On October 25, 1997 I boarded a bus from Fort Wayne, Indiana to Philadelphia, PA. Back then I was a single mother. I had 2 jobs and 2 young sons. The struggle was real. But yet, I was very active in my community and considered myself a real soldier for diversity and equality. I ran the African American Employee Network at my job. I volunteered by working with children in my community. I participated in cultural events and really celebrated myself and “my people”. I remember when I heard about the Million Woman March. I was working at my second job and someone came in with a flyer. (This was back before social networking yall!) Yep very few people had email. We relied on word of mouth to spread the word about it. Many considered this march for women as a response to the Million Man March that happened a couple years prior. Our struggle was different. Being a Black woman meant having two strikes held against you in society. First you’re Black, then you’re a woman. Back then I believed that I could make a change, and a good march was just the thing I needed to motivate, encourage and inspire myself to get started. I marched for equal pay. I marched against domestic violence and violence against women period. I marched for higher wages and equal rights. I marched just to make my presence known. At the time I didn’t know who organized the march I just knew that I if I believed in anything that I was doing or saying with my life at that time that I had to be there. All I wanted to do was to be able to comfortably take care of my sons and to be treated fairly in the process. I had to do something.
It just so happens that recently my mother found a box full of my old journals. One of the journals contains a record of my thoughts and activities during this time. I will share my thoughts from October 25, 1997 with you today.
According to my journal…we watched Louis Farrakhan speeches all the way there. We listened to him as he spoke about the Black woman. He said that women are here so that man may find peace. That women must help men get to where God wants them to be. He said that the Black man is broken and needs our help. He spoke on the value of love, honor and respect between Black couples and the attributes that women have to be a help the men.
The Black man does not realize his strength. The Black woman must empower the Black man. She must learn to control her mouth and stop cutting her man down ~Minister Louis Farrakhan
Charter busses filled with African American women from all over the nation are lined up. We are armed with a quest for sisterhood and thirst for knowledge. We yearn for Unity! Wearing red shirts with gold letters that say: Together, We Rise! We chanted “MWM!” in unison as we exited the subways and poured out into the streets of Philly. We marched down Benjamin Franklin Parkway holding signs and flags. It has been reported on the local news that 1.5 million women are in attendance! There were many women speakers including Winnie Mandela, Sistah Souljah and a message from Assatta Shakur . They spoke of sexism and spirituality and how it is the responsibility of a man to be a help to his women.
It was more than a march it was a pilgrimage. Along the route that we took we heard African Drums, singing, chanting, dancing. There was food available from a variety of cultures (mainly caribbean) and there were stories being told.
The women of the march called for 3 things, repentance for the pain of black women caused by one another, as well as restoration and resurrection of African American family and community bonds. ~Wikipedia
I struck up a conversation with a woman that had dreads (locs) all the way down her back. She said she has been growing them for 6 years. We asked her how she grew her hair so long in just 6 years. She responded, “Well honey it depends on texture and growth rate. Whether it grows long or stays short, each look is unique and beautiful!”
Explaining my thoughts further I write: “Doesn’t that statement apply to Black women everywhere as a testament to our individuality?” (Look at me recognizing Natural Hair and individual beauty even back then when I was rocking a relaxer!)
On the train back to the busses after a day of marching, I notice younger women getting up for older women to have a seat. I notice women without children helping women with small children. Women who were strangers at the beginning of this journey are old friends now. I smile as I notice an older woman noticing me, noticing her.
It was a day to remember. I shared this day and these experiences with 1 million+ women. There were women of all ages, shades and backgrounds at this event. When I go back and read about it now I see that there has not been a gathering of this magnitude in the United States for the cause of Black women since, it kinda boggles my mind. As I look around I see that we still have a whole lot of work to do and that we have not progressed very much as a people since 1997. I have to say that my attendance back then marching for sisterhood and equality is very similar to the work I do now on my own with my blog, lifestyle and social networks. I continue to strive for unity and self acceptance for my sisters and always will. Thanks for going back in time with me. Happy Anniversary Million Woman March!! To see more pics from The Million Woman March, October 25, 1997 Click Here
Do you feel that the Black community has a lot of work to do when it comes to women, family and equality? What areas do we need help in the most and why?