HEY SIS! (and every Brother who loves us!)
We got to thinking the other day about the social justice advocacy of young Black women over the generations. Naturally, our thoughts drifted to Addie Mae Colllins, 14; Denise McNair, 11; Carole Robertson, 14, and Cynthia Wesley, 14, the four Black girls who paid the ultimate price for our freedom when their church was bombed by hateful Ku Klux Klansmen in Birmingham, Alabama exactly 60 years ago.
Naturally, we had to talk about THAT.
We gathered a few thoughtful minds for a chat called “Saddle Shoes & Sacrifices,” a title inspired by the fact that many Black girls were out there crusading for civil rights as teenagers, pre-teens, even 6- or 7-year-olds — tender, innocent ages at which girls wore saddle shoes — also known as “saddle oxfords” — back in the day. Today, Black girl crusaders are more likely to wear Crocs or Uggs, but they are still on the front lines of the fight for social justice, equality and freedom.
If you didn’t get to see our conversation live, don’t worry — we got you! Settle in with your popcorn and enjoy the video below. Joining Black Women Unmuted editor-in-chief Sonya Ross for this chat were:
–Dr. Andra Gillespie, Emory University political science professor.
–Errin Haines, editor-at-large for The 19th News, an outlet covering the intersection of gender and policy.
–Ivoryana Neal, Spelman College junior and John Lewis social justice scholar.
We weren’t the only ones with those dear Four Little Girls on our minds and hearts on this 60th anniversary of their martyrdom. Many notable Black women paused to remember the sacrifices of Sept. 15, 1963. Among them was Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, the first Black woman on the high court, who said she made the pilgrimage to Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church “to commemorate, and mourn, to celebrate, and mourn.”
“Yes, our past is filled with too much violence, too much hatred, too much prejudice,” she said. “But can we really say we are not confronting those same evils now? We have to own even the darkest parts of our past, understand them and vow never to repeat them.”
You can watch Justice Brown Jackson’s keynote address here:
We also paused to remember the Fifth Little Girl, Sarah Collins Rudolph, who survived the bombing that killed her older sister Addie. Then 12, Collins Rudolph lost her right eye. She still carries the scars of that fateful day, and never received any form of restitution for the racist terrorism that she endured. Today, Collins Rudolph shares her story widely. Her experience begs the question: should this nation compensate the victims of racial violence and, if so, how? New York Times columnist Charles Blow explores that possibility in his conversation with Collins Rudolph.
You can hear Collins Rudolph and other members of the 16th Street church share their memories of that fateful day in this report by NBC’s Sheinelle Jones:
That’s all for now. See you in this space again soon, as we take the sisters off mute, one story at a time!