Black Women’s Role in Civil Rights Movement

Here are few black women’s who fight for civil rights. Let’s continue their legacy.

The civil war (1861-1865) and the abolishment of slavery in 1865, with the 13th Amendment in the United States of America marked a milestone for the black community; however, social injustice and discrimination didn’t end because the Jim Crow laws were established in 1877. These laws enforced racial segregation in the South where “black people couldn’t use the same public facilities as white people, live in many of the same towns or go to the same schools. Interracial marriage was illegal, and most Black people couldn’t vote because they were unable to pass voter literacy tests” (Civil Rights Movement: Timeline, https://www.history.com/topics/black-history/civil-rights-movement).

The Civil Rights Movement was initiated to combat the Jim Crow laws, so the black community could have equal rights. The movement organized boycotts, sit-ins, and pacific protests. For instance, in 1961, the Freedom Rides and in 1963, the March on Washington.

The movement was given impulse by black males and females. Among the male leaders, we have Marting Luther King Jr. Malcolm X, W.E.B. Du Bois, A. Philip Randolph, and Kwame Toure (formerly Stokely Carmichael). But why the stories of the males are mostly told and seldom times the female’s role mentioned? 

In the book, Ain’T a Woman Black Woman and Feminism, by bell hooks, she expresses the invisibility of women in the movement:

Black females participated but did not strive to overshadow black male leaders. Black male leaders of the movement made the liberation of black people from racism oppression synonymous with their gaining the right to assume the role of patriarch, of sexist oppressor. They were not liberated from the system but liberated to serve the system. 

nd., pp.177,181

A few years ago, I read an article that mentioned the role of Dorothy Hight in the movement. This took me to research who she was. During my research, I discovered that many other black females involved in the Civil Rights Movement played a pivotal role. Just to mention a few, Ella Baker, Josephine Baker, Ruby Bridges, Johnnie Carr, Angela Davis, Thelma Glass, McCree Harris, Fannie Lou Hamer, Rosa Parks, Shirley Sherrod, Gwendolyn Zoharah Simmons, and so on. 

Besides the above list, I would like to introduce six more females. Their role as strategists and advocates were crucial in the Civil Rights Movement in the United States of America.

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Amelia Boyton (1911-2015 )

She was a crucial figure in the Civil Rights in Selma, Alabama, and one of the leaders who convinced Martin Luther King Jr. to march from Selma to Montgomery, on March 7th, 1965. This is known also as “Bloody Sunday”. On the Edmund Pettus Bridge, over the Alabama River in Selma, the protesters were attacked by policemen and Boyton was brutally beaten. In 1964, she ran for a seat in Congress, being the first African American woman and the first female Democratic candidate from Alabama to postulate for this position.

Daisy Bates(1914-1999)

Bates was an activist, journalist, and publisher in Arkansas. Together with her husband, she founded The Arkansas Press, which was published on May 9, 1941, and mainly supported African American stories and advocated civil rights. In 1954, the Supreme Court landmarked segregation as unconstitutional in Brown v. Board of Education. Bates played a significant role in the desegregation at schools by mentoring and organizing the “Little Rock Nine” students to integrate Little Rock Central High School in 1957.

Septima Clark (1898-1987)

She was an educator in South Carolina who evolved the A Citizenship Schools,  which taught and motivated Black Americans to learn literature, education, and citizenship rights to empower their communities. She also fought for equal pay for black teachers.

Dorothy Height ( 1912-2010)

She is known as the “Godmother of the Civil Rights Movement”. Her activism started in the 1930s, which advocated for women’s rights such as unemployment, illiteracy, and voter participation. For over 40 years, she was the president of the National Council for Negro Women and one of the organizers of the March on Washington. Moreover, she had a big influence on leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr. and John Lewis.

Georgia Gilmore (1920-1990)

She was a cook at the National Lunch Company who was fired for participating in the bus boycott. She embraced her talent to cook from home and support the movement. She founded the Club From Nowhere, which motivated African women to cook and bake goods to be sold outside their houses and at protest gatherings. The fund from this action was used to support the bus resistance.

