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I AM Woman Cover Work

This project has been my heart focus for a couple of years now. When it first came to mind, I had no idea how I was going to achieve a cohesive product because my thoughts for it were/are all over the place.

Despite very sound advice to focus on one theme, idea, pattern and font to carry throughout the project, I don’t think, create or interact like that. I’ve photographed over fifty women in six states at different stages of their lives from completely different backgrounds. The one thing they were all asked was: What word would you use to describe your womanhood? (My theme.) From that we went about trying to portray each woman and her word in an image. (Completely different styles all around.) Aside from the question and their interest, very few had much in common. So as I edit these images, my primary goal is to make each one stand on its own and hopefully, as individuals they can be a collective together. That’s an overall hope for my life as well.

Below are some steps I’ve taken to get to the cover for I AM Woman: Expressions of Black Womanhood.

Now accepting pre-orders for a limited number of copies. Place your order at Harvest-Life.org/shop.

Original image and near final cover for I AM Woman: Expressions of Black Womanhood. All photography and edits by LaShawnda Jones.
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Video: Becoming What You Hate

Notes from the video

The ability to commit violence (by word or deed) is not a strength. True strength is exhibited in our self-control. How we maintain discipline over our own tongue and actions. Not how we curtail other people.

Avoid becoming stuck as your worse self by:
Reimagining who you are
– Who have you always been?
– Who do you want to be?
– Who do you want to be nothing like?

Reimagining your environment
– How did your surroundings impact your character and personality grieving up?
– What aspects do you want to cultivate in your space moving forward?

Reflect on your actions and reactions – good, bad, ugly, & embarrassing.

Thought experiment: Project the idea of your best self into the idea of your best environment. What’s the first step in getting you there in reality?

If you are striving to be the best version of yourself but you keep surrounding yourself with people who bring out the worse in you, you will find your strength when you walk away from the people and environments that keep you at your worse.

You have a choice in how you live. Are you going to grow consciously in the direction of the person you want to be? Are you consciously releasing the person you don’t want to be?

Video, Parts 1+2

#self-control #discipline #growth #life #family #abuse #childhoodabuse #childabuse #elderabuse #eldercare #counseling #listen #findpeace #selfcare #selfimprovement #selfreflection #growth #betterthanyoushouldbe

 

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People are disappointing

Black Women Stand Alone

Disappointment as a faith-builder

Disappointments by family and friends can have life-altering and personality-changing impact. My most painful disappointments have helped refine my faith and how I view my abilities and capabilities. There is no level or area of human interaction that has not led to disappointment in my life. Still I would not trade any disappointment I’ve experienced for any amount of temporary satisfaction. Even being an orphaned aging single woman without children has its blessings on the long backend of life.

Without monumental disappointments throughout life – childhood rape, death of mother, inability to afford college, rejection by love interests, lack of corporate upward mobility, threatening racists neighbors – my faith would be nothing. Without adversity faith is only a whimsical word. Without the strengthening of my faith, I would be a flimsy woman.

Count it all joy, my brothers & sisters, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. ~ James 1:2-4

It was because of my childhood abuse that I began writing regularly to God in my dairy. I wrote the prayers I cried myself to sleep with. My journaling remains a prayer and conversation with my Creator today.

My mother knew every shadowy and lit corner of my soul, yet she loved and stood with me. When she died it was truly akin to losing a part of myself. After four years of deep grief, I began looking for a way to gift her on the other side of life with all the pent up love I have for her.

It was through my conversation, prayers and journaling with my Creator that I received my first practical lesson on gifts of the spirit not being restricted to this temporal frame. I wanted to give my deceased mother a gift of love and the instruction I received was to forgive my rapists, one of whom was her husband and my dad. I put my forgiveness in action with a call to him, then spent a few years trying to build a relationship with him.

Please note: the instruction was to forgive, not to interact or build relationship. Interacting with my dad allowed for many disappointments.

Struggling to acquire a degree with the goal of accessing better employment opportunities kept me at odds with relatives who were content with the status quo of functional poverty.

