Then I Remember
For my sisters who are tired. Who are unsure. Who are in need of encouragement and a reminder of who you are. My gift to you in hope that you will find hope.
When I am erased from the political conversation, I remember Dorothy's refusal to be dissected and forgotten by fighting for her race and her womanhood. I remember Shirley's audacious path into politics, taking to new heights our involvement in shaping national policy.
When I am told I am too much, I remember Sojourner's bared breasts proving the truth, the strength of her womanhood before a crowd and I declare before the world Maya's words "I am a woman, phenomenally."
When for the dozenth time I've heard the phrase, "We just aren't ready for those kinds of changes, yet," I remember Mae's courageous flight into the stars and Mamie's daring decision to reveal the depths of America's racial sickness to itself.
When I am told I need to give more, I remember Audre's words, "Caring for myself is not self-indulgence; it is self-preservation, and that is in act of political warfare."
When my feelings and experiences are invalidated, I remember Rosa's determination sparked a citywide boycott and Pauli's fearlessness in sharing her discontent over the treatment of black women leaders in the Civil Rights Movement.
When I am struggling to hold onto myself, I remember Nikki's ego trippin' and I...can fly like a bird in the sky.
When I am called toxic because my work challenges the status quo, I remember Ida's dangerous crusade against normalized terrorism and Maria's revolt against social convention defending her right to speak before any crowd.
When I am told how far I can go, I remember Harriet's train crisscrossing the country for the sake of freedom.
And I can go on.
Sometimes the days are unrelenting and night withholds rest. But even in these moments when the world hopes to define who I am and what I can contribute, I remember. The women. Who came before, who opened doors, who dared to be great, whose legacies live on.
*Photos from Smithsonian Institute Collection