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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.

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Womanhood: Evidence of God’s Goodness

A Song & Verse Post: Evidence by Josh Baldwin

evidence: the available body of facts or information indicating whether a belief or proposition is true or valid

Every time Evidence comes on in the car I want to pull over and praise God. Today, I came to home to write.

All throughout my history Your faithfulness has walked beside me.

There is not one period of my life that I cannot identify the presence of God and His work in me. I remember being baptized around the age of six. Though I had no understanding of what that meant at the time, I can literally look back on my life to that moment and see how God has held on to me through every devastation, betrayal, abuse, disillusionment and every step of rebuilding and healing.

I remember my one-dollar lock and key diaries from Walgreens that were full of my seven-year-old pleadings for God to save me from the near daily sexual abuse I was subjected to. “Dear God, he did it again. Please make him stop!” Years of one or two line prayers. Silent screams. One day, four years later, God called me out of my house (I didn’t recognize His hand then, but I certainly do now) and guided me on a walk to a nearby police station outpost. I knocked on the door and said to the officer who answered, “I’m being molested.”

From that moment forward, I was never again forced to share space with my violators.

The winter storms made way for spring. In every season, from where I’m standing I see the evidence of Your goodness all over my life. I see Your promises in fulfillment all over my life.

I grew up in families – both sides – that didn’t acknowledge abuse or trauma. Everyone is either a victim or a perpetrator. If anyone could claim to be on the sidelines, they would act deaf, dumb, blind and incapable for standing against any wrongdoing.

A few years after I had forgiven my dad, and a few years before he died, he asked me why I act better than I am. “You’re from the ghetto, you’ll always be ghetto.” This was during the “healing and repair” of our relationship, mind you. It was also one of our last conversations.

Imagine being told by someone who should have molded you for greatness, that you were never expected to rise above his level of filth, disease, psychological, sexual and spiritual bondage. Imagine being looked upon with disgust by a man who, for all intent and purpose, murdered you as a child and then being told as an adult woman that you were expected to remain dead.

At that time, I hadn’t yet started my dedicated faith walk. I was still journaling – writing prayers to God – but the Bible remained a mystery to me. Nothing was catching or keeping. However, I can look back on that time now and see it as the beginning of release in my life. I tried so hard to reconcile that relationship, but when I stopped holding on – when I stopped trying – it was easy to see that I had been on my own the whole time.

I believe firmly that God desires willing hearts most – a desire to conform to His Word in practice and deed. However, He has never allowed me to remain open to those who intentionally harm me repeatedly. I view this as God’s judgement on the other person’s heart condition, rather than my inability to be faithful and obedient to Grace and Mercy.

Imagine telling your sire: I’m more than my beginnings. I’m more than the seed you contributed to my being. I’ve become more than a little girl from the ghetto.

Help me remember when I’m weak, fear may come but fear will leave.

It’s said that we can do anything we can imagine. Yet our imagination is limited by what we’re exposed to. What if we’re exposed to people who can’t see beyond their own dark pits?

I went into a deep depression in my late thirties. My mom died at the age of thirty-six and when I reached that age, my future dimmed to darkness. It was difficult to climb out of my second grave by letting go of the woman I thought I would have become by then. My mother began life as a sharecropper’s granddaughter in rural Mississippi, but I only ever saw her as the best of all created beings. As difficult as her life had been, she had at least accomplished the Holy Grail of Womanhood (according to society) – marriage and children. No matter that she tied herself to a rotten man and worked multiple minimum wage jobs to house and feed her children, she remained the epitome of everything to me. It was difficult to see myself as worthy of more time in this world than she had. Harder still to face the length of her lifespan without even a taste of the Holy Grail of Womanhood.

The end of beginnings is the beginning of letting go.

You lead my heart to victory. You are my strength and You always will be.

My birthday this year will put me at ten years beyond the lifespan of my mother – and still not even a lick of the traditional Holy Grail of Womanhood. Today, I can say I am completely fine with that. In recent years I’ve not only learned to embrace my solitude, I’ve come to appreciate it, honor it and protect it. There’s something being forged in me that I can’t articulate. That glimpse of greatness that repelled my dad fifteen years ago, is unfurling in a wondrous way. I’ve grown from hiding my light under a bushel to Clarkeshia Kent exposing her S with a declarative chest thrust. Yet my light is still gaining strength. I foresee beaming across the Universe.

