Sankofa is a Ghanaian term that signifies the importance of drawing on our past in order to move forward. While some of the current struggles that we experience as black women are unique to our time, there are similarities to the challenges that our female ancestors faced. I believe that reflecting on the strengths and experiences of black women who came before us can give us insights into how to endure what we face today. In particular, one common challenge involves balancing our identities as women and black people in a social environment that often pushes us to prioritize one identity over another. In this post, I will review the experiences of three black women and highlight the lessons we can draw from their lives.
In her famous speech “Ar’n’t I a Woman?” Truth argues that women and men should be treated equally because they can perform the same tasks as men and at times endure more than them. In her argument she calls upon her experiences from slavery saying that she has “plowed, and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me.” In this statement she is countering a common narrative about women being feeble and arguing that we are just as capable as men.
Lessons from Sojourner Truth: Assert Your Value
It is important for us to acknowledge and assert our strengths. Truth gave that speech in 1851 and unfortunately, the need to articulate the value of black women continues today. I encourage you to be outspoken about what you can do as a black woman. Whether you’re taking the lead as an organizer, negotiating for a raise or higher salary, or making sure you get appropriate acknowledgment for supporting your family, don’t shy away from highlighting your strengths. Let’s strive to communicate our value with finesse and grace so that others can hear and acknowledge what we bring to the table.