As I healed my body, mind and spirit, through my teens and twenties, I thought a loving a relationship was only a matter of time. As time marched on, I blamed my inability to connect with men on the abuse I sustained as a child. Speaking with my dad after one disastrous date with an overly aggressive man, triggered me into realizing violators should not have a place of honor in my life. I could forgive him and be cordial but that didn’t mean he needed access to my intimate struggles, especially those rooted in his violence against me.

Looking for someone to love usually leads to overly accommodating users and abusers. Each time I go down the wrong road of attempting to love people unworthy of my devotion, I am reminded that I exposed myself because of my desire for the romanticized version of love the world revels in. However, what is for the world is not for me. Each rejection from a romantic interest had me burrowing deeper into God’s version of love.

The early idealism of economic freedom through education collided harshly with the American Dream of endless corporate opportunities. Even in one of the most freedom-loving cities in the United States, New York City, a Black Woman aspiring beyond a support role is not supported at all. After eleven years with the company and a newly minted master’s degree, being told that my credentials were worth less than a second-year intern for a role I applied for was a painfully stark reminder of the futility of chasing the world’s rewards.

Quitting was liberating. Being unemployed is scary. Having some resources, a great deal of experience, education, and most of all tried-and-tested-faith allows for some confidence in my ability to create my own opportunities.

In 2020, just as Covid-19 was making its way around the world, I was informed that some of my white neighbors in a semi-remote mountain neighborhood outside of Tucson, Arizona, were congregating to discuss “throwing rocks through my windows and burning my home.” Historically speaking, the neighbors were amassing a lynch mob – to terrorize me.

Disappointment as a fuel for rage

I would like to say nothing in my life prepared me for becoming a target for a lynch mob, but if you’ve read this far, you already know everything in my life prepared me for such an atrocious experience.

However, during that period, I battled most with myself. My pride demanded holding the plotting perpetrators accountable. Rage demanded I stand my ground and fight back. They burn me out, the same fire would burn them out. Sifting through such powerful emotions was hard. I knew Arizona was a transitional place for me. Staying only to fight seemed to violate my higher purpose. Ignoring the need to stand up for myself violated my personhood.

At some point I had to calm my rage enough to ask myself questions about the next steps for my life. Was I going to focus on the enemy’s latest distraction or double-down in the work God was performing in my life? What type of energy would be required to respond in kind to the ugly hatred of people who didn’t know me personally but chose to plot against me and my home? 

So if you think you are standing, watch out that you do not fall. No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it. ~ 1 Corinthians 10:12-13

I decided to sell my home and leave Arizona. The test in the process was giving all my rage and uncertainty to God – not allowing rage and fear to control my actions. Letting go – much quicker than in prior situations. Also surrendering all my hopes and plans for my future to my Creator.

I had been desperately trying to line up my next steps. I wanted to know where I was going before I left where I was. That’s what I had done before taking the leap to leave New York City where I had a home, employment with benefits and social outlets. I went from my home in New York to a newly built home in Arizona. Beyond that, nothing planned or hoped for came to fruition in my desert wilderness.

So in leaving Arizona for parts unknown, I was willing to set aside my thoughts for what would work for me. I admitted to not having the slightest idea beyond knowing God’s will for my life is far better than anything I can imagine.

Disappointment contours perspective

All of the major violations in my life have been by people who felt entitled to cause harm and violence against me because they considered me unworthy of my own autonomy. They thought they had controlling rights to my body, voice, time and future. They didn’t think I deserved what I had acquired or what I was reaching for. They held no value for my achievements or my personhood.

All the major non-violent disappointments result from the vagaries of life, things we don’t really have any say over – time of death, human chemistry and the overall impact of human interactions and relationships.

I share all this to say: every painful disappointment (outcome other than what was hoped or prayed for or expected) that has shaped my life (altered trajectory and reality) has driven the roots of my faith deeper into the Spirit of God. Not only am I strengthened with each attack on my life, I also increase in wisdom and confidence.