Why settle for tradition when the Universe is already mine?

I’m becoming a Woman I never imagined I would be. Nothing about my life today was part of the dream, fantasy or hope. Everything about my life is better than all my mind and heart conjured for me. There’s something to be said about what we’re exposed to. Exposure sounds expansive, but it’s actually limiting. If we only trust what our eyes see, we will be satisfied with that view for our life. However, when we begin to let go of all the dead things – relationships, hopes, dreams, ideals, culture, tradition – we will have room to invite the previously unimaginable in. We will be able to develop into beings of light with experiences beyond the confinement of the world. Living beyond the construct breaks the paradigm. At which point, you’ll actually be able to imagine what previously seemed impossible. Thus, within your reality all things are then possible.

A great portent appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pangs, in the agony of giving birth.

But her child was snatched away and taken to God and to his throne; and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, so that there she can be nourished for one thousand two hundred sixty days.

So when the dragon saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued[d] the woman who had given birth to the male child. But the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle, so that she could fly from the serpent into the wilderness, to her place where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time.

Then the dragon was angry with the woman, and went off to make war on the rest of her children, those who keep the commandments of God and hold the testimony of Jesus.

~ Revelation 12:1-2, 5-6, 13-14, 17

 

[NOTE: More of my story is shared in Clichés: A Life in Verse, My God and Me, and Desert of Solitude. Some poems from Clichés will be reprinted in I AM WOMAN: Expressions of Black Womanhood in America. All books are available on Harvest-Life.org/shop and Amazon.com]

 

Evidence

by Josh Baldwin w/Dante Bowe

All throughout my history
Your faithfulness has walked beside me
The winter storms made way for spring
In every season, from where I’m standing

I see the evidence of Your goodness
All over my life
All over my life
I see Your promises in fulfillment
All over my life
All over my life

Help me remember when I’m weak
Fear may come but fear will leave
You lead my heart to victory
You are my strength and You always will be

See the cross, the empty grave
The evidence is endless
All my sin rolled away
Because of You, oh Jesus

Why should I fear
The evidence is here

 

See a Victory

by Elevation Worship w/Brandon Lake

The weapon may be formed but it won’t prosper
When the darkness falls it won’t prevail
Cause the God I serve knows only how to triumph
My God will never fail
My God will never fail

I’m gonna see a victory
I’m gonna see a victory
For the battle belongs to You Lord
I’m gonna see a victory
I’m gonna see a victory
For the battle belongs to You Lord

There’s power in the mighty name of Jesus
Every war He wages He will win
I’m not backing down from any giant
I know how this story ends
I know how this story ends

You take what the enemy meant for evil
And You turn it for good
You turn it for good


Sources:

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Untitled.

Heartbreaking and far too common.


Untitled.

When I was six years old, I gave my first blowjob.
“It’s a game”, said He. “Don’t you want to play?”
It was too big, and I threw up on him.
He said I’d do better the next time.

When I was seven years old, I watched a group of fellow second graders cheer as a boy in my class tried to kiss me. He hugged me from behind, giggling all the while.
I threw sand in his eyes, and was sent to the Principal.

When I was eight years old, I had an elderly teacher ask me to stay behind in class. He carried me on his shoulders, and called me pretty.
“Teacher’s Pet!” my friends declared, the envy visible on their faces.
They ignored me at lunch that day.

When I was nine years old, an older girl on the school bus would ask me to lift my skirt up for her. She was pretty and kind, and told me that I could only be her friend if I did what she said.
I wanted to be her friend.

When I was ten years old, a relative demanded that he get a kiss on the cheek every time we met. He was large and loud, and I proceeded to hide under my bed whenever I learnt that he was visiting.
I was known as a rude child.

When I was eleven, my auto-man told me that we would only leave if I gave him a hug every day.
He smelled like cheap soap and cigarettes.

When I was twelve years old, I watched as a man on the street touched my mother’s breast as he passed us. She slapped him amidst the shouts of onlookers telling her to calm down.
She didn’t calm down.

When I was thirteen years old, I exited a restaurant only to see a man visibly masturbating as he walked towards me. As he passed, he winked lasciviously.
My friends and I shifted our gazes down, aghast.

When I was fourteen, a young man in an expensive car followed me home as I walked back from an evening class. I ignored his offer to give me a ride, and I panicked when he got out, only to buy me a box of chocolate that I refused. He parked at the end of my road, and didn’t go away for an hour.
“It turns me on to see you so scared.”

