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August 20, 2014

NYPD's Notorious Former Top Cop Thinks Ferguson Is Out Of Hand

Ray Kelly
ASSOCIATED PRESS

Grand Jury Convened In Eric Garner Death

Eric Garner
ASSOCIATED PRESS

Ferguson Mayor: 'There's Not A Racial Divide In Ferguson'

Ferguson
MICHAEL B. THOMAS via Getty Images

KKK Leader Calls KKK Fundraiser For Darren Wilson 'A Scam'

Kkk
ASSOCIATED PRESS

Renisha McBride's Family Sues For $10 Million

Renisha Mcbride
Thurswell Law

Bar Association Calls On Prosecutor To Recuse Himself From Ferguson Investigation

Bob Mcculloch Ferguson
ASSOCIATED PRESS

University Of Alabama Sorority Kicks Out Member For Sending Racist Snapchat

Racist Snapchat
via Twitter

Missouri State Senator: Ferguson Police Manhandled Pregnant Woman

Missouri State Sen Maria Chappellenadal
The Reid Report/MSNBC

Cop Under Investigation After Racist Michael Brown FB Posts

Michael Brown Fb
KCTV

Eric Holder: To Begin Healing, We Must See An End To 'Acts Of Violence' In Ferguson

Eric Holder
SAUL LOEB via Getty Images

Man Shot After Reporting Cross Burning In Yard

Craig Wilson
WLBT TV

Veteran Cop: 'If You Don't Want To Get Shot,' Shut Up -- Even If We're Violating Your Rights

Police Badge
Tetra Images via Getty Images

Michael Brown's Family: What Else Do They Need To Arrest Killer Of Our Son?

Brown
NBC

So What If Michael Brown Had Marijuana In His System When He Was Killed

Michael Brown
Facebook / Big'Mike Jr Brown

Jay Nixon Calls Off Ferguson Curfew

Jay Nixon
Scott Olson via Getty Images

Martin Luther King Jr. With His Hands Up Demands An End To Violence

3322041
William H. Alden via Getty Images

New Video Shows Aftermath Of Michael Brown Shooting

Brown
CNN

Woman Who Filmed Video: 'God Bless His Soul, The Police Shot This Boy Outside My Apartment'

Thousands March To Protest LAPD Slaying Of Unarmed 25-Year-Old

Ezell Ford Protest
Joe Satran/The Huffington Post

Michael Brown's Mom: Do You Know How Hard It Was For Me To Get Him To Graduate?

Lesley Mcspadden
Scott Olson via Getty Images

Black Americans Much More Likely To See Race As Factor In Michael Brown Shooting: Poll

Michael Brown
ASSOCIATED PRESS

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Sean 'Diddy' Comb's Calls Out The President On Ferguson

Diddy Obama
Rebecca Sapp via Getty Images

FLASHBACK: 16-Year-Old Kobe Takes Over High School Game

Kobe High School
The Inquirer

Gospel Singer Calls Out Support For Ferguson, Denounces 'Preachers Of L.A.'

Donnie Mcclurkin
Kevin Winter via Getty Images

Justin Timberlake Calls Madonna His 'Ninja,' Outrage Ensues

Justin Timberlake Madonna
Kevin Mazur via Getty Images

Apparently, White Cops Are Easily Threatened

Ferguson Police Training Ucb
YouTube

Teens Create App To Document Police Brutality

Five O App
YouTube

Will Smith And DJ Jazzy Jeff Awesomely Reunite In Vegas

Will Smith
Facebook

Smokey Robinson Talks New Deuts Album

Smokey Robinson
Jeff Golden via Getty Images

#MyBlackLifeMattersBecause Spreads Powerful Message That Race Shouldn't Affect One's Value

Michael Brown Child
Scott Olson via Getty Images

John Legend: 'Black And Brown People Are Just Treated Differently In This Country'

John Legend
Robb Cohen/Invision/AP

Only Beyonce Could Make Go-Karting Look This Fierce

Bey Gokart
Beyonce.com

Keke Palmer Reveals Plans To Join Ferguson Protest

Keke Palmer
Courtesy of Keke Palmer

Brittney Griner Proposes To Her Girlfriend... And We're All Emotional Over These Beautiful Photos

Brittney Griner
Barry Gossage via Getty Images

Meet The Gentlemen Who Helped Make Broadway History

Audra Mcdonald Lady Day
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Watch Ferguson Shooting Take Over Twitter In Mesmerizing Graphic

Ferguson Twitter
Twitter

Who Holds the Other End?

