As we close out Women’s History Month and recognize the “Resistance marches” that have swept the nation, as well as in Lawrence, what better way to show how far we’ve come than to take a look back in history and see our progress.
Through research on HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) by my colleague Shelia Bonner, I stumbled upon a forgotten treasure in Kansas, Western University (1865-1943), as well as a gem that attended this college. Eva Jessye was an African American musician, actress, and author from Coffeyville, Kansas. Jessye is acknowledged for being the first Black woman to win international distinction for being director of a professional choir. Her choir was known to preferom many styles of music incluing: spirituals, work songs, mountain ballads, ragtime, jazz, poetry, and opera. She had the goal of preserving the cherished tradition of singing and songs in the African American heritage.
Lucy Hicks Anderson
Ms. Anderson (Born Tobias Lawson) was married twice and fined multiple times and jailed by the government for marrying and receiving benefits reserved for same-sex spouses. In defiance, she declared “I defy any doctor in the world to prove that I am not a woman. I have lived, dressed, acted just what I am, a woman”. Anderson is seen as a pioneer for Trans rights and marriage equality as this account happened before the famous Stonewall uprising.
We’Wha of the Zuni
We’Wha (WAY-wah) was a two spirit that advocated for the rights of her people during the late 1800’s. The Zuni (federally recognized Native American Pueblo people) princess mingled with poloticians and local elites, as well as befriending the speaker of the House and his wife. At the time, there was no one that doubted her as a Zuni woman, when she was born as a male. She grew up and drew traits of both male and female in a socially recognized third gender know as two-spirit. The fact that such an individual could be representative of the Zuni shows the degree that individual differences in gender and sexuality were accepted at the time. In tribes, the ability to combine male and female skills and quality were views as a gift, so it is no surprise that these people traveled thousands of miles, overcoming language and cultural differences, to live and converse with leaders of our nation.
As well all should know, feminism is nothing without intersectionality. For a movement to succeed it must be inclusive. Take Star Wars for example: while the Rebel Alliance was inclusive to all that were opposed and were discriminated against in the fight for freedom, the Galactic Empire was solely comprised of humans and treated any non-human species as lesser being. As we continue the fight for justice in all aspects of life, there has to be the knowledge that just because something benefits you it may hinder someone else. White feminism is not feminism, “gay” rights mean nothing without incuding bisexuals, asexuals and transgendered persons, feminism is not feminism is we don’t respect our male comrades and encourage them to express their feelings.
The “Resistance” will fail if we can’t support each other. It may not be a problem if you don’t look up to see the Imperial flags flying high, but that doesn’t stop them from flying. Luke Skywalker may be a myth in this galaxy and there aren’t breathtaking dog fights in outer space involving the Millennium Falcon, but nevertheless this “resistance will not be intimidated.”