This Women’s History Month …
In one fell swoop – some two-hours of “12 Years a Slave” screen time and one phenomenal two-minute speech at last Sunday’s Academy Awards, Best Supporting actress Lupita Nyong’o recalibrated the worldwide view of the black woman cultivated by centuries of historical lies, recent marketing campaigns and constant hypnotic music videos.
She, like local dynamo NYC Public Advocate Letitia James, at the recent City Hall inauguration of the new mayor, took the stage and used it well: to deliver messages that could only have come from the depths of their soul connection to a shared cultural pedigree. Lupita gave beauty voice and life, redefining what it is, what it does and how it should be carried. Tish informed us of the responsibility of power politics; who should have it, why they should have it and what its purpose should be. More on Tish and her “performance” later this month in Our Time Press.
Ms. Nyong’o’s game-changing moment will play out over years as young black girls recite her speeches at graduations, reunions and rites of passage ceremonies. Yes, the conversation is changing, and no doubt corporate America will take note and advantage: shifting emphasis to “night-shade” healthy, beauties and fashions of lean elegance, flowing grace and no padding.
But we know Lupita Nyong’o: she lives in our communities, we see her on the subways, pushing strollers, going to work in the morning, on stage at the Apollo and sitting right next to us in public libraries, colleges, churches or cocktail lounges. Standing next to us at rallies, marches, long lines. We see her in out mothers, cousins, sisters, friends. She has existed for centuries. It is America that now is “pleasantly surprised.”
And they would be surprised at other game-changers out there, working to save the future for the children, to redefine the language of both the plight and the joys of their people, to educate on how to get from here to there, or wherever young women’s dreams guide them.
The titles of new books, established and emerging, by women of color are honest self-appraisals, also providing grass roots-to-global instructions for our young: actress Rosie Perez’s “Handbook for an Unpredictable Life: How I Survived Sister Renata and My Crazy Mother and Still Came Out Smiling with Great Hair, dancer Misty Copeland’s “Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina” and her upcoming “Firebrand”, and producer-writer Valerie Graves upcoming Pressure Makes Diamonds: How I Became the Woman I Pretended to Be. Women are strong and getting stronger, moving outside the spotlight and advancing the messages echoing from the past, like the brilliant work of opera composer Nkeiru, whose Harriet Tubman score enthralled audiences attending recent standing-room-only performances at Brooklyn’s new Irondale Theater.
But more than messengers, they are doers from the full range of society’s social strata: teachers, broadcasters, business owners, mothers. Later this month, Our Time Press will introduce you to some we know: like the women who are making something out of nothing, and homeowners who see gentrification as confiscation and are determined to thwart its onslaught by assuring their valuable legacies fall in the hands of young, struggling couples of color and integrity; women determined to have a role in saving the children from forced so-called “core” solutions that have nothing to do with standards and void of the life-enhancing content that fueled the learned Ms. Nyong’o’s own life.
Women acknowledged in this issue and at a host of events this month include: Lupita Nyong’o, Robin Montague, Esmeralda Simmons, Esq; Marjorie Moon, Gloria Browne-Marshall, Esq.; Brooklyn chapter of the National Association of University Women; Valerie Graves, Debbi Morgan, Karen S.Daughtry, Mchelle Ayempong, Renee Collymore, Joyce Becker Seddio, Tanya Salters, Grace Ingelton, Robin Sheares, Anne J. Swern, Tia Powell, Brenda Brunson-Bey, Osun, Rosie Perez, Misty Copeland, Nkeiru and Harriet Tubman. (Bernice Elizabeth Green)