by Josephine Quiño
Imagine yourself working in the fields - plowing, planting and gathering crops into barns year after year under the scorching heat of the sun. Imagine enduring the horrors of bondage, the cruelties of your master, and the discrimination of men. Imagine being subjected to merciless beating for no reason. Imagine being forced into sexual relationships and having no right to complain. Imagine bearing children, raising them up, only to see all of them being sold off to slavery. Imagine yourself screaming at the top of your lungs with no one to hear you. Imagine living this way for the rest of your life. Imagine…
One doesn’t have to go into the details of how generations have suffered through the years to be repulsed and horrified by such blatant degradation of the human spirit. And one doesn’t have to be black to empathize with the unspeakable injustice and abuse that these brave souls have gone through.
I belong to the human race. I believe that we all came from one progenitor and that our minds are somehow connected to each other, so I am for all. I am not black, yet I weep bitterly after reading Beloved and stories of other Margaret Garners out there as much as I weep over stories of the holocaust. And I feel equally guilty as all the perpetrators of this horrible crime.
No one can underestimate the psychological toll of being a black woman – the whole range of oppressions that she suffered all throughout history – devoid of any racial, sexual, or societal class to rely upon, or any access to resources and power. Yet, no one could also underrate the power of the human spirit to triumph in the face of adversities and rise above its tragic circumstances. Black women through the years are living monuments of this indisputable truth.
What initially seemed to be their disadvantage proved to be their greatest strength. Driven by the fierce desire to excel, they dared to try mighty things, stretched themselves beyond human capacity and won glorious triumphs over the undulating wave of success and failure, joy and pain, victory and defeat.
Within almost 100 years since the Emancipation Proclamation, African Americans have dominated almost all aspects of society. Browsing through Ford’s List of the World’s 100 Most Influential Women, I can’t help but smile at the array of interracial and international personalities which include Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Beyonce Knowles, Ursula Burns, Helen Gayle, Serena Williams, Venus Williams and Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. This page will not be able to accommodate the list of black women who changed the course of history.
Wasn’t it only yesterday that Isabella Baumfree a.k.a. Sojourner Truth delivered her most famous speech at the Ohio Woman’s Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio – with the most unforgettable phrase, “Ain’t I a Woman?”
It was only in 1988 that Whitney Houston’s hit song “One Moment in Time” hit the charts, but this song has always been in the hearts of all black women throughout history. They have indeed raced with destiny, though they started at a point where their dreams seemed to be light years away. As the Virginia Slims ad aptly puts it, “You’ve come a long way baby.”
Indeed, that one moment in time is finally in their hands. The time has come for the answers to be up to them. In their hands, they hold not only that much prized freedom but also eternity.
Many fought and paid for their lives for this freedom without seeing the outcome, people whom this world is not even worthy of. Yet they live on in those who continued to pursue their cause and finally overcame.
In this month-long celebration of black history, the world could only stand in awe to such courage and fortitude.