This week marks the 35th commemoration of International Women’s Day (Monday), celebrated by the United Nations. This year’s theme is “Equal Rights, Equal Opportunities, Progress for all.” As a woman, I am grateful that for one day out of 365, women are recognized for our achievements. But outside of this special day and month – March is also Women’s History Month – I find myself humming Sojourner Truth’s tune, asking Ain’t I A Womanand questioning where I fit in popular culture, and even in my own community.
It is no secret that women are the backbone of the African-American community. Our women know this; our children know this; and our men know this. Our history is bursting with examples of women such as Coretta Scott King, Betty Shabazz, Myrlie Evers and Michelle Obama who literally knit the fabric of a family, community or country together with their strength, courage, love and hope, and who could have easily stood in their husband’s shoes if they hadn’t spelled their name w-o-m-a-n.
Sure, some women have used their names to spell unparalleled success as well, like Oprah and Cathy Hughes. But where are the women who look like me in the U.S. Senate, at the upper echelon of government and corporate America, in the Black media and on major Black blogs and as the so-called leaders of our community? Forget about justice and fairness. If the United States does not take full economic advantage of all of its citizens equally – men and women – black, brown and white – then our changing demographics will ensure that we lose our status as the last remaining superpower in the world.
This week is the perfect time for us all to reflect. Teach our children about women in history like King, Shabazz, Evers, Sojourner Truth and Ida B. Wells who fought long ago for “Equal Rights, Equal Opportunities, Progress for All.” Reflect forward on women like Obama, Oprah, Hughes, Marion Wright Edelman or even yourself as shining examples of the strength, perseverance, and love that are needed to achieve such progress. And in the 364 days between now and next year’s International Women’s Day, be sure to reach for the stars with a sledge hammer and crack open that proverbial glass ceiling to rise above it and uplift our community, while letting the broken glass fall where it may.
Charisse Carney-Nunes is the author of the award-wining children’s books, I Am Barack Obama, I Dream for You a World, and Nappy. She is a Harvard Law schoolmate of President Obama and was recently at the center of a national controversy pitting alleged school indoctrination against children’s expressions of civic engagement. Charisse is also the creator of “Nappy Narratives,” a companion video weblog series to Nappy that connects hair and women’s history. Watch them online at www.BrandNuWords.com.