So here’s a little secret that only a handful of my friends know. I have a mother board. Now, I’m not referring to the central processing unit of a computer. My mother board is a power circle of great black women who through wit, will and wisdom not only lived life on their terms, but also challenged the bigoted terms of America’s social contract. And, since this is Women’s History Month, I thought it fitting to share this resource with others who might need a little help managing the challenges of modern life.
The idea for my mother board came to me in meditation. I was seeking guidance on how not to lose myself while handling life’s heavy lifting – raising kids, being married, taking care of a dying friend, owning a business, working for community change… What flashed across my mind were images of Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Annie Malone and my beloved grandmother Ruby. Later, others came to me as well – Mary McLeod Bethune, Mary Church Terrell, Bridget “Biddy” Mason and my great aunt Anna Rebecca for whom I am named.
I was reminded that I am the cultural, if not biological, descendant of all of these grand-mothers, women whose “cotton pickin’” lives paved the way for my “cotton candy” life. As their daughter, I have inherited their intellectual acuity and powers of discernment, their strength of character and matchless stamina, their remarkable resilience and unshakable faith. The courage of their convictions flows through my veins and affirms that I am NOT a shrinking violet. On my best days, I am a powerful force for good in this world. And on my worst, I am often self-doubting and confused.
There is no circumstance or condition in my life that these women have not had to endure. Their sacrifice and spirits lift me. At nearly 30, Mama Biddy was forced to walk 1,700 miles from Mississippi to California where she sued for her family’s freedom. She won it in 1856, later becoming a wealthy entrepreneur and philanthropist. With her nursing and real estate earnings, she founded a school for black children, sheltered the poor and built Los Angeles’ first black church.
When I reflect on Mama Biddy’s life, I am inspired with awe. She and the other women on my board are my mothers. I come from quality stock. And whatever hand life deals me, I’m going to be okay.