New Year’s Eve is an anniversary set in time. However, there are many other important milestones that are not widely known or celebrated, and which, if unearthed and owned, could be tools that chase perfection, hasten hope, and enrich self-identity.
The 50th anniversary of Shirley Chishlom’s political career, though not singularly unique, is a case in point. Recently, Rachel Maddow, an MSNBC night host, introduced her interview with a new member of the 2019 USA Congress, by referencing the 50th anniversary of Shirley Chishlom – the first black woman who sat in Congress in 1968
Maddow used a banner backdrop which said: “She had Guts.” In support of that view, Maddow showed an old video clip of Chishlom boldly refusing to accept her freshman committee, and then she repeated the line: “She had Guts” – a behaviour which we expected from many of the new female freshmen in the 2019 Congress.
That said, was Maddow right? And why should Barbados celebrate the anniversary and life of Chisholm, a Barbadian? Published quotes provide the proof. Clearly, Chisholm used action as a sword to overcome challenges:
1. “You don’t make progress by standing on the sidelines, whimpering and complaining. You make progress by implementing ideas.”
Chishlom lived her vision and her legacy. She left a blueprint of survival and confronted racism and feminism when there was no modern “ME TOO” movement.
2. “When I die, I want to be remembered as a woman who lived in the twentieth century and who dared to be a catalyst of change. I don’t want to be remembered as the first black woman who went to Congress. And I don’t even want to be remembered as the first woman who happened to be black to make a bid for the Presidency. I want to be remembered as a woman who fought for change in the twentieth century.
3. “Service is the rent that you pay for room on this earth.”
4. “I ran for the presidency, despite hopeless odds, to demonstrate the sheer will and refusal to accept the status quo.”
5. “My greatest political asset, which professional politicians fear, is my mouth, out of which come all kinds of things one shouldn’t always discuss for reasons of political expediency.”
6. “Women must become revolutionary. This cannot be evolution but revolution.”
7. “I was the first American citizen to be elected to Congress in spite of the double drawbacks of being female and having skin darkened by melanin. When you put it that way, it sounds like a foolish reason for fame. In a just and free society, it would be foolish. That I am a national figure because I was the first person in 192 years to be at once a congressman, black and a woman proves, I think, that our society is not yet either just or free.”
8. “It is not heroin or cocaine that makes one an addict, it is the need to escape from a harsh reality. There are more television addicts, more baseball and football addicts, more movie addicts, and certainly more alcohol addicts in this country than there are narcotics addicts.”
Truth be told, Maddow’s banner was not original. Maddow reconstructed Chishlom’s words: “I’d like them to say that Shirley Chisholm had guts. That’s how I’d like to be remembered.”
By now, New Year’s resolutions and goals may have been set. But is it too late to give them a context, or correct your design? Barbadians cannot go wrong by following Chishlom, one of their own.
Walter Edey is an author and retired educator who believes that structural thinking is the wave of the future.
E mail: werus [email protected]