Tuesday, October 18, 2011

African Women throughout the World and Their Contributions to Our Struggle – Those Known and Not So Commonly Known Pt. 2

The struggle for African Liberation has never been an easy one throughout the course of our history this is evident.  However it is a struggle that we cannot ignore.  This is the same for men as well as women.  You do not so often here about the contributions of women in revolutionary work as much as you do men, but it does exist.  There, as a matter of fact, cannot be any type of revolution unless the woman has been involved.  Again, I say, examine our history. This is not a message of egotism, or to be boastful of African women pride or feminism.  This is a mere message to our people as a testament to never forget who we are.  We must look at these women’s’ lives and use it as an example to shape our own.  Just as them we must be brave, smarty, courageous and have no fear when working towards our peoples’ liberation.  Again these are only a few of the many of us. Hopefully this contribution will be a resource to invent more.  UHURU SASA!

Queen Mother Moore Thos e who seek temporary security rather than basic liberty deserves neither... My bones are tired. Not tired of struggling, but tired of oppression. Our purpose in life is to leave a legacy for our children and our children's children. For this reason, we must correct history that at present denies our humanity and self-respect. –Queen Mother Moore
Queen Mother Moore was born Audley Moore in New Iberia, Louisiana, and acquired the appellation Queen Mother on her first trip to Ghana, when she attended the funeral of Kwame Nkrumah in 1972. She was in the forefront of the struggle for 77 years. Her family was scarred by virulent racism. Her great-grandmother was raped by her slave master and her grandfather was lynched. Forced to quit school in the fourth grade, she studied to be a hairdresser to take care of her sisters. In the 1920's, she traveled around the country only to learn that racism was not confined to the South. She finally settled in Harlem where she organized, mobilized and demonstrated against racist oppression and imperialism directed towards Africa and people of African descent. She was locked into perpetual struggle against black oppression at all levels, joining numerous groups and founding a number of her own. Initially inspired by Marcus Garvey's emphasis on African pride and culture, she waged battle on the Black Nationalist, Communist and Pan-Africanist fronts. In keeping with her credo, "There was nothing left to do but struggle," her list of activities defies enumeration. Impressed by the Communist Party's role as the vanguard in the defense of the Scottsboro Boys, she joined the party.  In 1955, she joined a small band of activists demanding reparations for slavery and its insidious legacy which has permeated black lives up to this day. During Black History Month 2002, on February 6, the Queen Mother Moore Reparations Resolution for Descendants of Enslaved Africans in New York City bill was submitted to the City Council.
Spanning an era from the heyday of Marcus Garvey to the second coming of Nelson Mandela, our Warrior Queen waged war on the hydra of black oppression whenever it raised an ugly head. It can definitely be said, in deference to Mandela, that the struggle was truly her life. ---excerpts from the Black History Pages.

Rosa Parks said her hero was Malcolm X.  Some may beg to differ.  America’s media machine has always fed us this imagery that she and many like her were turn the other cheekers that was not so.  She was much more radical than we know.  Rosa Parks believed in self defenseThey called her “The Mother of the Freedom Movement and “The First Lady of Civil Rights".  On December 1, 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama, Parks, age 42, refused to obey bus driver that she give up her seat to make room for a white passenger. Parks' action was the spark to the bus boycott of Montgomery. Parks' act of defiance became an important symbol of the modern Civil Rights Movement and Parks became an international icon of resistance.  She organized and collaborated with civil rights leaders, including boycott leader Dr. King, helping to launch him to national prominence in the civil rights movement. At the time of her action, Parks was secretary of the Montgomery chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).   Although widely honored in later years for her action, she suffered for it, losing her job as a seamstress in a local department store. Eventually, she moved to Motor city, Detroit, MI. where she found similar work.  She later wrote an autobiography and by no means, I mean no means was she a believer in not protecting herself and her people from injustice.