As Maya Angelou said, I wouldn’t take nothing for my journey now. I wouldn’t trade in the hard knocks and near destructions, nor the rejections and betrayals. They may not yet be seen as opportunities for joy, but they certainly make the joy I have more unshakable. Having survived my life thus far, peace is not some quiet place outside of me. Peace has become an environment within me that I am committed to nurturing and protecting.

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Video: Self-loathers don’t know what love is (Pt 2)

Are you the friend you think you are? How do you see yourself in your friendships compared to how your friends see you?

I’m repeatedly reminded that people who don’t love themselves are incapable of giving, receiving or showing love to others. They are sometimes good at faking it, but fakers always expose themselves out of frustration.

One of my biggest beefs with people is their lack of understanding about love. As well as their use of the word as a tool. One truth I’ve learned is that people who don’t love themselves are incapable of loving others. Sometimes it’s best to simply step away from them to avoid being collateral damage from their internal war path.

In this video I share about a recent structural collapse in a long friendship. What resonates with you?

Read the background:

#toxic #relationship #friendship #friends #falsefriends #collateraldamage #toxicrelationships #no hate #love #mercy #grace #understanding #fakers #emotionalvampires #relationship #lesson #growing #learning #listening #ihearyou #iseeyou #wegood #bye #lifeistooshort #for #bs #drama #keepitmoving #keepmovingforward #blog #vlog #selfloathing #love #newpost #whodoyousayyouare #harvestlifer

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Looking back to move forward

August is a month of reflection and celebration. All this year I’ve been looking back. Mostly at the history of America as it relates to descendents of the American slave trade, including legacy systems, and Black Women. I’ve returned to old homes and old jobs. I’ve committed to finishing unfinished work. Now my mind and heart are on the loved ones who have left already.It seems I’m in a whole season of looking back, but in the sense of a rock being pulled back in a slingshot. I’m not sure if my future is ready for me, but I know I’m ready for the trajectory I’m being prepared for.

#life #change #death #growth #lovedones #rip #onward #grief #newlife #newhope #keepmovingforward #realestate #milwaukee #wisconsinbadgers #chicagobulls #represent #familytime #memorylane

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Self-loathers don’t know what love is (Pt 1)

I write these things to you concerning those who would deceive you. As for you, the anointing that you received from Him abides in you, and so you do not need anyone to teach you. But as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, abide in him.~ 1 John 2:26-27

A friendship of two decades is in its final death-throes.

The friend has most likely been holding on due to my potential as a donor for regular emergencies. I was holding on because I hoped she would walk out of her self-imposed doom-and-gloom prison and begin enjoying something of life.

For the vast majority of the time, I have known her, since her break-up with her ex-boyfriend, she is the one person who has been able to suck all of my light-infused energy from my being and inject her angst and unsettledness into me, creating instant exhaustion.

Nearly a decade ago, I began consciously not speaking to her while at home. I would take her calls while walking about town or sitting outdoors. The darkness coming from her during these conversations was too much to sit in while in my own space. Prior to this practice, I had been telling her for a few years that I had no place to go with her emotional dumps. Her bitterness and anger were too great for me to mediate. Add to that her stubbornness and a willfulness not to listen, and we have a toxic one-sided relationship that’s over-due for a curtain call.

She claims to be a seeker of Christ, but there is no light in her. She claims to live according to God’s law, but she has no understanding or expression of love. She has studied the Bible for years but only focuses on text supporting her worldview – any passage on hate and condemnation to shore up her belief in a vengeful God who only loves vengeful children.

Early on I was cast in the role of countering her fire and brimstone biblical interpretations with more rounded interpretations that take into account God providing His own sacrifice for our sins and transgressions. But after nearly two decades of trying to balance a dark-hearted view with light and joy, I’m done.

Today, this woman told me I am not a good or supportive friend because I don’t hate the people she hates or ignore the people she ignores.

She knows I don’t hate the people I used to want to hate. She knows my faith journey has been all about forgiving, releasing and growing forward. She has been around as I’ve confronted and vanquished demons attacking my life. Yet and still her ultimatum today was, if you want to be friendly/greet/reach out to people I’m not talking to then you can’t be part of my circle; count me out.

