ain’t we all women?

sojourner’s truth rings on

INcite with angel Kyodo williams

International Women’s Day is upon us; March is officially proclaimed Women’s History Month.

The affirmation and celebration of women’s endless contributions should be dubbed the Greatest No-Brainer of Them All. As Marian Wright Edelman pointed out in her essay marking the 100th anniversary, “Women have always been at the forefront of or the backbone of every important social movement.”

To celebrate, I’m sharing the words of women’s rights advocate and abolitionist Sojourner Truth’s speech delivered in 1851 in Akron Ohio, as shared by Frances Dana Barker Gage. I offer it (with a bit of commentary) because far too many of us haven’t yet read it and because Sojourner’s Truth rings on today and every day until every woman, man and child is fed, clothed, self-determined and living without fear. Until we are all free.

[Text modified from: Modern History Sourcebook: Sojourner Truth: “Ain’t I a Woman?”]

Well, children, where there is so much racket there must be something out of kilter. I think that ‘twixt the negroes of the South and the women at the North, all talking about rights, the white men will be in a fix pretty soon.

Sojourner must have caught wind of Rush Limbaugh’s shameful disparaging of Sandra Fluke. The white men (read: all dominant paradigms) are in a fix and they know it. Limbaugh’s comments are a mild reflection of the fear that is arising as women (politically) left and right recognize and come into their own: claiming title to their own bodies, walking their own path and leading with vision and power.

But what’s all this here talking about? That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helped me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me the best place! And ain’t I a woman?

Indeed, women should be celebrated every day, not just for one month.

Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain’t I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man – when I could get it – and bear the lash as well! And ain’t I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most of them sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain’t I a woman?

Too many women bear both the burden of bearing children and the burden of men’s childishness. The descent to flagrant pettiness is a sign of the times. That same seething indignation is evident whenever “they” step out of their place. Blacks and browns, gays & trans, indigenous & immigrants, take note: vitriol is victory.

Then they talk about this thing in the head; what they call it? [member of audience whispers, “intellect”] That’s it, honey. What’s that got to do with women’s rights or negroes’ rights?

Or immigration rights? Or the right to marriage for people that love each other whether they are of different races, creeds or genders?

If my cup won’t hold but a pint, and yours holds a quart, wouldn’t you be mean not to let me have my little half measure full?

And mean you are, those of you that would continue to deny and seek to withhold the rights of all the people that start out with a half measure. America’s history–from the seizing of lands from the Original People, to the systematic institutionalizing of racist, misogynist, homophobic policies—still assures that too many people start out way behind the starting line.

Then that little man in black there, he says women can’t have as much rights as men, ’cause Christ wasn’t a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.

And no matter how hard you try to make it so, a corporation isn’t a Man. But perhaps in the de facto American Religion of Consumerism, Christ was a Corporation, too?

If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back, and get it right side up again!

Of course women can turn it back right-side up again. As long as we don’t succumb to taking up patriarchy’s arms as a means to our goal to secure true equality. Ours is to exemplify the capacity for inclusivity and whole-systems thinking that is innate to women.

And now they is asking to do it, the men better let them.

But it’s up to all of us to assure that if the men won’t let them, that we do our part and make them. Ain’t we all women? If we’re not, but we wish to see the world turned upright again, then we ought to be and better get there now.

yours in truth, aKw

to every woman throughout time that has and continues to suffer the indignation of having borne, raised, loved or been loved by men, only to bear witness to their fear of our innate—and inalienable—power and wisdom. may we bear this burden with grace, not relinquishing our power so that we may continue to transmute that fear into beauty.

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changeangel: all things change. (sm)
angel Kyodo williams is a maverick teacher,
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Center for Transformative Change.
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About angel Kyodo williams

angel Kyodo williams, the “change angel,” is Founder Emeritus of a Center for Transformative Change. She now serves as a Senior Fellow and Director of Vision. A social visionary and leading voice for transformative social change, she is the author of the critically-acclaimed Being Black: Zen and the Art of Living With Fearlessness and Grace.
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