Diane Nash (1938-)

Nash got involved in the civil movements in Nashville, Tennessee, while studying at the Fisk University. She was a leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), and organizer of the Freedom Rides.

You can read about other women’s roles here. 

Photo by Colin Lloyd on Unsplash

Gender-Based Violence and Climate Change

Does climate change and gender based violence linked? Find out by reading!

How does global climate change link with gender-based violence?

It may sound odd that both topics are related, but yes, there is a relation, and it is influencing girls’ and women’s well-being particularly, since the effects of climate change are occurring rapidly. 

Over the past years, the topic of climate change has been one of the top discussions at international summits and the core work of government institutions and non-profit organizations. climate change is defined, according to the United Nations, as the “long-term shifts in temperatures and weather patterns”. The shifts can be natural or caused by human actions such as burning fossil fuels like oil, coal, and gas. The constant burning of fossil fuels creates a blanket that covers the Earth, causing the sun’s heat to stay inside, and that is the reason why the temperature rises. Moreover, climate change can affect

food systems, eco-systems, natural resources, socio-economic systems, human health and welfare, and it’s increasingly a driver of conflict and displacement

Gender-Based violence and Climate Changes conducted by Iris Consortium of Gender Based Violence, March 2022. 

according to the study Women and girls are the primary providers of food and water in their communities around the globe. Climate change is igniting those resources, such as water to be scarcer; natural disasters to occur more often and severely, and direct violence toward environmental human rights defenders. All of this affects the livelihood of the communities and exposes women and girls to gender-based violence, such as being forced into marriage, sexual exploitation and abuse, domestic violence, and other ways of gender-based violence. 

For instance, not having water near the community forces girls and women to look for it far away putting them at high risk of violence or pulling them away from school. 

In Bangladesh, 90 % of the water for households is collected by women and girls (United Nations Women, 2020). “Women travel up to 10km daily on foot just to seek out water for their families creating additional risks for women and girls of sexual and physical violence, harassment, incidences or threats of rape” (Iris Consortium of Gender Based Violence, March 2022, p.6).

After natural disasters, women and girls are vulnerable to experiencing increased violence like sexual exploitation and harassment when looking for shelter or other basic needs. This can be perpetuated by humanitarian actors. Also, there exists a high risk of domestic violence by their partner. According to a report by de La Puente, 2014, in 2011, after the floods in Pakistan, a survey showed that 52% of women and girls were exposed to some type of violence. 

The other typical gender-based violence related to climate change is the threats, arbitrary detention, torture, and murder of many female environmental human rights defenders. Global Witness conducted a report which states that in 2020 331 human rights defenders were murdered in 25 countries. 

As I write this article many women and girls in Somalia are dying or experiencing gender-based violence caused by a severe drought that this African country is having. Not far away, on the same continent, States members of the United Nations and international organizations were present at the Climate Change Conference COP27, held in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, discussing and lobbying to reach an agreement to manage climate change. The conference ended with a historical agreement of all parties to “support developing countries that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change” (COP27 website). 

This is a good piece of news to continue the battle against gender-based violence. Women and girls, it is time to take action from your home and communities to reduce the risk of climate change and its relation with gender-based violence. 

Photo by Adrien Taylor on Unsplash

Black Females at Power

Who many black females are vice-president in Latin America?

Shirlene Green Newball

This past June, presidential election was held in Colombia, a South American country. It marks a milestone in Colombia because it is the first time the leftist party is in power, and the first time a black woman became the vice-president. Her name is Francia Márquez Mina. 

Francia Márques is from the Cauca region, which is in the southwestern part of Colombia. She is 40 years old and comes from a humble background. Márques was a maid, lawyer, environmental activist and Afro-rights activist.  Márques stressed on many occasions that she was running for the presidential office “because our governments have turned their backs on the people, and on justice and on peace”  (New York Times, 21.06.2022).

