When I was a kid, I loved the month of February. I loved Black History Month. The most vivid classroom I remember, was Mrs. Annie Green. Her room was always covered in books, and posters, and in February? She had these icons of African-American history stapled above her blackboard. It was in her class that I began to become ravenous about African-American history. And it was in her class that I was introduced to Ida B. Wells Barnett.
I admit it…I was saturated with her. I called her one of the Faithful Four. Those four:
-Martin Luther King, Jr.
-Ida B. Wells Barnett
This was one of the main reasons I ran after history, and soaked it up. There HAD to be more black people that did great things besides them. Ida B. Wells Barnett, I knew the basics about her. She was born right before Emancipation. Her parents died of yellow fever. She raised her sister. Helped found the NAACP. She was a writer. She married a guy in the newspaper business and died in Chicago.
It wasn’t until I got older that I dug into her life, and could appreciate everything that she did. She wrote about lynching, oppression, economic disparity and white supremacy. She wrote about women’s suffrage. This is a time where it cannot be overstated that my ancestors weren’t supposed to read, let alone be college educated and be able to relate and relay an experience! Granted, she was educated initially during Reconstruction, and then at Fisk, but I had to embrace what it is that she did. And the time that she did it.
The sheer fact that she existed, and made her words the this wielded machete that laid a path for other women of color to see. I saw the work she did and revered her. I saw her boldness as archetype, and thought if I could do an once of that…it would be magnificent.
If I could harness that passion to say what I need to say no matter who didn’t want to hear it, harness that collective energy to effect and affect change–how awesome would that be?
In this time of forward moving, I use her as reference, as anchor, and as hero. I remember that this talent is both gift and weapon. My observation and recording is my armory and words my arsenal. From that, I reveal, revel, mourn and conceal. Nothing can be hidden from the observant.
I embrace the weight being a writer, an activist, comes with. It grants me a peace that I believe my foremother Ida had: Someone has to tell the truth, might as well be me.