In the four short decades I’ve been on earth, women have always been the beacon of light that kept me on and redirected back to the right path when I strayed. From coaches in organized sports (basketball, softball, volleyball, boxing, swimming and soccer) teaching me compassion and competitiveness, to those at church who instilled wisdom and instruction. These devoted women have provided comfort and healing whenever needed. My sisterhood of mentors modeled for me that adversity is like a garment of clothing, “It will always be there hanging on you, but how you wear it and make the style your own, is entirely up to you.” Through the struggles and successes, my female flock has encouraged and educated my mind, body and spirit continuously.
The intersectionality of being a young, black, woman, from low income communities, formerly homeless and divorced, who has spent my career in youth development, community organizing, nonprofit management, leadership and education throughout the Bay Area, I’m frequently negatively profiled and as a consequence, often passed by for growth opportunities, underpaid, negatively prejudged, overworked yet heavily utilized when someone wants to stand in solidarity with Black Women.
Though proud of my Geneva Towers roots in the Sunnydale District of San Francisco and our West Oakland landing in the late 1980s, the neighborhoods, the level of education and work experience I have are not the first things people see when we meet. My ethnicity, gender and height (I stand gracefully as a six foot tall Black Queen) take center stage and are the parts of me that I’ve learned to celebrate without question.
There is boldness and beauty in how I represent myself and tell my story in the world and this month, I am excited to share about and celebrate other brilliant, bold, beautiful women in Black History who have greatly inspired me:
Claudette Colvin (born Claudette Austin, September 5, 1939) is an American pioneer of the 1950s civil rights movement and retired nurse aide. On March 2, 1955, she was arrested at the age of 15 in Montgomery, Alabama, for refusing to give up her seat to a white woman on a crowded, segregated bus. This occurred nine months before the more widely known incident in which Rosa Parks, secretary of the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), helped spark the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott.
Ella Josephine Baker born December 13, 1903 was an African-American civil rights and human rights activist. She was a largely behind-the-scenes organizer whose career spanned more than five decades. In New York City and the South, she worked alongside some of the most noted civil rights leaders of the 20th century, including W. E. B. Du Bois, Thurgood Marshall, A. Philip Randolph, and Martin Luther King Jr. She also mentored many emerging activists, such as Diane Nash, Stokely Carmichael, and Bob Moses, as leaders in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Ella Baker was also a member of the NAACP from 1938 - 1953 and one of the founders of Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) with Dr. King from 1957 - 1960, she died on December 13, 1986.
Lisa Deshaun Leslie (born July 7, 1972) is an American former professional basketball player. She is currently the head coach for Triplets in the BIG3 professional basketball league, as well as a studio analyst for Orlando Magic broadcasts on Fox Sports Florida. Leslie played in the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA). She is a three-time WNBA MVP and a four-time Olympic gold medal winner. The number-seven pick in the 1997 inaugural WNBA draft, she followed her career at the University of Southern California with eight WNBA All-Star selections and two WNBA championships over the course of 11 seasons with the Los Angeles Sparks, before retiring in 2009. Leslie was the first player to dunk in a WNBA game.