Before becoming the vice president of Colombia, Márquez was as aforementioned, an energetic environmental activist in her region. In 2014, her community was jeopardized by illegal mining and the construction of a dam in the Cauca region over the primary river named Las Ovejas, thus she was the leader to inspire and mobilize 80 women from La Toma to march to Bogota to protest in front of Congress over both projects. In the end, the government was forced to meet with the community and later agreed on abolishing illegal mining. Marquéz and the group of women’s action ignited awareness among the population in other regions of the country where illegal mining was also an issue. 

In 2018, she was awarded the Golmad Environmental Prize 2018 for her work in the community and the environment. This same prize was received by Berta Cáseres 2015, who was a Honduran environmental activist, a year after she was murdered. 

Even though Colombia has a large percentage of Afro population, the news output has shown that not everyone is happy with Márques being in position. During her presidential campaign, she was exposed to racism and classicism, however, these issues were not a barrier for her, because she went ahead and won. Historically,  Colombia has been governed by elites and white individuals, but now there is a change of representation in the government with a black woman who comes from a poor family.

While Francia was campaigning in Colombia, not far away Epsy Campbell Barr, vice-president of Costa Rica, Central America was leaving her position. She was the first black female to assume this position in Costa Rica and in the Latin American region. She was the vice president of this country from May, 2018 to May, 2022. 

Moreover, Campbell is one of the co-founders of the Costa Rica Citizen Action Party (PAC). Before becoming vice president Campbell was a congresswoman for two terms, and an advocate for African descent people, and woman rights at the local and regional levels. 

I met Campbell before she became vice president, while I was working at the Afro Caribbean, Afro-Latin, and the Diaspora Women Network. At a conference, I heard her speak for the first time, and it was clear that she had the talent to be a leader and a good speaker. Years, after she became the vice president of Costa Rica. During those years she fights against racism and relentlessly advocates for the Afrocostarican population.

On the 25th of June, 2022 Campbell tweeted a photo of her and Francia Márquez, saying they will work together. 

Both Márquez and Campbell as leaders, being black, and female, play a pivotal role for women’s empowerment in the Latin American region and further abroad. They have done and are still doing their part. We can join them from our community, workplace, and organizations. 

This is not the beginning, it’s the continuation of what our ancestors had given to us, thanks to many powerful black women we are at this standing point today. Thanks, Harriet Tubmam, Matilde Lindo and others. 

Name a powerful black woman you know!

Data about Colombia and Costa Rica 

  • 10.5 % of the Colombian population is black. 
  • 7,11 % of Costa Rica’s population is black. 

Source:  Departamento Administrativo Nacional de Estadísticas  (DANE) and a report from the Economic Commission for Latin America (ECAC). The percentages are based on the 2010-2011 census. 

References

The New York Times

One Earth

https://www.oneearth.org/environmental-hero-francia-marquez/

Goldman Enrivonmental Prize

France24

https://www.france24.com/en/americas/20220620-francia-marquez-from-maid-to-colombia-s-first-black-vice-president

DANE

https://www.dane.gov.co/index.php/estadisticas-por-tema/demografia-y-poblacion/censo-nacional-de-poblacion-y-vivenda-2018/informacion-tecnica

CEPAL

A Silent Disease

Breast cancer month. Give your support.

The month of October stands for breast cancer month. During this period, many individuals wear a pink ribbon on their coat, dress, hat, bag, etc. which symbolizes awareness, sympathy, and support to families and friends who have lost or have a loved one with breast cancer. Have you lost a relative or friend because of the silent disease?

According to a statistical report by the American Cancer Society, breast cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in women and is the second cause of death after lung cancer for women in the United States of America. The report states that during 2012-2016 breast cancer increased slightly by  0.3% per year; however, the death rate has decreased. 

Yojaira in Solentiname/ Kimmo Lehtonen

Each woman’s body reacts differently to the disease; thus, for some women it develops fast and for others it is slow. In the case of Yojaira, my friend, who I lost 10 years ago to breast cancer, it was very fast. I remember her telling me about her diagnosis,  years after she was gone. Her cancer was invasive and aggressive to her body and mind. 