Septima Poinsettia Clark played a significant role in educating African Americans for full citizenship rights without any recognition to gain.  Clark was born the second of eight children in Charleston, South Carolina, to Peter Poinsette, a former slave, and his wife Victoria Warren Anderson, a laundress. She and her family struggled to pay for a high school education, and she graduated from Avery Normal Institute in 1916. She married a Navy seaman, Nerie Clark, in 1919. Clark not only taught young students, but she held informal literacy classes for adults.  She also pushed an education and equal rights agenda in numerous organizations such as the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA), Federation of Women’s Clubs, Council of Negro Women, and, most popular at the time, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).   In 1956 when South Carolina banned membership in the NAACP, Clark lost her teaching job and pension when she refused to comply.  Later involved in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), Clark and her cousin Bernice Robinson created the first citizenship school to educate blacks in literacy, state government, and election procedures. Traveling throughout the South, Clark trained teachers for citizenship schools and assisted in SCLC marches and protests, working with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Andrew Young.  Dr. King acknowledged Clark when he received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 by insisting that she accompany him to Sweden.  She wrote two autobiographies outlining her nonviolent philosophy, Echo in My Soul (1962) and Ready from Within (1986).

Terrell, Mary Church was born on September 23, 1863 in Memphis, Tennessee. The daughter of small business owners who were former slaves, she attended Oberlin College. Terrell was a suffragist, first president of the National Association of Colored Women and at the suggestion of W.E.B. Du Bois--a charter member of the NAACP. An early advocate of women's rights, Terrell was an active member of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, addressing in particular the concerns of black women. In 1949 she gained entrance to the Washington chapter of the American Association of University Women, bringing to an end its policy of excluding blacks.  An articulate spokeswoman, adept political organizer, and prolific writer, Terrell addressed a wide range of social issues in her long career, including the Jim Crow Law, lynching, and the convict lease system. Her last act as an activist was to lead a success three-year struggle against segregation in public eating places and hotels in the nation's capital. Her autobiography, A Colored Woman in a White World, appeared in 1940.

Union of Guinean Women and other Women Wings The late President Sekou Ture of Guinea concurred, asserting that “Just as the struggle of African women cannot be waged and pursued outside the context of the struggle of our People for the liberation and emancipation of our continent, so the freedom of Africa cannot be effective if it does not lead, concretely, to the liberation of the women of Africa. In the emancipation of women is the emancipation of men." These are men acknowledging that the free development of society is conditioned by the free development of women. They were saying that if women are forced to labor and raise children in deplorable conditions this consequently affects males as well as the females of society. Today African women are victims of gender discrimination in the work place, the burdens of single parenting, physical abuse and rape by men, and brutal forms of state sponsored sexism. Such things as prostitution from low self-esteem/worth and severe economic hardship are prevalent among women.  Twisted commercial cultural values penetrating society reduce woman to mere sex objects.  The African liberation movement cannot afford these symptoms or the afflictions that cause them.  African men must begin viewing women as indispensable counterparts, seeing in each and every woman a potential mother, sister, wife, friend, and/or business partner.  The liberation of African people cannot be achieved without the full and fair participation of African women in the leadership of our struggle. An examination of African history reveals impressive examples of women freedom fighters and women’s organizations. Many African parties and national liberation fronts consisted of women's wings that have played and continue to play indispensable roles for independence throughout the depth and breathe of the continent. The women’s wing of the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), Organization of Angolan Women (OMA) is the largest women’s organization in the world and has over forty years of experience in fighting for African liberation. Starting out with five courageous women, today OMA has a membership of over 1.5 million women and has received international awards for their work in literacy while at the same time fighting the enemies of Africa. Other such African women’s organizations are: The National Union of Eritrean Women (NUEW) which is the women’s wing of the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF); the Organization of Mozambican Women (OMM) of the Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (FRELIMO); the Democratic Union of Women of Guinea-Bissau of the African Party of Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC). The Union of Guinean Women (URFG) is the women’s union of the Democratic Party of Guinea (PDG). –excerpt by Nefta Freeman

