Women’s Stories Yet Untold

Making All Black Lives Matter: Reimagining Freedom in the Twenty-First Century, by Barbara Ransby, is a handbook, a history book and could even be called a self-help-book-for-the-moment. I am so grateful to the amazing couple who introduced this work to me and then took their time to create a reading group around it. This sort of thing is happening everywhere and, in ways different but no less valuable than the protests, the collaboration is powerful.

As I made my way through the Scribd copy of this book, I highlighted Ransby’s well-turned phrases, things I didn’t know, and even (selfishly) a few affirmations that my own work and thinking is on the right track. For example, my keen interest in foregrounding oral histories of women of color lies in my belief that they just don’t get enough play in history compared to men — and White people in general. Ransby’s book confirms this:

“While high- profile activists have emerged from Ferguson, and from the Black Lives Matter Movement and Movement for Black Lives (BLMM/M4BL) in general, and have gained new levels of celebrity, most have labored in relative obscurity. It is the latter group whose stories are in some ways most revealing” (77).

Then, in relating the experience of activist Johnetta (Netta) Elzie:

“First, she observed Black men taking credit for the work of Black women organizers and usurping the mantle of leadership, when the majority of those she had seen on the streets most consistently were women.” (84)

As a White woman, my job is not to tell these women’s stories. They can tell them just fine by themselves. What I can offer are the research skills and historical knowledge that help unearth and contextualize so many of these subsumed stories. I urge people to read this book, to hear the stories of women – known and not – who keep working to make this planet a humane place to live. We owe them big time and can use our own time and talents to reciprocate their labor.

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