Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Champions Who Walked Among Us - Article 3- The Sojourner

  • What do you do when you are subject to the whims and fantasies of others?
  • Who do you run to when you see a double standard being lived?
Black skinned, nappy haired, this child's place was to listen and obey, but what happens if she doesn't understand? Is there no mercy for a child of nine years who, unlike others, was brought up in a home where a different language had been spoken?

Born in 1797 in upstate New York, the newborn baby had had no idea of her destiny; she had had no idea of the suffering she would endure at the tender age of nine years; no idea she would be separated from her family and tossed like many others of her race onto the market block to be sold like cattle.

Things went well for her until that fateful day when she became an It.   Sold to a family who spoke no Dutch, she spoke no English and entered the pits of hell. Infuriated at her lack of English, they beat her!  With rods and leather, they beat her! She was not a person but an It, an unruly, disobedient piece of property, which could not obey their orders, because It did not understand, so they beat It. After all, It had to function.
  • What do you do when a piece of property doesn't function as it should?
The piece of It, disguised as a small child, finally found freedom in God.  The lashings kept coming; they hurt and left intolerable bruises, but she would pray aloud as she cried out, hoping the God she had come to believe in would rescue her from the pain. He did.

Sold  to a tavern owner, she worked in  a bar with drunkards and women who were forced to enter into the world of prostitution, but the beatings stopped.  Here she probably saw the miserable sufferings of women and the ruthlessness of men; here she discovered her voice to speak out; here she discovered she was not an It but a human being–– who was being denied the right to live freely.

Unfortunately, she was sold again. Her respite had only lasted one and a half year, but it gave her time to refuel and strengthen herself for the brutality that awaited her. Being denied the right to marry the father of her first born child, because he was owned by a neighboring plantation owner, who was opposed to the marriage due to the fact the newborn would not be his property, she was forced to marry a slave that was owned by her new master, an older man who impregnated her four times.

On July 4, 1827, the state of New York issued its own Emancipation Proclamation and freed all slaves.  What had been started in 1799, by the legislature of  the state of New York,  to abolish slavery became a reality, but the woman who had endured so many hardships, and maintained her toughness, and her faith in the good of mankind was already free, and had already started seeking to find her children––the children she had born who had been taken away and sold into slavery.

During the Great Spiritual Awakening, she had a life changing experience, which would not only change the way she lived, but  would also change her name.  This woman became a friend of the progressive Quakers; she spoke out for the Civil War, recruited black men to fight for the Union, worked in government refugee camps for freed slaves, and spoke out for women's rights.

Perhaps her most famous speech was made in 1854 at the Ohio Women's Rights Convention, held in Akron Ohio. This speech characterizes her person as no other speech can.  She said, and please, allow me to quote her entire speech: Ain't I Woman*

"Well, children, where there is so much racket there must be something out of kilter. I think that 'twixt the negroes of the South and the women at the North, all talking about rights, the white men will be in a fix pretty soon. But what's all this here talking about?
That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain't I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain't I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man - when I could get it - and bear the lash as well! And ain't I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother's grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain't I a woman?
Then they talk about this thing in the head; what's this they call it? [member of audience whispers, "intellect"] That's it, honey. What's that got to do with women's rights or negroes' rights? If my cup won't hold but a pint, and yours holds a quart, wouldn't you be mean not to let me have my little half measure full?
Then that little man in black there, he says women can't have as much rights as men, 'cause Christ wasn't a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.
If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back , and get it right side up again! And now they is asking to do it, the men better let them.
Obliged to you for hearing me, and now old Sojourner ain't got nothing more to say."[1]

What a woman! One of the forerunners of freedom, she did not hesitate to pay the price.

On November 26, 1883, three days after Thanksgiving, at the age eighty-six years of age, the sojourner decided to take her flight. It was a wintry, cold day in Michigan, but the sojourner had completed her mission.   Isabella Baumfree, better known as Sojourner Truth, born and raised in slavery, died a free woman and had Walked On!

Walk On! All of you who are sojourners, I say, Walk On!

Pat Garcia

*The speech by Sojourner Truth has been entered exactly  as it was spoken in 1854. Grammatical corrections have not made.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Champions Who Walked Among Us - Article 2 - The Forerunner

