I was swamped with a project last week and didn't have time to blog about the unveiling of Sojourner Truth's bust. I was so proud when I heard the news. Sojourner Truth's "Ain't I A Woman?" changed how I saw myself as a black woman. I've always been very girly-girly and sensitive. Not weak, but sensitive. As a kid I was sometimes ashamed of that because the black girls I grew up felt like they had to project this "I'm hella tough" persona. So I didn't fit in with a lot of the girls. But hey, that's how a lot of our mamas raised us. That's not to say telling your girls to be strong is wrong. Black women deal with a lot so our mothers raised us to be strong and tough. "Baby you have to be a Strong Black Woman to make it in this world. " But in between the words "Strong and "Black," we left out "Beautiful,""Deserving of Love," "Gentle," "Sexy." That's right World. I may live in a society where I have to battle racism, sexism and poverty daily but I'm still a lady and deserve to feel like a lady and so does Big Mama. Yes Big Mama who cooks, cleans, takes care of her kids and grand kids and has to be both matriarch and patriarch. That Big Mama. She wants to be treated like a lady too.
When I went to college and read Sister Truth's speech "Ain't I a Woman?" I felt her. Her speech and struggle helped me embrace my own femininity. I realized I could be strong and soft. It's been 158 years since Sojourner Truth delivered that speech but it resonates today. Black women are still fighting to claim our femininity long after we were freed from picking cotton and cleaning master's quarters. A sista making the cover of Vogue or even Sports Illustrated continues to be a big deal. Even this bust is monumental because it's the first sculpture to honor a black woman in the Capitol. Michelle Obama unveiling the piece made the day more significant. Cicely Tyson recited"Ain't I a Woman?" at the ceremony. You can watch the whole ceremony on CSPAN.com. Tyson performs about 34 minutes in.
According to the SF Chronicle the late C. Delores Tucker spearheaded this project 10 years ago. "She originally wanted to add Truth's likeness to the eight-ton "Portrait Monument" statues of the heroines of the suffrage movement: Susan B. Anthony, Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton," the Chronicle reports. The original plan failed but Congress gave the okay for a bust and Pres. Bush signed it into law. I like the bust idea better. Congratulations to Artis Lane, 81 for sculpting the bust. Artis lives in Los Angeles, but was born in Canada. That's her to the right. Can you believe she's 81? The sista looks great.
But the celebration didn't stop in Washington. On Saturday Lane traveled to her home country Canada to unveil another historical bust. This one was of her great-great-great aunt Mary Ann Shadd Cary. Cary lived in Canada. She was an abolitionist, educator and, according to Canada's Globe & Mail, the first black woman to publish a newspaper in North America. The busts of Sojourner Truth and Mary Ann Shadd Cary are beautiful and long overdue.
3. Jim Shreve--Flickr page