February 15, 2024

In defense of nurturing

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Take a minute and think about which Civil Rights leaders, past or present, you admire most. Think about the individuals whose ideologies most closely aligned with your own or whose accomplishments are most significant to you. Now consider their cultural impact. Are they well known? Are they taught about in public schools or regularly referenced as cornerstones of social change? How many of them are Black Women?

For many Americans, whose knowledge of the Civil Rights movement comes from school or popular media, not many Black Women leaders come to mind. This, in part, is representative of a phenomena that’s important to acknowledge and discuss: the erasure of the vitally important contributions of Black Women to the Black community and this country.

So much of the cultural adversity Black Women face is rooted in contrasting thinking about our very nature—that we are resilient but mindless, that we are an essential component of change, but our actions are not necessarily worthy of recognition on their own. We are at once seen as a force of nature and simultaneously thought to be incapable of offering any useful contribution to the world on our own.

Indeed, this belief is reinforced even in the teaching of African American history with the framing of female Civil Rights leaders like Rosa Parks as notable solely for her acts of civil defiance, acts which were later utilized by male leaders to do the work of achieving social equality. As an agent of change herself, Rosa Parks dedicated much of her time after the Montgomery Bus Boycott to traveling on behalf of the Alabama State Conference of the NAACP and meeting with youths who had experienced discrimination and witnessed the horrors of the Jim Crow and Civil Rights eras. This act by Parks was a nurturing one that is merely an example of the strength and compassion of Black Woman, and the gravity of the impact Black Women have their world every day.

These acts of nurturing are not often seen as worthy of recording or recalling, but that notion is wrong, they are essential as nurturing is one of many required means to foster social change. Recognizing this underappreciated work is necessary if we wish to understand how the Black community has come so far and steel ourselves for what is left to do.

It is because I’ve witnessed and participated in this type of work all my life that am so heartened by the growing cultural movement to recognize and celebrate the contributions of Black Women to this country as it is long overdue. I am proud to be a part of an organization that seeks to amplify Black Women by acknowledging their work and commitment to equity and inclusivity while recognizing and working to meet their often-overlooked needs. I make no exaggeration when I say that positive social change would not have and cannot happen without the considerable efforts of Black Women. Making this acknowledgement and moving to act as a support of the efforts of Black Women is the exact effort needed now while our nation undergoes what has become a tumultuous period of social reflection and change.

I would like to conclude by noting that just as we can offer support at an organizational level, we can offer it on a personal level as well. Black Women deserve to be heard and recognized for their power as a group, but they also deserve to be recognized for their individual beauty and contributions to the people around them.

I appreciate your shared passion and commitment to Collaborate Cleveland’s work and look forward to continuing our journey with you of fighting to achieve equity for (Black) women, for community, for all.

Happy Black History Month!

Ladonne Montelione

Former Development and Communications Coordinator

Collaborate Cleveland

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