Picture of the month

Picture of the month
Life is circular

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Chisholm and Me Unbought and Unbossed

Recently a black man Obama and a white woman Hillary Clinton cast themselves into the presidential race.It is only fitting after all is this not America,yet the moment it became clear to me that both would run I thought of just one person,Shirley Chisolm who said:
"I ran for the Presidency, despite hopeless odds, to demonstrate the sheer will and refusal to accept the status quo. "The next time a woman runs, or a black, a Jew or anyone from a group that the country is not ready to elect to its highest office, I believe that he or she will be taken seriously from the start." from her book the good fight.
I picked up several quotes she made in AP articles and they just seem to fit times we are in now.I tend to love her spunk and willingness to step out on the limb for what she believed right.
Chisholm went to Congress to represent New York in the same year Richard Nixon was elected to the White House and served until retiring in 1983. "She was an activist and she never stopped fighting," Jackson told The Associated Press from Ohio. "She refused to accept the ordinary, and she had high expectations for herself and all people around her."
Newly elected, she was assigned to the House Agriculture Committee, which she felt was irrelevant to her urban constituency. In an unheard of move, she demanded reassignment and got switched to the Veterans Affairs Committee.
Not long afterward she voted for Hale Boggs, who was white, over John Conyers, who was black, for majority leader. Boggs rewarded her with a place on the prized Education and Labor Committee and she was its third ranking member when she left.
"My greatest political asset, which professional politicians fear, is my mouth, out of which come all kinds of things one shouldn't always discuss for reasons of political expediency," she told voters.
During her failed presidential bid, Chisholm went to the hospital to visit George Wallace, her rival candidate and ideological opposite, after he has been shot — an act that appalled her followers.
"He said, `What are your people going to say?´ I said: `I know what they´re going to say. But I wouldn´t want what happened to you to happen to anyone.´ He cried and cried," she recalled.
And when she needed support to extend the minimum wage to domestic workers two years later, it was Wallace who got her the votes from Southern members of Congress.
"She was our Moses that opened the Red Sea for us," said Robert E. Williams, president of Flagler County's branch of the National Associated for the Advancement of Colored People.
In her book, "Unbought and Unbossed," she recounted the campaign that brought her to Congress and wrote of her concerns about that body:
"Our representative democracy is not working because the Congress that is supposed to represent the voters does not respond to their needs. I believe the chief reason for this is that it is ruled by a small group of old men."
Chisholm's leadership traits were recognized by her parents early on. Born Shirley St. Hill in New York City, on Nov. 30, 1924, she was the eldest of four daughters of Caribbean immigrants.
She began her professional career as a nursery school teacher, eventually becoming director of a day care center, and later serving as an educational consultant with the city's child care department. She became active in local Democratic politics and ran successfully for the state Assembly in 1964.
She bested James Farmer, the former national chairman of the Congress of Racial Equality, to gain the House seat in 1968.
"I am the people's politician," she said at the time. "If the day should ever come when the people can't save me, I'll know I'm finished."
After leaving Congress, Chisholm was named to the Purington Chair at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Mass., where she taught for four years. In later years she was a sought-after speaker on the lecture circuit.
"Whether you agree with her politics or not, she had a moral compass," said Shola Lynch, director of "Chisholm '72: Unbought and Unbossed," a documentary on her presidential campaign. "Why I was attracted to her story was because in some ways she's an average American woman who evolved into a a strong and courageous politician."
Chisholm was married twice. Her 1949 marriage to Conrad Chisholm ended in divorce in February, 1977. Later that year she wed Arthur Hardwick, Jr., who died in 1986. She had no children.
"She was a mouthpiece for the underdog, the poor, underprivileged people, the people who did not have much of a chance," 88-year-old Conrad Chisholm told the AP early Monday from West Palm Beach.
Once discussing what her legacy might be, Shirley Chisholm commented, "I'd like them to say that Shirley Chisholm had guts. That's how I'd like to be remembered"

During her time in office she spoke up on womens issues and spoke out about vietnam
and she was always articulate when she did.No wonder I identify with her I realized that speaking my mind and wanting to know what is on others mind is good medicine.
I now resolve to continue my journey here in what I hope will become my own little think tank.Perhaps my lazy behinds will proof read my text more too.I often try to get thoughts to paper before they are lost.In the process I've seen "genius" slip from my grasp whole losing various lines.Yet I know if only half of my visions make it from my mind to text form it will have been worth the war I fought to get them there.I marvel at those able to write so smoothly their audiences hang on every word.
That's not me and I'm not going to try,I only strive to share with others in hopes of growth.Which is why I tell people I once heard a woman give a speach that made me take notice.I listened to her like so many black women that raised my awareness at the time Barbra Jordon, Angela Davis,Nina Simone to name just a few.From them I learned a voice is solitary as in rises up but when it echos a song in unison with others thoughts,it becomes magic.
That woman was Shirley Chisholm the first black woman elected to Congress in 1969 in which she spent seven years and was a founding member of the congressional black cuacus. She was also the first black person to seek a major party's nomination for the U.S. presidency. Before you could have a Condaleeza Rice you had to have a Shirley Chisolm and a few other black women politcal pioneers. The Rev. Jesse Jackson called her a "woman of great courage."
Losing folks in the community like Shirley make me more determined to keep my struggles on page one.This woman has passed the candle to the next generation to keep burning strong and I'd like to take her up on the honor by holding up my part of the light that needs to be shinned on our work at hand.Sometimes the walk is a lonely one but at least the path has already been worn.The only other question I ask myself is how long do I walk before it's time to forge another road to connect to the highway.Today I can answer the byway starts here and now.I thank all who came before me they have made my journey a bit easier.