Her body wrecked with illness was robbed of its energy––a young, frail, and tiny little thing, her mother had worried about her existence.  Her weakness and her frailty had people thinking she would never be able to marry and start her own family.  Marriage would happen to the others was a sentiment, which circulated among her family members. Due to her frailness, many thought it impossible she could endure such a robust institution.
Not being able to attend school as the other girls in her state, the impulsive and inquisitive young girl found peace in the sanctuary of her grandfather and father's libraries.  She allowed her mind to wander and stretch beyond the narrow-minded thinking of the people who surrounded her.
  • It was here she examined, read and learned how to reason;
  • here she questioned the role of women;
  • here she discovered her own equality.
In a world where women had sunken down to a level of being brainless creatures whose sole purpose was to propagate the human species, this woman found contentment in books as she dreamed of what could be.
October 25, 1764, her constitution and will to rise above others' predictions of her station in life had defied all the prognoses that had been proclaimed. It was her wedding day, and once again, she had proven the destiny of a person was not determined by the condition of one's health or the birthplace of one's environment, but by each person's will to believe and struggle against any system which limited change to the privilege few.
Her crowning moments, after her marriage, were many, but many of them are forgotten by our modern day society, which unfortunately tags progressive change as some occurrence that originated from us, instead of examining how and when it all began.   For many, the women's movement began somewhere in the late nineteenth century, however:
  • if it had not been for the tenacity of this woman who spoke out against the injustices and cruelties done to women;
  •  if it had not been for her courageous thinking which challenged the purchase and enslavement of other human beings;
  •  if it had not been for her stoicism that refused to let her be ashamed or feel insulted, when behind her back people called her Madam President;
many of the events, which took place after the formation of the United States, would have probably taken longer to occur or probably never happened. In writing to her husband on March 31, 1776, she wrote the following sentences:
"Remember all men would be tyrants, if they could.  If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation.
That your sex are naturally tyrannical is a truth so thoroughly established as to admit of no dispute; but such of you as wish to be happy willingly give up––the harsh tide of the master for the more tender and endearing one of friend.
Why then not put it out of the power of the vicious and the lawless to use us with cruelty and indignity with impunity?"[1]
This was written by the woman whom no one expected to secure a place in the Annals of History,
  • a woman no one expected to live many years,
  •  a woman with no public education, yet she held her ground with any of the scholars in her time,
  •  a woman who saw the injustices of a young nation and was not afraid to address them;
  •  a woman, like so many other forerunners before her, who saw the impossible happening before it occurred.
On October 28, 1818, three days after her sixty-fourth wedding anniversary, a forerunner took flight, leaving behind a foundation that others would step out and build upon.  For  on August 18,  1920, the nineteenth amendment was ratified, and women had achieved the constitutional right to vote.
The woman, Abigail Smith Adams, Madam President, and the forerunner of the Emancipation of Women, and one of the forerunners of freedom for  Afro-Americans had Walked On!
Walk On!  I say,  Walk On!
Pat Garcia

[1] Letters Between Abigail Adams And Her Husband John Adams,  the Liz Library, 1998 – 2011,  (Accessed May 22, 2012).

Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Champions Who Walked Among Us, Article 1, The Washerwoman

Pat Garcia

The war had been over two years when she was born. It was a cold day, perhaps raining down on the Delta in Louisiana, two days before Christmas.  Even though the people knew they were free citizens, the terror had already begun, and by the time, her eyes had opened, and she had begun to see the beautiful light of the world on December 23, 1867, almost everything, which had been proclaimed in the Emancipation Proclamation of the late President Abraham Lincoln, had been watered down with a hose and reconstruction had become a word of the past––at least in the South.
Orphaned at the age of seven, she was married off by her older sister at the age of fourteen, to escape the abuse of her brother-in-law--the kind of abuse no one sees, but one speculates he tried to beat down the pride she had about herself.  She was barely a teenager, but who would have known it; who would have cared. Her best asset was her belief that she was a valuable person called to do something extraordinary.
At the age of twenty, she was left alone as a widow in the world with a child and a lot of dreams about helping women of color discover the beauty they had within. So packing what she and her baby had in one suitcase, she left the town where she was married in Vicksburg, Mississippi behind her and went to the Middle parts of the United States to get her education and better herself, while living with one of her brothers.
Having kinky, coarse hair that was unruly and unmanageable, she had lost all of her hair, not because of neglect, but because of the ignorance that controlled the minds of some of the people who decided what was or was not beautiful, in a world where the majority rule quota set up by these same people who had escape tyranny, enticed them to ignore the liberty and inalienable rights of human beings, who were captured and involuntary subjected to slavery, and she went about to fulfill a market need the business world had ignored as being irrelevant, in a time where black women were considered as three-fourth human, and  the white women in the United States were not even allowed vote. In fact, we can consider her as the first woman scientist in the United States who had her own laboratory–– in her home, mind you. This woman broke many rules and regulations in a society that thought the Afro-American was incapable of learning and making intelligent decisions for themselves.
·      The first female to start a business and franchise it out later to others by teaching them to run businesses themselves long before Mary Kay.
·      She was one of, if not, the first woman philanthropist donating to many organizations and orphanages for Afro-Americans.
·      She became the first self -made female millionaire.
On May 25, 1919, the bell at the New York Stock Exchange stopped for a minute to honor this woman!  A First Among Firsts had abandoned this world forever, as problems with hypertension, the number one killer of Afro-American women, shortened her life.
Here, was a woman who:
1.     Stood out in her time when women were supposed to keep quiet;
2.     Who fulfilled her dream of getting an education;
3.     Who started her own business while working as a washerwoman;
4.     Who said No to the defining roles, which were being dictated by society for black American women, concerning our beauty and integrity;
5.     A woman that took pride in the beauty of who she was;
6.     A woman who Walked On through the adversity of life and changed her world,
Madam C.J. Walker, had ended her journey and departed this world, at the age of fifty-one, and for a minute, the world stood still in silent recognition.

Walk On! I say, Walk On!


Pat Garcia

Friday, May 4, 2012

Introduction to a New Series on Walk On

Walk On is designed to inspire my readers to step out and fulfilled their purpose in life.  Your life purpose is independent of whether you are rich or poor, in the upper, middle or lower class, or have a low, average or high intelligent quotient. You as an individual have a purpose to fulfill, and once you have found this purpose and started walking towards it, you will have found your happiness and inner peace, because you are flowing with the waters you are supposed to walk on––that is if you make a decision to embark on the journey and maintain it until the end.   In the coming months, I have decided to focus on women of all nationalities and cultures from different parts of the world, from the past to the present who have changed the world the world we live in.  The majority of them did not have a rosy background, were not Harvard, or Yale, or Princeton graduates, and yet, they overcame or have overcome poverty, racial or sexual discrimination, physical or mental disabilities, or psychological or physical abuse, and they have changed the environment in which they exist.  This is a series I not only hope you will enjoy, but I hope it will give you the courage not only to step out, but to keep going until you cross over the finish line.