew up knowing the real stories of Native America, and what we were being told at school was supplemented with the stories of her people. We were taught to be respectful, but question outside authority, especially institutions. She was an introvert who cared about people and showed up for them and made herself fierce on behalf of what was right. She was also humble enough to apologize when wrong and try to step outside of her comfort zone to “walk a mile in another person’s moccasins.”
Mom was one of those millions upon millions of women who go unrecognized outside of their families: women who did not gladly suffer fools, were seldom “sweet”, but were always “good.” That legion of women who always tried to do what they thought was right for their families and the world. Women who understood at the core of their beings that we are all related.
She is the spirit of a billion women we honor today and should honor every day. We aspire to their strength and love and devotion.