Vicky Garvin Malcolm X’s teacher Vicky GarvinVicki, as she was affectionately known, was born in Richmond, Virginia and grew up in a working class family in Harlem. From high school on, she became active in Black protest politics, supporting efforts by Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. to obtain better paying jobs for African-Americans in Harlem and creating Black history clubs dedicated to building library resources. She spent World War II working for the National War Labor Board in New York, organizing a union there and serving as its President. When the wartime agencies ended, she became National Research Director of the United Office and Professional Workers of America and co-chair of its Fair Employment Practices Committee. During the postwar purges of the Left in the CIO, she was a strong voice of protest and a sharp critic of the CIO's failure to organize in the South.   In 1951 she took part in the formation of the National Negro Labor Council (NNLC), and became a national Vice President and Executive Secretary of the New York City chapter.   Vicki traveled to Africa in the late 1950s, worked in Nigeria, and then went to Ghana, where she worked closely with Dr. W.E.B. DuBois and Shirley Graham DuBois, Alphaeus and Dorothy Hunton, and others on the African Encyclopedia and anti-colonialist efforts. In Ghana she lived with Maya Angelou and Alice Windom. When Malcolm X, whom she had known in Harlem, visited Africa, Vicki was his close friend and advisor.  Not only that, but skilled enough to be his interpreter as well for his Algerian meetings.  In 1964 Sister Vicki was invited to China by the Chinese ambassador. Both Malcolm X and Dr. DuBois encouraged her to go. She taught English for six years in Shanghai. When Mao Tse-Tung issued his proclamation in support of the Afro-American movement in 1968, Vicki made a speech about the statement to a rally of millions. Also in China she met and married Leibel Bergman in a Red Guard ceremony during the early days of the Cultural Revolution. 
Garvin stayed active in political and international circles, traveling back to China several times, and making many trips to Africa and the Caribbean, often with her dear friend Adelaide Simms. She was an active supporter of many organizations, including: Sisters Against South African Apartheid/Sisters to Assist South Africa (SASAA); the Committee to Eliminate Media Offensive to African People (CEMOTAP); Black Workers for Justice; and the Center for Constitutional Rights.  Vicki spoke at community events and joined rallies in support of Mumia Abu Jamal and other political prisoners. She was recognized by many organizations as an "honored elder" for her contributions to the freedom struggle of her people and the world's peoples. In speeches made just before her serious health decline, Vicki urged the younger generations forward. She wrote: "Of course there will be twists and turns, but victory in the race belongs to the long-distance runners, not sprinters. Everywhere the just slogan is reverberating --'­no justice, no peace!'"—excerpts from Pan-African Newswire

Watkins, Francis Harper known as the Bronze Muse   was born free in the slave city of Baltimore, Maryland on September 24, 1825. She never experienced the fetters of slavery and yet she would devote her entire life to the abolitionist movement, and what she called "a brighter coming day". Writing more than a dozen books, essays, innumerable poems and stories, Harper would become the nineteenth century's most prolific novelist and its leading African-American poet. Determined to make a difference in the world in which she lived, she became one of the most recognized and noted antislavery lecturers, a founder of the American Woman Suffrage Association, a member of the national board of the Women's Christian Temperance Union, and executive officer of the Universal Peace Union, and one of the founding members of the National Association of Colored Women.—Dorothy Mains Prince

X  Betty was the wife of Malcolm X.  Shabazz grew up in Detroit, Michigan, where her foster parents largely sheltered her from racism. She attended the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, where she had her first encounters with racism. Unhappy with the situation in Alabama, she moved to New York City, where she became a nurse. It was in New York that she met Malcolm X and, in 1956, Sister Betty joined the Nation of Islam.  Along with her husband, Shabazz left the Nation of Islam in 1964. She witnessed his assassination the following year. Left with the responsibility of raising six daughters as a single mother, Shabazz pursued a higher education, and went to work at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, New York.  Sister Betty is one whom I cannot begin to imagine the amount of pain and struggle she had to endure.  To stand with and live with a man such as Malcolm X, she had to live the life of a revolutionary.  Inside the four walls that they possessed with their children we can’t even begin to conceptionalize the conversations they had with one another.  But if anything in the world I am sure that he told Sister Betty to be strong no matter what.  Nothing could give them paradise on this earth except for what THEY WERE TRYING TO ACHIEVE AND THEY KILLED HIM FOR IT.  Through killing Malcolm they tried to kill us too!!  We have to be just as strong and willful as Sister Betty was to know and foresee the dangers that may lie ahead and still do battle.  Just like her husband she was a revolutionary.

