Joe Biden recently tagged Kamala Harris to become the first Black woman to serve as Madame Vice President of a major political party. Her selection as the vice-presidential nominee for the Democratic Party is historical. As a Black woman, I couldn’t be prouder. Harris’s selection is long overdue considering the vast contributions and sacrifices Black women have made in America.
While I’m excited about Harris’s accomplishment, I can’t fully rejoice without remembering and reflecting on the Black women, who paved the path Harris walked. They made significant accomplishments, despite racial and gender barriers. Their contributions to human rights, women’s rights, arts, entertainment, science, and politics are immeasurable.
However, I would be neglectful if I didn’t pay homage to the women, my ancestors, who endured enormous pain and suffering during slavery — they are the nameless, voiceless, and faceless — upon their shoulders generations have risen; their sacrifices remembered.
‘Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.’ George Santayana
“Women slaves played a key role in maintaining the dignity of their communities. Too often their leadership and brave resistance have been underestimated or forgotten,” said Ban Ki-moon, former UN Secretary-General.
According to Remember Slavery, a United Nations website, for the remembrance and commemoration of the victims of slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade:
It is estimated that one-third of the approximately 15 million people who were deported from Africa through the Transatlantic Slave Trade were women. Enslaved women carried a triple burden. In addition to enduring the harsh conditions of forced labor as a slave, they experienced extreme forms of discrimination and exploitation as a result of their gender and the color of their skin.
Although the pressure to increase the productivity of enslaved labor impacted both men and women, slaveholders in some locations started to develop practices regarding female slaves to increase the slave population, resulting in sexual exploitation of enslaved women. These practices created conflicts that became an important element that motivated the resistance of female slaves.
Since Angela, the first enslaved African woman, brought to America in 1619, Black women have carried the burden of suckling, nurturing, and strengthening others, often to the neglect of their own needs. They’ve cleaned, washed, cooked, worked to support their families, and fought hard in the struggle against racism and inequality. Often, facing hardship and adversity alone, since the separation of families was common practice. Yet they endured.
Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman, filled with a spirit to fight for the rights of enslaved people, were unwavering in carrying the torch of freedom. Without their commitment to the cause for freedom, justice, and equality, we may very well tell a different story about women’s rights. It is their commitment and steadfastness that we are here today to rejoice in the selection of Kamala Harris, as a VP nominee.
We’re now 157 years since slave emancipation. The struggles for women’s rights and the fight against racism and inequality have continued with Black women carrying the mantle. They’ve made remarkable achievements and advancements, rising to the top in their careers and society.
As the first Black woman to serve in the U.S. Congress, Shirley Chisholm taught us how to navigate the good ole’ boys’ political arena. Maya Angelou and Toni Morrison, with their literary greatness, moved us to laughter and tears. Josephine Baker and Lena Horne entertained us and showed us the true meaning of beauty and elegance. Courageously, Coretta Scott King inspired us to continue her husband’s legacy of equal rights for all. Billie Holiday touched our souls with her riveting song ‘Strange Fruit’ — telling our story of Black lynchings in the South. And Michelle Obama — first Black U.S. First Lady, exemplified grace, beauty, and intellect like no other before her.
It’s time to recognize the contributions, loyalty, and sacrifices of Black women!
While I feel happy Biden chose Harris as his running mate, I weep and mourn for the earlier generations of Black women — inhumanely denied opportunities to rise to greatness. If Harris is a reward for Black women’s loyalty and sacrifices — I’ll take it, and uphold it, in honor of those that came before me!