The news of her death was devastating. I remember when I got the phone call I was in the middle of documentary production, but at that moment everything shifted. I sat and cried. Hours later, I traveled to Managua (the capital) to be with her family and friends. I thought that I had cried during the flight so I wouldn’t cry anymore, but that was not the case, I continued for days and still today, I cry for her. 

Months after Yojaira’s death I found out that another friend named Alesseter also had breast cancer. I remember that I didn’t want to listen to her explanation about the stage of the disease because I was in a state of refusing and denying. Therefore, I didn’t want to listen anymore about this silent sickness. It is not that I didn’t care about Alesseter, no way. I was overwhelmed and still mourning the death of Yojaira. Aleseter had an aggressive breast cancer and was strong to overcome it. Today, she is free of cancer and I am lucky to still have her as my friend.

A selfie of Alesseter and I

One of the therapies or ways to overcome the death of Yojaira was to talk about her. I had other friends that listened to me and supported me. But what happens when relatives or friends don’t support the person who is living with the illness? This is cruel and shouldn’t be that way. From her experience, Alesseter recommends the following.

Aleseter voice

I found myself taking care of Yojaira at night, going with her to chemotherapy, and talking to her by phone even when she just listened to me. While being with her,  I was strong and never cried, but as soon as I got home, I broke down. Luckily I had the support of my spouse.

I am glad for each moment I spent with Yojaira. We traveled, danced, laughed, studied, discussed topics, etc. She is just one of the many stories of women who struggled with breast cancer. So as Aleseter mentioned, check yourself and remember that the silence disease doesn’t attack only women of age.

Photo by Dainis Graveris on Unsplash

Cantautoras indígenas: Voces de cambios 

Las voces de Ch´umilkaj y Sara tejen historias y sanan

Texto: Shirlene Green Newball

Fotos: Ajpu Nicho, Sandra Sebastían y Cristian Dávila

En enero de este año viajé a Guatemala a recopilar información para mi tesis de maestría. Durante mi estadía entrevisté a cuatro mujeres maravillosas y fuertes de quienes aprendí mucho sobre el contexto y rol de las mujeres guatemaltecas y en especial de las mujeres Mayas Kaqchikeles.

La música es parte de mí, yo me despierto y lo primero que hago es cantar”

Sara

En el caso de Ch’umilkaj expresa que empezó a cantar desde niña. Su mamá es maestra y cada día que llegaba a la casa les contaba historias a ella y sus hermanas/os, luego cada uno tenía que resumir el mensaje a través del arte.

En mi caso yo siempre decidí hacerlo a través del canto. Cantar en mi idioma me da el derecho de decir quién soy, de donde vengo y hacía donde voy.

Ch´umilkaj

Ch’umilkaj Curruchiche Nicho y Sara Curruchich son cantautoras jóvenes Kaqchikeles quienes tienen una trayectoria a nivel nacional e internacional. Ambas son de San Juan Comalapa, Chimaltenango que está localizadas a unos ochenta kilómetros de la ciudad de Guatemala y es conocida como la “Florencia de America”, porque hay muchos artistas Kaqchikels que viven allí.

Sara Curruchich

Los temas de sus canciones y sus videos musicales son inspirados en la naturaleza, la Madre tierra, las mujeres, la identidad, sabiduría indígena, la discriminación, la no violencia, entre otros. 

Ch´umilkaj Curruchiche Nicho

Guatemala fue azotado por uno de los conflictos armados más brutales de Centroamérica. Durante los 35 años que duró la guerra se cometieron asesinatos, tortura, desaparición forzada que obligaron a las y los guatemaltecos a huir del país.  Según el informe de la Comisión para el Esclarecimiento Histórico (CEH) más de 200,000 personas fueron asesinadas como acto de violencia política y 626 masacres fueron ejecutados por el Estado de Guatemala.

Las mujeres Mayas fueron víctimas de la dimensión más cruel del conflicto interno. Durante este periodo muchas de ellas fueron asesinadas, violadas y torturadas por los militares. Un ejemplo de ello es la masacre que ocurrió en la comunidad de Plan Sánchez, municipio de Rabinal donde se estima que 286 personas fueron asesinadas. 

