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  • Dr. Sandra Y. Lewis

Everyday Bravery Is Definitely Woman’s Work

Black History month has come to a close and Women’s History Month opened. As a Black woman & professor teaching Black Women’s Studies, I can hear the impressive title of that inaugural text. It spoke volumes in just a few thought-provoking words, All The Women Are White, All The Blacks Are Men, But Some Of Us Are Brave: Black Women’s Studies”.

Right out of the gate, Hull, Bell-Scott & Smith raise their voices and tell us there is power in naming ourselves and deciding our own course. Agency, self-determination, is clay and glue for living our best lives. It’s both essential building material and mortar to hold our life together.

For me, the shift from February to March is a call to dance to the rhythm of my whole being. I’m a Black woman, caregiver, professor, daughter, yogi, change agent, business-building entrepreneur visionary on a mission to do my good in the world.

I am brave. I live all of me.

In the last few weeks, Mary Church Terrell has taken center stage as a source of inspiration. She was a journalist, community organizer, teacher, women’s rights activists, anti-lynching advocate, civil rights activist, daughter, and spouse.

Mary Church Terrell co-founded and became the first president of the National Association of Colored Women established in 1896. This Association of social activists, mothers, spouses, builders, and visionaries championed self-help for Black women and racial justice. Their motto was “Lifting As We Climb”. In one of her articles, Terrell described Black women:

“Lifting as we climb, onward and upward we go, struggling and striving and hoping that the buds and blossoms of our desires may burst into glorious fruition ere long…. Seeking no favors because of our color, nor charity because of our needs, we knock at the door of justice and ask for an equal chance.”

It’s what any person wants – open admission to a seat at life’s table and equal access to all the good life offers.

If you’re a woman entrepreneur, you’ve probably heard business leaders Sandra Yancey and Lisa Sasevich use the phrase, “Lift as you climb”. It’s one of three core tenants at eWomen Network, co-founded by Yancey.

Terrell’s legacy inspires us to climb to the best in ourselves, uplift others, and build a better world. It’s reciprocity at its best. Take our seat and make room for others to access the table. There’s space for everyone.

Terrell teaches us to value cooperation over competition. She encourages us to be reflections of the best in each other, to notice and nurture the good and potential in each other.

Terrell says the “buds and blossoms” of our work don’t end with us. They can “burst into fruition ere long”. Literally, there’s no end to the good that we do.

February and March are opportunities to recognize that ordinary people make extraordinary history living their everyday lives. History happens one moment at a time because we build it.

Mary Church Terrell and the women of the National Association of Colored Women left us a great legacy – “Lift as we climb”. It’s a great strategy for creating meaning in our work and building a life that outlives us.

So, in the words of Dr. Margaret T. Burroughs, “What will your legacy be?” How will you “lift as you climb”.

Be Brave. Live All of You.

Share your brilliance in the comments below.

© Sandra Y. Lewis

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