On February 10th, Boston Coalition for Freedom hosted the panel discussion, Black Women in Activism. The purpose of the panel discussion was to shed a spotlight on the crucial role Black Women have played, and continue to play, in activism, organizing, mobilization, and struggle. Looking to the future, the panel discussed the role women must play in organizing a national assembly for the Black liberation struggle. We often glorify our Black heroes while overlooking the heroines that fought and led alongside them. Our multigenerational panel, moderated by Yvette Modestin and the young and powerful Lily from Encuentro Diaspora Afro, included three incredible women: Mimi Jones, Lisa Owens and Jasmine Monet. Mimi Jones has been active in the Civil Rights/Black Liberation Movement since the age of thirteen. Lisa Owens works at City Life fighting gentrification locally. Jasmine Monet, a young leader and organizer, is one of the founders of We Are the Ones, a coalition of young leaders in Boston dedicated to creating change throughout the city.
The panel began with a brief history of black women leadership in the Black Liberation Movement, emphasizing the silencing and erasure of black women leadership. Panelists were asked to share the predecessors that most inspired and influenced their work. The women praised the leadership of Ella Baker, Claudia Jones, Assata Shakur, Fanny Lou Hamer and Angela Davis, amongst others.
A common theme emphasized throughout the discussion was the need for community engagement. Mimi Jones reminded us of the many ways to engage in movement building beyond demonstrations and marches. Mimi reminisced about her work in citizenship schools as a young teen helping to teach an elderly woman to read so she could pass her citizenship test. Learning to read was that woman’s greatest accomplishment. That was an experience that Mimi holds close to her heart, she was able to effect change on the ground level. This type of work is all too important.
Some of the challenges that all three women had come across is dealing with ego that can come with transgenerational interactions, and that can make it difficult to collaborate. Lisa talked about the disconnect between generations. The younger generation tend to think that they have it all figured it or that the older generation isn’t doing enough. But the old generation tends to think that they don’t have anything to learn from younger folks. Lisa stressed the importance of having more transgenerational spaces. Mimi reminded us to meet people where they are.
The most important opportunity that all three women have had is the chance to build long lasting relationships with people that allow them to be able to stand in their authentic truth.