When I was fifteen, I was groped on a bus. It was with a heart full of shame that I confided in a friend, only to be met with his anger and disappointment that I had not shouted at the molester at the time when it happened. My soft protests of being afraid and alone were drowned out as he berated my inaction. To him, my passiveness and silence were the reasons why things like this continue to happen.
He did not wait for my response.

When I was sixteen, I discovered that Facebook had a section of inbox messages named ‘others’, which contained those mails received from strangers, automatically stored as spam. Curious, I opened it to find numerous messages from men I had never seen before. I was propositioned, called sexy, asked for nudes, and insulted.
Delete message.

When I was seventeen, I called for help as a drunken man tried to sexually harass me in a crowded street.
The people around me seemed to walk by quicker.

At eighteen, I was told that sexism doesn’t exist in modern society.
I was told that harassment couldn’t be as bad as us women make it out to be.
That I should watch what I wear.
Never mind you were six, never mind you were wearing pink pajamas.
That I should be louder.
But not too loud, a lady must be polite.
That I should always ask for help.
But stop overreacting, there’s a difference.
That I should stay in at night, because it isn’t safe.
You can’t get harassed in broad daylight.
That I should always travel with no less than two boys with me.
You need to be protected. 

That it can’t be that hard to be a girl.

I am now nineteen years old.
I am now tired.

(This poem was anonymously submitted to Glasnost.)

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Womanhood: The Seat of Feminine Power

Over the past few years I have come to the realization that the  feminist agenda has become the death of femininity. The essence of womanhood is buried deeper and deeper into rhetoric and nonsense with each new political agenda women and men dream up regarding equality between the sexes.

When I was younger, I screamed for equal rights and recognition as loudly as the next woman. However, as I have grown and matured in my womanhood, I realize that there is nothing about manhood that I want or aspire to be. I have come to view the feminist political agenda as a battle cry for aspiring to maleness.

I am not equal to man. Nor do I want to be viewed as such. I am not interested in being slapped on the back, punched in the face or wrestled to the floor. I am not interested in nose to nose combat or shoulder to shoulder competition for rewards that appeal to men. I AM A WOMAN. I was created purposefully and significantly different from a man. I function differently. I think differently. I desire differently. I pursue differently. I plan differently. I live differently. Women and men are different beings. That is okay.

No man is my equal. No man can nurture and birth life within their body. Manhood is a completely different process and experience than womanhood. No man is going to understand firsthand the monthly flow of my blood or the ache of my breasts. No man can fully empathize with my swelling or my birthing. Nor can any man fully appreciate all my concerns about pregnancy – the ability to become pregnant, capability of carrying a healthy child to term, the timing of pregnancy, location of birth and considerations of how to bring a child into the world – in a hospital medicated into oblivion, or cut open to accommodate a doctor’s schedule or someplace focused on my peace of mind and spirit. Women have a creative power that is fed from a spiritual well. And we are losing touch with our true selves with each successive generation that buys into the “think-like-a-man/be-like-a-man” foolery.

Women have a different seat of power than men do, which leads to a different expression of power than men have. We’ve been throwing away our power because we think what men have is so much better. It’s not. Men depend on us much more than we depend on them. Ask one. Then ask follow-up questions. His love or his hate of womanhood is going to be rooted to a woman who was prominent in his life and therefore had great influence in the man he has become.

American women have allowed themselves, and men in general, to minimize the importance of family. The woman is the true power in the home and the man is the natural authority. Why has this become so abhorrent? Power and authority when joined together is magnificent. Women are the incubators and birthers of generations. Yet we have allowed the deterioration of society to make us feel as if we are only sexual organs, paychecks and a vote. That’s what a strict adherence to feminist political theory has gotten us. We’ve degenerated ourselves, yet we are looking to men to build us back up. We have the power to recreate our public image and we are more than capable of doing so.

Women have the power to change how we are represented in the media and the substance of our representation via entertainment. More and more we have delegated the raising of our children to society-at-large, entertainment, schools, neighborhoods, friends and extended family. We lament about a disconnected society without acknowledging that we disconnected from our homes first. The family is the first unit of society. When we disregard our power and influence within our family (with our spouse, children and other family relationships) we are also disregarding our power and influence in larger society circles.