Last week marked the 100th Centennial Anniversary of Women Voting Rights, known as women suffrage. The movement has marked a hundred years of change that has catapulted, white, African-American women and women of color into the political arena, allowing them not just to be able to vote but to run for the highest office in the land.
The kick-off of the August 18th National Democratic Convention and the 100th Centennial Suffrage Movement paired nicely with California Senator, Kamala Harris’s acceptance of her vice-presidential nomination. Senator Harris is both African-American, and Asian. This is a milestone on both sides of the ocean. She, like many African-American women in politics, has the power to change laws that deal with racial injustice and racial inequality. So many lives have been lost because of systemic racism, too many to name. Will she take on the challenges of racial inequality and make the much-needed changes that many African-Americans seek?
These 100 years of struggle for Black women has not come without prejudice and racism. Black women were excluded in the movement, according to historian and author, Martha S. Jones. Jones explained in her book Vanguard: How Black Women Broke Barriers, Won the Vote and Insisted on Equality for All that during the early part of the 20th century, Black women were not included in the mainstream suffragist movement but was kept at bay because southern white women shunned the membership of Black women in the movement.
I marvel at the strength and courage of African-American women such as Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, and Ida B. Wells. Wells refused to march at the back of a women’s suffrage parade during the early 20th century but walked with confidence and courage beside white female marchers; knowing that her contributions were equally important as her counterparts. Harriet Tubman declared in an 1800s women voting rights speech, titled: “Ain’t I a woman too,” a message stating that black and white women should have equal voting rights as their male counterparts. They fought for it and got it.
If we had cow-towed and succumbed to the worst of racists attacks, where would we be today? If we had run from the water hose, fear of going to jail, fear of the baton sticks, the attack dogs, and tear gas, where would we be today? We certainly would not have played a vital role in the changing of civil rights, racial injustice and social justice laws.
We all know that politics is politics. Some of it is nickel slick, manipulative, and partisan-oriented, but it is a process in the American government’s scheme-of-things, that if you don’t use it, you will forever be pushed down, beat down and held back. If you don’t fight for something, you will forever be overlooked. It is true, we don’t have a lot to show for in this fight for Democracy, but still, the fight is necessary, otherwise, things for African-Americans and people of color could be far worse if we don’t demand equal rights under the law.
Like the phoenix, Black women continue to rise out of the ashes of racism. They have stood against the odds, proving their resilience; never quitting, but have kept a steady march towards a greater horizon. Fannie Lou Hamer said it best during the Civil Rights struggle: “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired,” Though she may have been sick and tired, Sister Fannie Lou kept fighting, because she understood the value of the fight. She, like thousands of women in the struggle, was a voice for the grassroots community. She fought so African-American women across the country holding high ranking political office today would represent their constituents.
From Patricia Roberts Harris to Kamala Harris, Black women have been and still are on the forefront of politics, struggling and demanding change to serve their country, and to serve their communities. Therefore, it is imperative for Black women and women of color in all areas of government to work together. Voting rights are not just a moment, it is a movement.