Home Opinions Black History Month: An ode to the black woman

Black History Month: An ode to the black woman

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Illustration by: Rachel Bostick | Staff Illustrator

Black women are the rock of the Afro-American community. With their grace, poise, bravery and strength, we have been able to traverse all obstacles knowing, in the immortal words of Zilphia Horton, that we shall overcome.

While black women have too often been told they are not good enough to inherit anything other than the lowly rungs of society, they stand strong. When the intersectional axis of oppressions, woman status and black genealogy transect, the result is one of unprecedented hardship.

Yet, through that hardship, black women have continued to prevail out on top. In a truly feminist and womanist tradition, they have become powerhouses of every area of society, in spite of the forces working against them.

For the past seven years, black women have been the biggest proportional voting bloc in presidential elections. Approximately 74 percent of eligible black women went to the polls between those years. To put that number into perspective, in 2012 the next two largest voting blocs, white women and white men, had a turnout rate of 65.6 percent and 62.6 percent, respectively.

Aside from civic participation, black women also lead in educational attainment. According to The National Center for Education Statistics, black women have outperformed every other group in both race and gender for the highest college enrollment.

These women are truly superheroines to be admired. Regardless of structural and systematic factors that negatively impact their day-to-day lives, black women continue to fight for their fair share of the American pie—gender and race be damned.

In contemporary American society, black women lead all other female groups in labor force participation and start businesses at six times the national average. Black women are the fastest-growing segment of female business owners and continue to “do” for themselves.

Unlike other groups of women in American history, black women have been at the forefront of progressive movements since antiquity. They have rarely been the “well-behaved” that Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, Harvard professor and feminist historian, famously begrudged.

While the logistics of black female workforce participation have unfortunate roots in chattel slavery, the fruits of this labor are enterprising in current times. To this day black women are the only female group to comprise a larger share of the workforce than their male counterparts. Approximately 53.8 percent of employed black people in 2011 were women. Compare that to the next highest statistic: white women who comprised 46 percent of the white workforce.

The essence of the black woman is one of radical existence. To persist and strive in a society that has so evidently sought to paint you as inferior and lacking in the Eurocentric characteristics of beauty and an insular notion of class is nothing short of triumphant.

The black woman is the epitome of strength, resilience and humility. For all the woes and daggers thrown her way she rises and stands, unscathed. Indomitable in her spirit and unwavering in her eyes, the world exists between her thighs, for she is the mitochondrial eve and mother of humanity. Yet, we scold her like a leper—repudiated and rejected, but she still rises.

Activist and novelist Kola Boof put it simply, “The black woman is the most unprotected, unloved woman on Earth… she is the only flower on earth…that grows unwatered.” But I am here to water that flower and ensure its continued growth.

Black women collectively have been the saving grace of this singular queer kid, and I owe them my life, emancipation and love. From one queen to another, thank you and onward to prosperity.