It’s been 50 years since Shirley Chisholm was elected to the U.S. Congress and took Washington, D.C., by storm. A lot of men didn’t know quite what to do with her. She was the first Black congresswoman and she made such a splash that many women were listening and were inspired to run not only for Congress, but for all kinds of offices to serve the people. When I ran for Congress in Louisiana, she was one of the first persons to send a check.
Shirley didn’t do or say things because they were politically wise. She said and did things that were morally right, and never worried about what others would think. When she ran for president of the United States, she didn’t ask anybody’s permission. She was proud of being “unbought and unbossed,” and that’s why so many of us loved her and wanted to come as close to being like Shirley as we could.
I’m honored to serve as national president of the organization she founded, along with Dr. C. Delores Tucker. Shirley served as the first leader of our organization, now known as the National Congress of Black Women (NCBW). On Sunday, Sept. 15 in Washington, D.C., at the Marriott Wardman Hotel, we will be remembering Shirley Chisholm at our 35th annual brunch for the 50th anniversary of her election to the U.S. Congress.
We’ve named an annual award in her honor and the first two recipients will be the two Black women who are part of the “Squad.” We’ve chosen them because of the courage they’ve exhibited in an effort to make changes so needed in our nation.
The two receiving the Shirley Chisholm Courage Award are Reps. Ayanna Pressley and Ilhan Omar. It’s so important for us to honor and protect the names of those who take courageous steps on our behalf. If we don’t tell their stories, they either won’t be told or will often be distorted.
NCBW will also honor the other three newly elected Black congresswomen with our Sojourner Truth Award. NCBW was responsible for placing the Sojourner Truth statue in the U.S. Capitol, making her the first Black woman to be honored with a memorial there.
The three other congresswomen who were elected in 2018 are Jahana Hayes, Lauren Underwood and Lucy McBath. The three of them played such an important role in helping Nancy Pelosi to become speaker of the House again and assisting the Democrats in regaining a majority in the House.
Others, like Shirley, have proven to be unbought and unbossed and will also be honored for breaking new ground in major corporations. Two of the honorees in this category are Shelley Sylva and Kelly Cornish. Two Black women are responsible for developing new methods for healing the wounds of circumstance will be honored. They are Dr. Linda James Myers and Dr. Monica L. Clement. You will be hearing more about them in the immediate future.
So many Black women are doing incredible things to perfect our union, and many credit Shirley for being that catalyst for change that we so badly need in the midst of craziness and evil doing from the top. The 2020 elections are coming up soon and, again, there is no doubt Black women will make the difference in many close races.
Lest you think NCBW only honors women, included among the honorees who will receive the NCBW Dick Gregory Good Brother Award are Drs. Percy Thomas, Hemant Patel, Jay Patel and James Dail and attorneys Aaron Watson and Jack Olender.
Williams is national president of the National Congress of Black Women.