When we think about the 50s and 60s and the leaders of that time, we think of Martin, Malcolm, Huey, Bobby and a bunch of men who totally helped to change the lives of Black folk.
A name that is never called, is Ella Josephine Baker but there would be no movement of the 60s without her. Baker played an integral organizing role in the NAACP, SNCC and Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
I know that everyone thinks that I am the knower of all things Black, but I am not. I am a product of my American public school education and that’s an education that marginalizes the role of Black people and women, especially Black women. What I am, Who I am, is a lover of all things Black who wants to ensure that all my Black children receive an education that centers Black people in their education.
I said all of that to say, I had never heard of Ella Baker before writing my post on Julian Bond way back in January. Don’t judge me. Judge public school. Judge yourself. Tell me when you have ever taught about the life and impact of Ella Baker to any of your students or your own children.
I thought so. Lol, ok, now that I am out of my feelings.
Julian Bond made it clear that he wouldn’t have been the activist he was without Ella Baker. And Ella Baker made it clear that her gift and her purpose was to lead from behind. You know I’m troubled by that, a little bit, just because our culture seems to ignore those, who aren’t on the front lines and therefore history forgets them. But, I do know everyone doesn’t need to be the face of a movement. Some people need to be the body. And Ella Baker was the heart, mind, body and soul of the 60s.
When you review Bakers life, you realize that her grandmother, who was born a slave, heavily influenced her life, identity and some say her stubbornness. After graduating from Shaw University as Valedictorian in 1927, Baker moved to NYC and started her lifetime passion of organizing against injustice.
The list of influential people of the 60s that Baker worked with is endless; from WEB Dubois to A. Phillip Randolph. She mentored everyone from Diane Nash to Rose Parks. She is listed as one of the most influential woman in the Civil Rights Movement.
By the time of her death, Baker was referred to as “Fundi,” the Swahili word that means, person who teaches a craft to the next generation.
What Baker could teach this next generation, is that they have the power to change the world and that the love of and for Black people could be unconditional, undeniable and unstoppable.
We are celebrating Black women during this month because if we didn’t make it our business to focus on Black women, they would continue to be erased from our consciousness.
I’m working with an elementary school and I asked them to focus on Black women this month and one of the white male teachers asked, when he found an Asian woman who he thought was influential, if his class could study this woman. He wanted our kids to know that non-black people fought for civil rights and equal rights and equity for Blacks. He wanted to ensure that he taught his kids that Pro-Black didn’t mean anti-white and that the kids needed to see the full spectrum of all the people who worked for equality.
My response to the administrator who bought this to my attention, was to tell him that, I’m sure these little black children don’t know about this Asian woman he wants to teach about and I’m sure they don’t know about all the good white people who worked for black liberation (side eye) and I am also sure they don’t know about any black people who fought for their people’s liberation. So with that in mind, he needed to choose a Black woman for his class to study.
I share this story with you, because I need you to understand that if we don’t hold up our own, no one else will. We must teach our kids about those who came before them. I don’t want anyone else going through 13 years of public school education, not knowing about Ella Baker and the blueprint she has left a for them or the ways that they can organize a revolution.
You peep how there’s essentially one picture of Baker in this post. This is an iconic picture of her and when you go to the African American Museum in DC, you will see this same picture. She played the background and changed the nation and when she spoke, she hit you in the heart.
Make it your business to teach the young, especially our girls, about Ella. Because when you teach a girl, you change the world.
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