“God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness on the day of judgment, because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. We love because he first loved us. Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.” ~ 1 John 4:16-21

My reply was that I was not seeking relationships with the people she’s angry with. I greeted one, her sister, when we saw her at a restaurant yesterday. She chose not to acknowledge her sister and only said “things are awkward” between them and I should “read between the lines.” I reached out to the other, her ex-boyfriend and the father of her children, through their oldest, my godson, who lives with him, to ask for contacts and guidance for contractors after closing on my first investment property. My asking for help from her ex is apparently what set her on a warpath. He’s been in construction and auxiliary services for about twenty-five years. I’m new to the industry. It made practical sense to me to reach out to those I know are connected to the business. I had also reached out to another friend to see if her husband could help or offer guidance. He provided a list of contractors that got me started. And my cousin’s husband was my first helper. None of this seemed outrageous to me.

After dumping her anger on that, this friend attacked my creative works. Her continual dumping about her contentious relationship with her ex was featured in My God and Me: Listening, Learning and Growing on My Journey, a book I published in 2009. She brought that up today as an example of my poor performance as a friend. Quite honestly, I don’t remember what I wrote about her and her ex or the lessons I learned from them, but I am disturbed by the fact that she’s only now expressing how deeply impacted she felt about me sharing my interactions with her in my book. This tells me she hasn’t been genuine at all in the last twelve years. How could she be if she’s been resenting me all this time?

Several portraits I took of her in 2018 are featured in I AM WOMAN: Expressions of Black Womanhood. She doesn’t like the way she looks. She said, “ I only see my pain when I look at these pictures.” Mind you when the photos were taken, it was for this project. Shortly after, she asked me to delete my work. I considered it, but I was angered at the thought of deleting my creative work simply because she couldn’t stand looking at herself. That being said, one of those images had been selected for two gallery shows in New York City. After the first show, she signed a photo release for the second. There was no complaint about having her image in a gallery, but I’m a horrible friend for putting that image and others in my book?

She has a four image spread that compliments a letter to Michelle Obama, as well as speeches by Michelle and Kamala Harris. In a book that explores the bondage and silencing of Black Women, she was paired with our two proudest historical accomplishments. But all she saw was her pain. She didn’t see how her story is so many others story. She didn’t see that we’re all overcoming everyday. She doesn’t see that in her attempt to hide and control her portion of the narrative she’s impacting and distorting the larger collective narrative.

It wasn’t until she unleashed about her images being in my book – images that she doesn’t like – that I realized that all the hatred I thought was directed outward was actually ricocheting from the inside. She’s been in the throws of self-loathing for many years and I didn’t identify it as such. However, I did begin to understand she truly doesn’t know how to love when she rejected her son a couple of years ago for choices he made in his life. Her whole life has been wrapped up in smothering her children while hating their father. Despite her confusion with the Word, she has kept her children in the Bible. When she cited her belief in God as the reason she rejected her son, I began stepping back. That’s when I acknowledged I was no match for her destructive reaction to people living their lives on their own terms.

I have assured her I will remove her images from I AM WOMAN as well as references to her story in future publications of My God and Me. I had debated including her images because I didn’t want the negative energy attached to her to infuse my project. I should have heeded my gut. Lesson learned.

My hope that she will wake up and present a version of herself that isn’t bitter, hateful, manipulative or controlling is put to rest. I throw in the towel. If someone doesn’t know the difference between an honorable tribute and a hateful act then I’m really out of words.

“Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.” ~ John 3:17-21

View the video and background: 

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Tenth Lane

As shared on Instagram @ljonesrealtor

This is the current apple of my eye. Haven’t named her yet though.

Video from my first walk-through with an old friend, Ron, whose a general contractor.