Comments (4)

When I was a little girl, we sometimes found ourselves one person short when we tried to jump rope. One of us had to swing the end of the rope and the other was meant to jump -- but who was to swing the other end? Sometimes we'd make do by tying the rope onto a fence. Black feminists are like that fence -- nothing would happen without the fence, but who ever talks about it? You don't share photos of a fence or invite it to reunions.

Finally arrives 'Black Feminist Politics from Kennedy to Clinton' by Duchess Harris, and I realized what a tribute this book is to motherhood. It lionizes all the mothers -- literal or not -- in black activism (from Fannie Lou Hamer to Barbara Jordan, pictured below, to Dr. Joycelyn Elders). They were like that fence, holding up the other end of the jump rope and making everything possible.

They nurtured our movement, strategized our political growth and were guardians of our future. They are also too easily overlooked by the male dominated political movements and those who report on it. No matter how far black women march, no matter how big their afros, no matter how high the office they reach their history has always been told from the perspective of men, where the other end of the jump rope isn't that important.

As I read the Harris book, I'm reminded of my stepmother, Henrietta Walker. She was, in my mind, always grouped with those political women even though she was simply a cook in a slightly sketchy lounge in Boston's South End. She raised the children of other relatives, and me when I visited every weekend. She was so different from the quiet Native American/Bostonian great grandmother with whom I lived, that I was intrigued from the day we met when I was 8 years old.

Henrietta was from Gulfport, Mississippi and carried the art and culture of the south in her walk, and in her smoky voice, full frame and the red lipstick she wore. Both playful and commanding, she was as much a friend as caretaker. She believed in the Civil Rights Movement and was one of the few relatives who didn't have a fit when I started wearing my hair natural. She even wore an afro herself when she hit her 70s.


One story she told forever bound me to her and to the images of those black feminists who marched and sang and passed legislation. Henrietta went back to Mississippi for a family visit after the civil rights bill was passed and after the sit-ins and bus boycotts had died down. For the first time in her life she rode in the front of a municipal bus.

I'd watched all the southern marches and violence against the marchers on television and revered the people -- the men and the women -- who put their lives in danger to secure basic human rights like voting, schooling or drinking at a water fountain. They inspired me to be active in the more subtly segregated north.

Henrietta's bus ride echoed those heroic moments I'd watched anxiously on the nightly news and her description of that moment raised the hairs on my arms. This woman who'd taught me how to make peach cobbler, braid hair and wait on tables could have, despite the proclaimed new day, been in danger! All it took was one resentful racist sitting nearby.

She knew it and still she rode the bus. My usually cool teenage exterior dissolved and I cried as she expressed her own anxiety at sitting down in that strange place, that free place. She also revealed the mix of emotions she held inside when nothing happened -- exaltation, sadness and relief.

The world that has desecrated the image and idea of African American women from the moment the first slave was dragged in chains onto these shores has little space for these heroic women. The shameful lineage is long: from the mammy figure to the dismissive Moynihan Report that blamed black matriarchs for the demise of the black community, to the expletive filled defilement of black women that still fills rap and hip Hop music.

Yet it is millions of black mothers who shaded the children they gave birth to in cotton and tobacco fields and marched thru the civil rights movement; who still work night shifts to support families, and cry at the funerals of her gangsta sons. They serve in Congress and serve food just like Henrietta.

As we commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Southern sit-ins I think about Henrietta and her bus ride. She disproved all of the knee-jerk stepmother stereotypes with her black, Southern, no-nonsense, silky boisterousness that carried the history of who black mothers really are. They carried the other end of that jump rope that made all things possible.


Jewelle Gomez is the author of 'The Gilda Stories,' the only black, lesbian, feminist vampire novel that marries lyrical language to epic action over a span of 200 years. Additional works include two poetry collections, a book of personal essays, and a collection of short stories. Read Jewelle's blog on Red Room.

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