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February 19th, 2014

The Black Woman’s Legacy & Pain

Lillie Howard

Thinking about all of the pain that we’ve had to endure throughout the years in my country tis of thee, the bitter land of no liberty for some, is very painful.. The real sad part of this is that many of us are still experiencing this degradation. Sitting in the Newburgh City Council meeting this past Monday, listening to the pain of that Black mother sharing her problem re: her living in substandard housing that has many violations was mind shattering. How many more of our mothers and their children are being subjected to living in these same types of conditions? The real sad part of this is that this new city council consists of six women and one male. Most, if not all of these women are mothers and there seems to be no compassion coming forth from most of them towards her. The solution to this problem is not to move her out but to fix the violations because where is she going to be able to find safe, decent and sanitary housing for herself and seven children? Moving her out of the city of Newburgh is definitely not the answer because the children’s schooling would be disrupted. This is her present pain but it definitely does not have to be her legacy.

Let’s take a stroll through history to learn about some of those women, those downtrodden women who suffered through slavery, legalized rape, and sadistic brutality and yet were tenacious enough to believe that there was a better day coming? Who were those women who reared children that they could not call their own, whose family life was subject to the whims of the master, and whose bodies were not theirs? Who were those women who were whipped naked for the slightest offense at a time when it was a shame for a White woman even to show her ankles? They were our grandmothers, our mothers, our aunts, our sisters. They were Black women and so are we, so was that black woman at the city council meeting pleading for help.

Despite the limitations of race and sex in a White, male-dominated society, Black women such as Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth transcended these barriers and fought for freedom, battling with their own unique weapons. Harriet Tubman proclaimed freedom by risking her life to help slaves escape. She was able to help about 300 slaves escape via the Underground Railroad thanks to the abolitionists who opened their homes to runaway slaves. Known as "Moses" to her people, Harriet Tubman remains a shining example of Black womanhood. By helping slaves to freedom she blasted the myth that Blacks were contented with their lot as slaves.

Sojourner Truth shared that kind of toughness. A strong, tall woman whose spirit could not be broken by racism nor sexism, she boldly proclaimed freedom for all people. In her famous "Ain’t I a Woman?" speech she contrasted her own experience with the prevailing myth about womanhood. Phillis Wheatley proclaimed freedom by showing how much genius and talent was being wasted by making human being property. She fought slavery through her writing, and earned the distinction of becoming the first major Black woman poet in the United States. When enough was enough and committed Black people decided that "before I be a slave , I’ll be buried in my grave," Black women began to stir the civil rights movement. Women such as Rosa Parks, Ella Baker, and Fannie Lou Hamer were the catalysts and the backbone of the uphill struggle for freedom. There were also many more women that rose up and got involved which I will be sharing with you in my future writings but let’s get back to where I started from.

To the mother that was at that city council meeting on February 9th I say get organized. Seek out other women that are going through the same thing that you’re experiencing, because I know that there are a lot of slumlords in the city of Newburgh. It’s time to make a change and for some reason I believe that you’re the one that can get it started. Just believe that with God ALL things are possible. It might be a tough job but somebody’s got to do it. Just watch your back and keep the SNAKES away and always remember that snakes come in all colors. This is Lillie’s Point of View!

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