Yaa Asantewaa was the queen mother of the Edweso tribe of the Asante (Ashanti), the peoples of our beloved Ghana. At the time, the Gold Coast was under constant attack of British colonial rule in all its forms. The British supported their campaigns against the Asante with taxes levied upon the local population. In addition, they took over the state-owned gold mines thus removing considerable income from the Asante government. Missionary schools were also established and the missionaries began forcing their ideas and beliefs on the people in their efforts to exploit them.  When the Asante began rebelling against the British rule, the British attempted to put down the unrests. Furthermore, the British governor, Lord Hodgson, demanded that the Asante turn over to them the Golden Stool, i.e. the throne and a symbol of Asante independence. Capt. C. H. Armitage was sent out to force the people to tell him where the Golden Stool was hidden and to bring it back. After going from village to village with no success, Armitage found at the village of Bare only the children who said their parents had gone hunting. In response, Armitage ordered the children to be beaten. When their parents came out of hiding to defend the children, he had them bound and beaten, too. This brutality was the instigation for the Yaa Asantewaa War for Independence which began on March 28, 1900. Yaa Asantewaa mobilized the Asante troops and for three months laid siege to the British mission at the fort of Kumasi. The British then brought in thousands of troops and artillery to break the siege. Also, in retaliation, the British troops plundered the villages, killed much of the population, confiscated their lands and left the remaining population dependent upon the British for survival. They also captured our Queen Yaa Asantewaa whom they exiled along with her close companions to the Seychelle Islands off Africa's east coast, while most of the captured chiefs became prisoners-of-war. Yaa Asantewaa remained in exile until her death twenty years later. Yaa Asantewaa was a fearless woman a shining example of an African Woman in defense of her nation and she will forever be this for us.

Zenzile Miriam Makeba South African singer and revolutionary not only had a music career spanning more than three decades, she also was a powerful voice in the fight against apartheid.  Often referred to as "Mother Africa” Makeba worked very hard to bring the rhythmic and spiritual sounds of Africa to the West. Her music is a soulful mix of jazz, blues, and traditional African folk songs with heavy political issues.   Using music as a primary forum for her social concerns, the singer has become a lasting symbol in the fight for racial equality and has come to represent the pain of all South Africans living in exile. Makeba's first encounter with the severity of government rule in her native land came when she was just two and a half weeks old: Following her mother's arrest for the illegal sale of home-brewed beer, the infant served a six-month jail term with her. Makeba's formative years were equally difficult; as a teenager she performed backbreaking domestic work for white families and endured physical abuse from her first husband. She found solace and a sense of community in music.   Makeba traveled to London, where she met respected American entertainer and social activist Harry Belafonte. Impressed by her unique and profound renderings of African folk songs, he served as her mentor and promoter in the United States, arranging performances for her in New York City clubs, this exposure brought Makeba worldwide acclaim and launched a cross-cultural music career of uncommon proportions. The 1960s proved an especially tumultuous decade for Makeba.  Her outspoken opposition to the repressive political climate in South Africa set the stage for harsh government retaliation. Makeba's call for an end to apartheid became increasingly powerful, and her recordings were subsequently banned in South Africa. More than three decades of exile began for the singer in 1960, when, seeking to return to her native land for her mother's funeral, her passport was invalidated by the South African government. In   1968 she married Stokely Carmichael, revolutionary Pan-Africansist, also known as Kwame Ture.  Makeba became aware of the reaction her marriage had on her career.  Married to a revolutionary wasn’t so embraceable by western society, especially a socialist.  In her autobiography Makeba: My Story, she recalled her suddenly unwelcome status in the United States: "My concerts are being canceled left and right. I learn that people are afraid that my shows will finance radical activities. I can only shake my head.  Makeba moved with Kwame Ture to Guinea, West Africa. Although Makeba's marriage ended in 1978, she remained in Guinea for several years. She continued performing in Europe and parts of Africa, promoting freedom, unity, and social change.

Scde. Kilaika Anayejali Baruti 

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