While I was still in AZ, I was shopping online for investment opportunities I could begin working on #asap and that would keep me occupied through the summer. My target cities were: #Atlanta , #Baltimore , #Detroit and #Milwaukee . I focused on city-owned properties, city programs and opportunities. I really thought I would be in ATL digging into that market by now, but God obviously had other plans.My sister is in Milwaukee. I’m normally not sentimental, but I was really ill a year ago and the thought of being in closer proximity to my closest family member (only living sibling) was really appealing. MKE gained prominence on the list by romanticizing the idea of spending a summer in the same city as my sister for the first time in nearly 20 yrs. Needless to say, she ghosted me within a week or two. 😫

Whether we spend time together or not doesn’t impact my investment plans.My goal was to find a city I could begin building an investment portfolio in. My aversion to returning to my old hometown, Milwaukee, colored how I viewed any opportunities here. My sister’s part in this process was to get me here with the least amount of resistance. That she did. Now that I’m here, I think #MKE is the best fit for me financially, historically, emotionally, and geographically.

I don’t plan on being here for the winters, however, so ATL is still in play. 😉 And honestly, winter in NYC never bothered me. 🙃 We’ll see….

While on my road trip earlier this year, I put in 3 offers for city-owned properties. This is the only one that was accepted. Quite honestly, I’m relieved. I would probably be crying daily if I was committed to rehabbing 2-3 properties immediately as a first-time flipper. This property will cost a lot more to restore than what the City projected, but I’m okay with the challenge.

Let me know what you think in the comments.

#realestate #realestateagent #realestateinvestor #realestateinvesting #realestatephotographer #distressed #community #revitalize #rehab #restore #affordable #quality #housing #dowell

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Poem: Bury Me in a Free Land by Frances Harper

Frances Ellen Watkins Harper

Make me a grave where’er you will,
In a lowly plain, or a lofty hill;
Make it among earth’s humblest graves,
But not in a land where men are slaves.

I could not rest if around my grave
I heard the steps of a trembling slave;
His shadow above my silent tomb
Would make it a place of fearful gloom.

I could not rest if I heard the tread
Of a coffle gang to the shambles led,
And the mother’s shriek of wild despair
Rise like a curse on the trembling air.

I could not sleep if I saw the lash
Drinking her blood at each fearful gash,
And I saw her babes torn from her breast,
Like trembling doves from their parent nest.

I’d shudder and start if I heard the bay
Of bloodhounds seizing their human prey,
And I heard the captive plead in vain
As they bound afresh his galling chain.

If I saw young girls from their mother’s arms
Bartered and sold for their youthful charms,
My eye would flash with a mournful flame,
My death-paled cheek grow red with shame.

I would sleep, dear friends, where bloated might
Can rob no man of his dearest right;
My rest shall be calm in any grave
Where none can call his brother a slave.

I ask no monument, proud and high,
To arrest the gaze of the passers-by;
All that my yearning spirit craves,
Is bury me not in a land of slaves.

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We Are All Bound Up Together

America, I Matter!

Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, 1866

I feel I am something of a novice upon this platform. Born of a race whose inheritance has been outrage and wrong, most of my life had been spent in battling against those wrongs. But I did not feel as keenly as others, that I had these rights, in common with other women, which are now demanded. About two years ago, I stood within the shadows of my home. A great sorrow had fallen upon my life. My husband had died suddenly, leaving me a widow, with four children, one my own, and the others stepchildren. I tried to keep my children together. But my husband died in debt; and before he had been in his grave three months, the administrator had swept the very milk-crocks and wash tubs from my hands. I was a farmer’s wife and made butter for the Columbus market; but what could I do, when they had swept all away? They left me one thing-and that was a looking glass! Had I died instead of my husband, how different would have been the result! By this time, he would have had another wife, it is likely; and no administrator would have gone into his house, broken up his home, and sold his bed, and taken away his means of support.

I took my children in my arms, and went out to seek my living. While I was gone, a neighbor to whom I had once lent five dollars, went before a magistrate and Swore that he believed I was a non-resident, and laid an attachment on my very bed. And I went back to Ohio with my orphan children in my arms, without a single feather bed in this wide world, that was not in the custody of the law. I say, then, that justice is not fulfilled so long as woman is unequal before the law.

