In the Name of Sisterhood and Leadership
I am a Black woman, in her 30’s, who works as an administrator at a predominantly White institution. I have a Ph.D., I wear a ton of dresses, and have a young face. On most days I walk the halls alone, lead initiatives across campus, and sit in meetings with folks who do not look like me by race or gender.
I’m often underestimated due to the combination of my gender, race, and age, but I remain here in the academy due to sisterhood and leadership. The path I’ve walked to be in the space I am now was paved by blood, sweat, tears, and the help of strong, creative, determined, and strategic women of Color who made space for me. Some of whom I know and rely on daily, and others who I will never have a chance to know. These women knocked down walls so that I could exist in this space.
As women of Color, we must all do the same… in the name of sisterhood and leadership, this is our responsibility.
Like most of America, I recently saw the movie Hidden Figures. If you’ve seen the movie, you know that it is phenomenal. If you haven’t seen it, you are missing out! The movie is powerful, insightful, and inspiring. To say that Taraji, Octavia, and Janelle did their thing is truly an understatement. Beyond just entertainment and uplift, the film and the lives of Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson continue to demonstrate leadership in the lives of women of Color. Their sisterhood, vision, curiosity, and action are what set them apart, and was the catalyst for us making it to the moon (both figuratively and literally). On one hand, because of them, we literally made it to the moon! And on the other, because of them, we as women of Color are able to experience the world in ways they only once imagined. We are indeed experiencing their wildest dreams… we are living in “moon” territory, and we cannot do this without SISTERHOOD.
I don’t mean formal sisterhoods like organizations and sororities.
When I say “sisterhood” I mean the informal sisterhood that is among us as women of Color in the academy. While Dorothy, Mary, and Katherine were working for NASA and not for U.S. universities, this film illustrates so vividly the ways sisterhood and leadership go hand-in-hand. As depicted in the film, when offered a very deserved promotion, Dorothy Vaughn very plainly states that she would not accept the IBM position without bringing her team with her. As a matter of fact, she taught herself how to use the IBM and then spent extra hours teaching her team… her girls…. her sisters.
This is SISTERHOOD!
And this is what’s necessary for us as leaders. We must be done with the days of competitions, stealing opportunities, and being out for ourselves. There is enough work in this world to be done and we need each other to make it happen. In many cases we are literally “all we got”!
If we don’t make a way for one another, who else will? If we don’t “love each other and support each other” as Assata Shakur said, then who else will? In the coming years we will need each other… and the world will continue to need us!
As women of color we face daily the perils of racism and sexism, being too curvy, or not curvy enough, being too smart and seen as intimidating or not smart enough and seen as absent minded…. Our accomplishments are scoffed at, our challenges are minimized, and often we are just flat out ignored and unseen. The challenges of racism and sexism in this capitalistic, patriarchal society have confused us enough to believe that we are in constant competition with one another. That in order to be great…. In order to be phenomenal…. In order to be strong leaders, we must be better than the next woman, that there can’t be more than one of us in a given space. We have been confused to the point where we are willing to step on each other’s backs to reach the top. This confusion…. This lie, is something that we too often perpetuate through our actions.
The truth is we were not designed to do this thing called life alone… we cannot change the world or lead organizations alone. In fact relationships, support, and love from one another, are the only ways we make it through our daily trials. The truth is when come together, we can accomplish great feats that will leave a legacy more far reaching than our minds can even comprehend.
Today, in the name of sisterhood and leadership, let us all be reminded that we need each other… and that it is our responsibility to pull each other up, push each other forward, and make space for us all to accomplish great things.
After all, as stated by Assata Shakur, “It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love each other and support each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains.”