1619 Celebration of Black Women Tribute Poem
by Leah Goodwin 3/2/2019
Black women arrived in 1619
But what does that mean?
A journey we did not ask for.
A story of pain,
A story of hope,
A story that’s strong,
It is yours and it’s mine,
It is right and it’s wrong.
Women and men and little children
Born in Mother Africa
Sold into slavery
Our strength helped us survive in this new country
This land of the free
Has been and still is a dichotomy
We stand on the shoulders of our ancestors
We knew that the power was in our very blood
And we were not going to let this journey drive us into the mud.
The life of slavery
Was a human atrocity
1746 Lucy Terry, who was sold into slavery as an infant,
became a free woman and in 1756 picked up her paper and pen
and wrote the first poem we know about back then.
Followed soon after in 1773
Books of poems were published by the prolific Phillis Wheatley
Time moves on and Women stay strong,
They move to the melody of their very own song.
In the 1800’s, Harriet Beecher Stowe, gave us Uncle Tom’s Cabin.
The voice of Sojourner Truth proclaimed “Ain’t I A Woman?”
Harriet Tubman followed that North Star,
And in 1863 President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing millions and changing the nation
We moved forward, to schools to better jobs to new situations,
It was the precursor to the great migration.
Charlotte Ray was admitted to the Washington, DC bar; in 1872
she graduated that year from Howard University yes –“H. U.”
A door had been opened, things weren’t like before
We invented things, we became teachers, and nurses and more
Mary McLeod Bethune earned her place in history
When she founded the Daytona Normal and Industrial Institute to educate black girls and served as its president in 1943.
Madam C. J. Walker took care of our hair
becoming the first American women to become a self-made millionaire.
Rosa Parks’ refusal to give up her seat,
Started a movement to desegregation,
That changed the nation.
Dorothy Height led the National Council of Negro Women
all the way to the March on Washington.
It was time to show the world who we are
from athletes, to politics, to reaching the stars
Wilma Rudolph, our first Olympic gold medalist, in track and field – Yes, she won three
Katherine Johnson helped to send America’s first human spaceflight to the moon to earn her place in history.
Shirley Chisholm was the first to be elected to the U. S. House of Representatives, serving us with a heart of resilience
She also went on to make a run for President
Mae Carol Jemison traveled on the space shuttle Endeavor.
Carol Moseley Braun was elected to serve in the U. S. Senate, she was so brilliant and clever.
Forward was the only way to make up for lost time
There was no mountain too tall for us to climb
Jocelyn M. Elders was appointed as the U. S. Surgeon General.
Toni Morrison wins the Nobel Prize in Literature for Beloved, her novel.
Serena Williams won the U.S. Open Women’s Singles Tennis Championship which was just the beginning, she moves on and to this day she just keeps on winning.
Billions of tears
We stand here today
We see Oprah Winfrey, Simone Biles, Halle Barry, Michelle Obama, and now Kamala!
The living legacies of Mother Africa
The pride of our Grandmothers
We know how to keep our eyes on the prize
And as Dr. Maya Angelou stated
And still I/WE RISE
We have a DNA strand of creativity
It’s Black Lives Matter’s Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi
We have a purpose, a plan, we have super powers
Because we are the seeds that were planted
400 years ago
Together we will bloom into a million magnificent flowers.
I was honored to be one of 40 women who were celebrated at an exhibit at the Women’s Museum of California, February 7 to March 30, 2014. The invitation reads: “The Women’s Museum of California is proud to celebrate the diverse beauty, brilliance, and bravery of Black women around the world by highlighting local women who have made significant contributions to women and their communities.” The exhibit was curated by Starla Lewis, head of the Black Studies Department (now retired) at Mesa College, San Diego, CA.