We are all bound up together in one great bundle of humanity, and society cannot trample on the weakest and feeblest of its members without receiving the curse in its own soul. You tried that in the case of the Negro. You pressed him down for two centuries; and in so doing you crippled the moral strength and paralyzed the spiritual energies of the white men of the country. When the hands of the black were fettered, white men were deprived of the liberty of speech and the freedom of the press. Society cannot afford to neglect the enlightenment of any class of its members. At the South, the legislation of the country was in behalf of the rich slaveholders, while the poor white man was neglected. What is the consequence today? From that very class of neglected poor white men, comes the man who stands to-day, with his hand upon the helm of the nation. He fails to catch the watchword of the hour, and throws himself, the incarnation of meanness, across the pathway of the nation. My objection to Andrew Johnson is not that he has been a poor white man; my objection is that he keeps “poor whites” all the way through. That is the trouble with him.

This grand and glorious revolution which has commenced, will fail to reach its climax of success, until throughout the length and breadth of the American Republic, the nation shall be so color-blind, as to know no man by the color of his skin or the curl of his hair. It will then have no privileged class, trampling upon and outraging the unprivileged classes, but will be then one great privileged nation, whose privilege will be to produce the loftiest manhood and womanhood that humanity can attain.

I do not believe that giving the woman the ballot is immediately going to cure all the ills of life. I do not believe that white women are dew-drops just exhaled from the skies. I think that like men they may be divided into three classes, the good, the bad, and the indifferent. The good would vote according to their convictions and principles; the bad, as dictated by prejudice or malice; and the indifferent will vote on the strongest side of the question, with the winning party.

You white women speak here of rights. I speak of wrongs. I, as a colored woman, have had in this country an education which has made me feel as if I were in the situation of Ishmael, my hand against every man, and every man’s hand against me. Let me go to-morrow morning and take my seat in one of your street cars — I do not know that they will do it in New York, but they will in Philadelphia-and the conductor will put up his hand and stop the car rather than let me ride.

Going from Washington to Baltimore this Spring, they put me in the smoking car. Aye, in the capital of the nation, where the black man consecrated himself to the nation’s defense, faithful when the white man was faithless, they put me in the smoking car! They did it once; but the next time they tried it, they failed; for I would not go in. I felt the fight in me; but I don’t want to have to fight all the time. Today I am puzzled where to make my home. I would like to make it in Philadelphia, near my own friends and relations. But if I want to ride in the streets of Philadelphia, they send me to ride on the platform with the driver. Have women nothing to do with this? Not long since, a colored woman took her seat in an Eleventh Street car in Philadelphia, and the conductor stopped the car, and told the rest of the passengers to get out, and left the car with her in it alone, when they took it back to the station. One day I took my seat in a car, and the conductor came to me and told me to take another seat. I just screamed “murder.” The man said if I was black I ought to behave myself. I knew that if he was white he was not behaving himself. Are there not wrongs to be righted?

In advocating the cause of the colored man, since the Dred Scott decision, I have sometimes said I thought the nation had touched bottom. But let me tell you there is a depth of infamy lower than that. It is when the nation, standing upon the threshold of a great peril, reached out its hands to a feebler race, and asked that race to help it, and when the peril was over, said, “You are good enough for soldiers, but not good enough for citizens.”

We have a woman in our country who has received the name of “Moses,” not by lying about it, but by acting it out — a woman who has gone down into the Egypt of slavery and brought out hundreds of our people into liberty. The last time I saw that woman, her hands were swollen. That woman who had led one of Montgomery’s most successful expeditions, who was brave enough and secretive enough to act as a scout for the American army, had her hands all swollen from a conflict with a brutal conductor, who undertook to eject her from her place. That woman, whose courage and bravery won a recognition from our army and from every black man in the land, is excluded from every thoroughfare of travel. Talk of giving women the ballot-box? Go on. It is a normal school, and the white women of this country need it. While there exists this brutal element in society which tramples upon the feeble and treads down the weak, I tell you that if there is any class of people who need to be lifted out of their airy nothings and selfishness, it is the white women of America.