Black women are justifiably proud of their hard-fought gains, even as they understand there is still more work to do. During the civil rights era many worked behind the scenes, providing the basics like food and shelter, organizing and offering enormous support. Blacks were once relegated to the back of the bus (and some say they still are), but it took Rosa Parks, a Black woman who refused to move from the front to help jump-start a movement.
Parks is just one of many mighty Black women worthy of celebration during Women’s History Month.
We also continue to honor trailblazer Shirley Chisholm, the first Black woman elected to Congress whose campaign slogan was “Unbossed and Unbought.” Boston’s own Doris Bunte, Massachusetts’ first Black woman State representative and Boston Housing Authority administrator, embodied the phrase: “If you can see it, you can be it.”
I love riding by the Dimock Center, where Mary Eliza Mahoney, the country’s first Black nurse, studied and seeing the Jackie Jenkins Scott building, named in honor of Wheelock College’s first Black president. Her book “The 7 Secrets of Responsive Leadership” is a must read.
Then there’s U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley, our first African American congresswoman, who’s brought the fight for equity and accountability to the halls of Congress.
Black women are especially excited that City Council President Kim Janey will make history any day now when she takes the reins of the mayor’s office — a first for a Black and a woman.
I adore Rev. Liz Walker. Who can forget her traveling to Darfur in the Sudan to raise awareness of genocide in that country? Here at home she is an icon. Her partner on that Darfur trip was the wonderful Rev. Gloria Hammond, who was no doubt an inspiration to her daughter, powerhouse minister and activist Mariamma White-Hammond.
Speaking of multi-generational greatness, journalist Sarah-Ann Shaw and daughter Klare Shaw are steeped in community service.
Cambridge Councilor Denise Simmons has been and continues to be a champion of equity for women, Black, gay and multicultural communities.
We are blessed to be able to count on Tanisha Sullivan, head of the Boston NAACP, to meet the many challenges ahead.
Sophia Hall, who recently joined the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights, is also a standout for justice.
The fight for equal justice under the law fuels two Black women in Massachusetts: Kimberly Budd, the state’s first Black woman to serve as chief justice of the Supreme Judicial Court, and Rachael Rollins, the first Black woman Suffolk District Attorney, who works to right a broken system.
Last but not least, a shoutout to the many Black woman who support each other, and who work to find solutions, even in the midst of adversity:
Restaurateurs Nia Grace of Darryl’s Corner, and Cheryl Straughter of Soleil are but two who come to mind. Struggling to keep their businesses afloat during the pandemic, they joined forces with others to form the Boston Black Hospitality Coalition.
Entrepreneur Adrienne Benton recently spoke about plans to finally renovate the League of Women for Community Service building at 558 Mass. Ave. — a stop on the Underground Railroad, and a place where Black women students, including Coretta Scott King, would often congregate.
In honor of Women’s History Month, at noon Tuesday, Collette Phillips’ GetKonnected will honor “150 Most Impactful Black Women in Boston 2021.” The virtual event will “commemorate and honor the women following in the footsteps of Melnea Cass and Coretta Scott King.”
I am humbled to be among those honored.
Joyce Ferriabough Bolling is a media and political strategist and communications specialist