Black News, Entertainment, Style and Culture - HuffPost Black Voices
iOS app Android app More
September 2, 2014

New York Set To Accuse Evans Bank Of Racist 'Redlining'

Eric Schneiderman
Andrew Burton via Getty Images

Black LGBT Activist Arrested For Distributing Voting Rights Information

Turner
Youtube

Map Illustrates Bank's Alleged Racist Mortgage Policies

Eric Schneiderman
J. Countess via Getty Images

Serena Cruises Into Her 1st Grand Slam Quarterfinal Of The Year

Serena Williams
TIMOTHY A. CLARY via Getty Images

Ferguson Cops Wear Body Cameras

Ferguson Protest
MICHAEL B. THOMAS via Getty Images

It's Hard To Learn A New Language. It's Way Harder To Learn A New Culture.

Ta Nehisi Coates
Leigh Vogel via Getty Images

Protesters Rally At
Walmart Where Cops Shot Man

Cop Shooting
AP

Rosa Parks Artifacts Sold For $4.5M

Rosa Parks
ASSOCIATED PRESS

Ferguson Protesters Hope To Transform Anger Into Change

Ferguson
Ryan J. Reilly / The Huffington Post

More Women Than Men Are Dying From Ebola

Ebola Women
ASSOCIATED PRESS

18 Convincing Reasons To Give Yoga Another Try

Yoga
Josh Miller Photography via Getty Images

Ferguson Hasn't Forgotten About Michael Brown

Ferguson Rally
MICHAEL B. THOMAS via Getty Images

Study: New Heart Failure Drug Shows Big Promise

Heart Health
Science Photo Library - SCIEPRO via Getty Images

Michael Sam Cut As St. Louis Rams Finalize Roster

Michael Sam
Joe Robbins via Getty Images

Ferguson Is Rallying Cry For Protests Over Cop Killings

Obama's Delay On Immigration Creates Uncertainty Ahead Of Midterm Elections

Barack Obama
Win McNamee via Getty Images

You're Forgetting About The One Backyard Feature That Can Extend Your Summer

Outdoor Fireplaces
Porch.com

Chicago Business Learns Little Leaguer Is Homeless, Offers To Pinch Hit And Pay Family's Rent

Jackie Robinson West
Raymond Boyd via Getty Images

How Obama's Tan Suit Broke The Internet

Obamasuit

UN Condemns U.S. Police Brutality

453768716
Scott Olson via Getty Images

Follow HuffPost

    1. HuffPost
    2. Black Voices
    1. HuffPost
    2. Black Voices
    1. Most Popular on HuffPost
    2. Latest News
    3. Black Voices
    4. View all RSS feeds

Academy Awards To Honor Harry Belafonte With Humanitarian Award

Harry Belafonte
Matthew Eisman via Getty Images

Vivica Lands A New Gig!

Vivica A Fox
Axelle/Bauer-Griffin via Getty Images

Beyoncé & Jay Z Looked Really Happy At Made In America

Beyonce Made In America
Michael Buckner via Getty Images

Gabrielle Union And Dwyane Wade Tie The Knot

Gabrielle Union Dwyane Wade
Omar Vega/Invision/AP

Part Of Kanye West's New Song Debuted On 'Kardashians'

Kanye West
Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

'Black-ish' Creator Talks Race & Responds To Critics

Abc Blackish
ABC

Rihanna's Vacation Photos Will Make You Jealous

Rih Binocs
Twitter

The One Film You Must See This Weekend!

Through A Lens Darkly
Film Forum

LISTEN
Hip Hop Heavyweights Dedicate ‘Don't Shoot' Track To Michael Brown

Michael Brown Funeral
Pool via Getty Images

This Summer's Movies Were Even Worse Than Thought

Spilled Popcorn
Ghislain & Marie David de Lossy via Getty Images

Ashlee Simpson And Evan Ross Are Married!

Ashlee Simpson Evan Ross
Jean Baptiste Lacroix via Getty Images

5 Reasons Why We'll Always Remember Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson
Associated Press

Terri J. Vaughn Talks 'Girlfriends' Getaway'

Terri J Vaughn Girlfriends Getaway
Elise Romany

Hip Hop Moves As Strong Force For Michael Brown

Chuck D Public Enemy
Mick Gold via Getty Images

Mystery Donor Gives Money To Vandalized Stores In Ferguson, Keeps Town 'Hopeful'

Money In Wallet
Jonathan Kitchen via Getty Images

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.

Comments: (3)

Add a comment

Page 1 of 1

Most Commented Articles

Daily Drama

The Best Clips From TV's Hottest Shows


More Daily Drama >>

Get Closer to BV

  • slider Image
  • slider Image
  • slider Image

BLACK MUSIC NEWS
The latest news and updates on a multitude of music stars.
Check It Out!

BLACK MUSIC NOTES

       

MEN OF MCCAFÉ SEARCH
McDonald's continues its nationwide search to find five community-service minded black men during this year's CIAA tournament.


LOOKING FOR A FEW GOOD MEN

       
 

Find a Message Board

Discover conversations on everyone from Barack to Beyonce. There are nearly 50 forums, so click on a category below and find the right one for you.