March is National Women’s History Month, a time when the nation pays tribute to the accomplishments of women – past and present
The designation came from Congress I 1987 with this year’s theme being “Nevertheless She Persisted: Honoring Women Who Fight All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.”
We asked women of color across the state who are the “first” in their field or position or who are the “only” in their field or position – in some cases they were both, three simple questions:
1. What does the theme mean to you in relation to the struggle of black women in Florida?
2. Can you describe what some of your struggles have been and some of the lessons young black women can learn from your experiences?
3. What do you think are the biggest challenges facing women in Florida today?
Below they give some insightful answers and some inspiring advice.
Nevertheless, She Persisted. This theme speaks to the black woman’s capacity to overcome obstacles. From the Middle Passage to Cardi B, black women have endured myriad hardships. Yet, we have succeeded as entrepreneurs, authors, engineers, elected officials, CEO’s and Mothers. Women continue to make valuable contributions to this nation. Today we lead in homes, boardrooms and even courtrooms.
I’ve endured some of the most-talked about challenges that have marked the lives of many African American women, including drug abuse, homelessness, welfare, divorce and single parenthood. These challenges have made me an Influential woman (and) leader. I have learned how to turn life’s greatest hurt, pain or hardship into a testimony. I have also learned the vitality of building strong friendships with other women.
I think the biggest problem facing black women today is an identity crisis. Culture through TV, radio and film has painted black women as angry black, sex objects or ghetto fabulous. Additionally, black women must take better care of themselves, physically, emotionally and socially. We lead most health disparities. We must learn to lead ourselves first. It is imperative that we invest in self-care, stay involved in life-long learning, create opportunities for each and forgive those that have hurt us.
A strong foundation, genuine character and intelect wil stand the test of time.
Nevertheless, She Persisted is a theme of truth. It simply, yet vividly speaks volumes for the life of black women. Nothing has ever been freely given to black women. Black women have no choice but to persist. Otherwise we will not exist.
We combat erroneous images daily, yet we persist. No matter what obstacles arise we remain rooted in the truth of who we are. Our experience, intellect, and our faith keeps us strong and bold.
We are born with some painful realities, yet we die with powerful legacies. We persist.
When your presence symbolizes diversity, the thoughts and ideas you offer, will embody diverse thought, as well. It can be an arduous task to bring new perspectives and challenge the status quo.
When some disagree with your perspective, they resort to challenging your motives or your competence. The struggle is overcome by remaining steadfast in truth and facts. A strong foundation, genuine character and intellect will stand the test of time.
Women must be respected. They must be recognized and valued for the rich contributions they have made and continue to make. Attitudes of dismissiveness, while rampant, are poison.
Even in disagreement, there is value to diversity of thought. The more common ground we find among other women, and others in general, the quicker our tolerance increases and reflects the values we expect future generations to live by.
South Florida although rich in diversity can be very segregated in terms of social and professional upward mobility. This results in a limit to certain access to opportunities, people, and resources. While as a community, black men and women share a lot of the same struggles, what is unique for black women, especially professional black women, are formal mentorship structures that can provide other women the ability to jump hurdles without having to go through the same battle scars as predecessors. Advice can go a long way but creating pathways for the next generation to come behind and succeed is something missing and yet women are still dominating in numerous industries. Black women are at larger rates than their peers dealing with sexism, sexual harassment, mansplaining, unequal pay, and undue credit to name a few. Despite the social construct challenges within South Florida, quite often you see black women overcoming those obstacles and slaying in the process.
Something that I found I struggled with when I was younger and I’ve witnessed other black women tend to have this issue as well, is to shy away from their gifts in fear of how it will rub others. You don’t want to appear too smart or too strong or such a know-it-all and so you shrink. However, I came to a point where I just wasn’t happy in that space. I love me and I wanted to enjoy all the aspects about me despite people not always being fond of it. That whole convincing game we think we have to do to win people over is not even worth a penny. I tell my mentees the more explicit version but “rock with people who rock with you.” As women we tend to want everyone to validate us; and focusing on the people who already do makes life such a more pleasant journey. Whether in love, work, business you name it – the people who see your flaws and despite it think you’re awesome should get most of your energy.
I think although women are doing amazing things and breaking barriers we still live in a male-dominated area. There are not a lot of women in all the industries that other women can lean on for support and guidance. There are some men who are happy to serve as mentors, and I commend them as well, but that mentorship comes with a limitation on certain topics. I think overall access has always been the biggest issue for women in South Florida and across the nation.