Remember Maya Angelou’s poem, “Still I Rise”? Let me cite just the first stanza. It says, “You may write me down in history with your bitter, twisted lies, you may trod me in the very dirt, but still, like dust, I’ll rise.”
This poem reminds me of my days at Trinity University here in Washington, D.C., when we heard the chair of our communications department often talk about how those of us who are earning our master’s degrees from his department ought to speak out against some of the mistreatment that we all witness on television, especially the evening news. He said, “African American women are often portrayed by media as pregnant, promiscuous, poverty-stricken, welfare cases, overweight, or as prostitutes.”
In the entire history of America, we are only now considering a vote to confirm an African American woman for the Supreme Court. Another history-making moment. We are so proud of you, Honorable Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson. Let us keep her lifted up in prayer.
There are others shown as successful, but the negative far outweighs the good. How do we continue to erase some of these hurtful and inaccurate stereotypes to reclaim a connection with our true selves? Black women are women of power and might!
According to findings compiled in a study by the National Center for Education Statistics, Black women have been obtaining degrees at a consistently high rate for the past eight years and counting. Information collected about higher education among African Americans between 2009 and 2010 shows that Black women accounted for 68% of associate’s degrees, 66% of bachelor’s degrees, 71% of master’s degrees and 65% of doctorate degrees awarded to Black students during that time frame.
The article also stated, “By both race and gender, there is a recent study that shows that Black women are enrolled in college at a higher percentage than any other group including white women, Asian women and white men.”
However, while the study does shed light on many positive aspects of Black women and education, some of the overall statistics are still immensely troubling. For example, as of 2012, only 15% of students enrolled in college were African American, a drastically low number relative to that of the 60% of white students enrolled.
How many of us know we are queens, and that our strength, courage, persistence and faith propelled generations of our foremothers into our own world where we raised families based on love, Christian faith, wisdom passed down through the generations, and virtues that empower us to raise strong families, and to have productive careers?
We have had to sacrifice our love lives, skip vacations to stay focused and do those things which make us better while others have fun. We have had to go to Weekend College to get degrees (as I did) that will give us more opportunities for growth at work, and now, according to some reports, Black women outnumber other ethnicities when it comes to going to college.
This modern-day Jim Crow era leaves so many millions of Black women without spouses. Allow me to share how I felt the day I sat on stage at Lorton Prison as Les Brown delivered his riveting message to our beautiful Black men.
Immediately following his show one day, Mr. Brown had a speaking engagement at Lorton Prison, formerly in Virginia, and invited me to attend as part of my training. As I looked out into the audience, seeing good-looking African American men, they reminded me of my brothers, my uncles and my father. It was that very moment I thought to myself, “So this is where all the Black men are! No wonder 70% of African American women like myself are without spouses.”
Police can lock up our men yet poor African American women caring for families all alone are portrayed in such a negative light! Wonder what would be said if the TV producers could walk a mile in our shoes!
Thank God for this opportunity to write the truth about my people! This column is to salute you, African American women! As Harriet Tubman always said, “Keep-a-going!” Still I Rise.
Lyndia Grant is a speaker/writer living in the D.C. area. Her radio show, “Think on These Things,” airs Fridays at 6 p.m. on 1340 AM (WYCB), a Radio One station. To reach Grant, visit her website, www.lyndiagrant.com, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 240-602-6295. Follow her on Twitter @LyndiaGrant and on Facebook.