En los sus videos musicales las protagonistas son mujeres de la comunidad curanderas, tejedoras, defensoras, feministas etc., representando con orgullo sus roles en sus respectivas comunidades. También, en sus videos utilizan un hibrido lingüístico al cantar en su lengua materna kaqchikel y en español. El kaqchikeles es el tercer idioma Maya con un 17% de hablantes según el censo nacional del Instituto Nacional de Estadísticas de Guatemala.

En honor a las mujeres Mayas/ Ch ´umilkaj

Las letras de las canciones de Sara y Ch’umilkaj no solo revitalizan el idioma kaqchikel, también transmiten un mensaje de lucha contra la violencia hacia las mujeres. Estas canciones y todo lo que se demuestra en sus videos musicales son para curar las heridas que tanto ellas como sus abuelas, madres y tías vivieron o recuerdan del conflicto armado.

Ch’umilkaj me contó durante la entrevista que un profesor una vez dijo que los Mayas ya no existen, se murieron. Según el investigador Rusty Barrett (2016) en la sociedad guatemalteca prevalece la idea de sociedad homogénea basada en la afirmación de que los Mayas de hoy en día no descienden de sus ancestros pre-coloniales, igualmente sucede con el idioma, por lo que lo consideran “dialecto”, pero ella expresa, “soy Maya, soy Kaqchikel, porque conozco mi historia, canto y quiero trasladarlo”.

Son esas manos 

que hilan y plasman en lienzos 

los ciclos del tiempo 

Jo’ tqatunu’ quchuq’a’

richin ntzolin pe

ruk’u’ x ri qab’ix

(Extracto de Mayab’ ixoqui’/En honor a las mujeres indígenas de Ch’umilkaj)

Sara manifiesta “cantar en kaqchikel es una forma de conectarme con mis abuelos (…) tiene una estructura lingüística, tiene toda su gramática (…) pues aquí está y no tiene un valor menor”. Para ambas cantautoras cantar en kaqchikel les da el poder de reafirmar su identidad, revitalizar su idioma y descolonizar el pensamiento que los idiomas Mayas son inferiores. 

Cabe mencionar que en los videos de las cantautoras se usan instrumentos musicales ancestrales, se muestra el sistema decimal para el tejido de güipil que utilizan las tejedoras, el sistema astronómico que usan hoy en día para la cosecha, el uso del calendario. Muchas otras tradiciones que utilizan hoy en día no son nuevas, sino que vienen de la civilización Maya. 

Las produciones musicales de Sara y Ch’umilkaj tienen un valor muy significativo, porque muestran la vasta cultura y prácticas tradicionales de las comunidades. Muestra la voz de las mujeres en defensa del territorio y la naturaleza. El canto al igual sirve para curar las heridas del conflicto armado de Guatemala que aún es vivido por sus abuelas, abuelos, padres, tías, y las de ellas misma.  Sus videos musicales son la reafirmación de su identidad, sus voces, letras e imágenes tejen su identidad Maya, tejen resiliencia y un futuro.

Sara

Nuestra voz es importante, porque constantemente ha intentado ser silenciada por el mismo Estado, por el gobierno y por el mismo sistema racista y colonial, pero aquí estamos

Sara

Datos de Guatemala

  • La población indígena en Latinoamérica suma aproximadamente un total de 45.3 millones.
  • Guatemala, es el segundo país en Latinoamérica con un alto porcentaje de población indígena representado por 43%, después de Bolivia.
  • Guatemala tiene una población de 14,901 286. De este total 51.5 % son mujeres y 48.5% son hombres. 
  • En Guatemala se habla 25 idiomas: 22 mayas, el xinca, el garífuna y el español.

Fuente: Comisión de Economía y Asuntos Sociales de las Naciones Unidas, Comisión Económica para América Latina (CEPAL), Mapa lisgustico del Ministerio de Educación de Guatemala, Instituto Nacional de Estadísticas Guatemala.