~ By Jennifer Johnson, Empowerment 4 Girls Board President
Left to right: Claudia, Grace, Jennifer, Iris
Women who danced just enough...
I come from a long line of womxn that did what was needed to survive and thrive in the times that birthed them. Womxn that planted trees for shade, grew flowers to attract pollinators, harvested grapes before making wine. Women who danced just enough while the soup simmered all while caring for their neighbors’ children so that other women could thrive, nourished by the salty soup of community.
These humble heroines marked their houses in secret as safe places for travelers needing food, while humming a little gospel under their breath. They dressed their salads with eggs and salt, smelled of rising bread every Sunday, held my green eyes with their green eyes, honoring the power and pain that a woman must endure in her lifetime, no matter the time of life. They talked about God as an active force for good, healing, nature and compassion. They talked about God as he but allowed all of the questions from a child certain that god is a she and a me and a we.
Power with the softness of warm bread...
The womxn of my lineage wielded their power with the softness of warm bread, powdered cheeks and moistened lips. They led their lives as leaders of their families and their communities and though I may be the only one that remembers their names as we celebrate Womxn’s Herstory, they are my herstory, and I am a continuation of their generous lives, mighty and small. Viola, Grace, Roberta, Gertrude, Paula...they lift me on their backs, ancestors to my kin, holy in their simplicity.
My womxn taught me that prayer is an act of love, that abuse can be forgiven but never tolerated and most importantly to read, rest and listen as though my life depended on the ability to read, rest and listen. Their creative life force continues to feed my own creative life force and I teach my daughter that abuse bears no responsibility but to the abuser, that forgiveness is an act of love that is given only by free will and that reading, resting, listening and feeding oneself is self-care. Self-care is the way that we as womxn, descending unbroken from this long line of hard-working, gospel-humming, hip-swaying womxn, survive and thrive.
Everyday of our lives, may we give thanks to the womxn that birthed us, raised us, become us.
Image by jmanuelito from Pixabay
Shifting Toward Greater Equity for All
The entrenched patriarchy we are working to shift away from, towards greater equity for all people, even shows up in the word for our collective past; history. We’ll refer to it from here on out as Womxn’s HERSTORY Month, to help reframe the importance of womxn in building our past, present and future societies. In keeping with our commitment to recognize all people who identify as female, we use womxn, in place of woman/women, to free us from the externally imposed position as sub-man, and to acknowledge and uplift our LGBTQ+ sisters, past, present and future, who have done (and sacrificed) so much to re-direct the narrative from a binary view of the world to a pluralistic reality best represented by x.
We are living in unprecedented times; from our first womxn of color as Vice President of the nation; to a deadly pandemic; to violent suppression of people’s rights to peacefully assemble and address common grievances with our government; to the rise of white supremacy and violent assaults against the people and institutions of our government. As difficult as the challenges are, these are exciting times to be a womxn, and we are presented with a great opportunity to build on the work Empowerment 4 Girls is doing to affirm the self-worth of all girls.
Sharing Herstory and Shaping the Future
Womxn’s Herstory Month began as a project of the Education Task Force of the Sonoma County (California) Commission on the Status of Women, in 1978. Hundreds of students from dozens of schools across the county participated in an essay contest, presentations at schools, and culminating in a parade through downtown Santa Rosa, California with marching bands and thematic floats to celebrate Womxn’s Herstory Week. This project sparked a movement as communities across the country started adopting Womxn’s Herstory Week as part of their public celebrations. With the advocacy and efforts of women led by the National Womxn’s Herstory Project, the US Congress was pushed to recognize these events with a proposal for a resolution to declare a National Womxn’s Herstory Week. President Jimmy Carter issued a Presidential Proclamation on February 28, 1980 declaring the week of March 8th, 1980 as the first National Womxn’s Herstory Week. The National Womxn’s Herstory Project further urged the US Congress to declare March as National Womxn’s Herstory Month, in perpetuity. With bipartisan support in 1987, National Womxn’s Herstory Month was voted into existence, and since 1995 every US president has issued an annual proclamation designating March as Womxn’s Herstory Month.
Womxn have continued to struggle for acknowledgement for our contributions to all aspects of our development as a species, and we continue that struggle today. Taking a single month out of the year to focus on and celebrate the stories of womxn who’ve led the way or stood out in the fight for equity, respect, and acknowledgement still seems like a small drop in a vast ocean of stories that are male dominated. It’s an important month though, and we’ll be keeping the appreciation and excitement for the transformational power of womxn present in our daily social media posts, even as we keep the recognition throughout the years to come, that we are standing on the shoulders of all womxn as we do our daily work to educate, nurture and empower all girls as they grow to become drivers and participants in the ongoing shift to a more conscious and compassionate world for everyone.
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