Black Women in the Frontlines:
Where We’ve Been, Where We’re Going and
What We Should Be Concerned With Once We Get There
The title of my blog entry is an attempt to capture in one long phrase, kudos and praises as well as a slight nudge of warning. It is meant to highlight the very rich legacy, strides, and contributions that Black Women have made in the United States and beyond. But it is also meant to warn that there is indeed no rest for the weary. History has shown us that there will always be injustices to rail against, struggles to fight and win. But the contemporary times that we live in are telling us with resounding clarity that our current battles have to be fought even more diligently or there won’t be any lives left.
Black women have been the backbone, the base, the foundation, and the rock for every single moment for Black freedom in the United States. Freedoms have been won based on our hard work and endurance. And as all my sorors know, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Incorporated and the strong individual women who make up this illustrious sisterhood, have been there as well, working with their sisters and brothers, fighting for justice and fighting against injustice. From the inception of our organization we have been about doing the work. That is why it doesn’t surprise me that the sorority’s “Healthy Lifestyle: Fit for the Future Initiative” has started to heed the call of the HIV/AIDS crisis in our communities. The HIV/AIDS epidemic is a threat we can no longer ignore. Our health as black women is not an issue that we can ignore. When we look at the roles that black women have played in the black community in making sure that the community remains whole and strong, we realize all the more how truly important our health is.
While I am of the mindset that Black women make up the backbone of black communities, I also realize that when we are not as careful and mindful about our own lives as we are about the many causes we rally behind; both we and the community stand to lose more than we can risk right now. Cancer, obesity, and the many health risks from heart disease to high blood pressure to diabetes that can be the fallout of obesity, and the HIV/AIDS epidemic are all threats that we can no longer stand to ignore. Delta Sigma Theta’s recent “Healthy Lifestyle: Fit for the Future Initiative” is commendable and much needed. When I think of the women warriors we have lost to cancer, women such as Shirley Anne Williams, June Jordan, Audre Lorde, and Beverly Smith, my heart truly breaks.
Black feminist Deborah McDowell writes, “If the headlines can be trusted, the state of black women’s bodies gives great cause for alarm. Breast cancer is on the rise among African American women as are their mortality rates from the disease. Epidemic numbers of black women have hysterectomies because of rampant rates of fibroid tumors. According to a recent report, African American women are stricken with them at ‘two to five times the rate for white women, develop them earlier and have more severe symptoms.’ The number of newly reported cases of AIDS shows equally epidemic rates among African American women. And these are just a few examples of a progressively worsening trend.”
Are we coming from a glorious and righteous past only to head into a future of disease and death? It is time black women begin to think proactively about health issues and the epidemics waiting to literally take us out. Delta Sigma Theta’s recent efforts couldn’t have come at a more pressing time. The situation is dire. And it needs to expand into our work with the younger generation as well. The young women that we hope to one day join our sisterhood, won’t be there if we continue to lose young women of color to HIV/AIDS and the prison industrial complex. Combining the initiatives set out in the recent summits with the on-going Delta GEMS programs can do more good than we know.
As I have tried to show, Black women have been there and done that in ways we have yet to truly recognize and acknowledge. We need to continue to document the work they’ve done and the good work that we are still doing. But we also need to be certain to take care of ourselves and make sure that the community that we are fighting for remains healthy and whole. Audre Lorde is often cited for her famous quote, your silence will not protect you. We must continue to do the good work we are doing. But we must also speak out and spread the word. The silences surrounding HIV/AIDS in our communities have given the disease the traction to spread the way it has. Our sorority’s dedication to becoming vigilant and vocal about the health issues that plague our community is a positive step. And it is also in the tradition of the black women warriors who made their presence known in the public sphere in the past. As we celebrate the Renaissance Women of our dynamic sisterhood, we should do so knowing that these health initiatives put Delta Sigma Theta firmly in the frontlines of progress, change and perhaps our most important battle yet, the battle for our very lives. Given our rich history and legacy, where else would we be?
Thanks for listening to me sorors, continue to fight the good fight and be the renaissance women you are!
Soror Gwyneth Bolton
About the author
Gwyneth Bolton was born and raised in Paterson, New Jersey. She currently lives in Syracuse, New York with her husband Cedric. When she was 12-years-old, she became an avid reader of romance by sneaking her mother’s stash of Harlequin and Silhouette novels. In the 90s, she was introduced to African American and multicultural romance novels and her life hasn’t been the same since. While she had always been a reader of romance, she didn’t feel inspired to write them until the genre opened up to include other voices. And even then, it took finishing graduate school, several non-fiction publications, and a six-week course at the Loft Literary Center titled Writing the Romance Novel; before she gathered the courage to start writing her first romance novel. Gwyneth has a BA and an MA in English/Creative Writing and a Ph.D. in English/Composition and Rhetoric. She teaches classes in writing and women’s studies at the college level. She has won several awards for her romance novels, including four Emma Awards and the Romance In Color Reviewer’s Choice award for new author of the year. When she is not teaching or working on her own African American romance novels, she is curled up with a cup of herbal tea, a warm quilt, and a good book.
About the book
Some like it hot…
Firefighter Patrick Hightower will take any risk in the line of duty. Risking his heart again? That’s something he’s vowed never to do. He prefers scorching affairs—the briefer, the better—though he might make a temporary exception for smart, sexy teacher Aisha Miller. But Aisha isn’t interested in exploring their instant, searing connection-no matter how much she feels the heat.
Aisha has had enough of dominant men trying to control her life, and the gorgeous firefighter who visits her kindergarten class is alpha male through and through. Yet the gentler side Patrick shows, especially around her young son, gradually melts her reserve. As shadows from Aisha’s past resurface, she’ll discover just how far Patrick will go to prove she’s found her real-life hero.
Wertie Blackwell Weaver – was from Kansas City, Missouri. After graduation, she was also appointed to teach in East St. Louis. Ms. Weaver published a novel entitled The Valley of the Poor, which focused on racism and poverty in the South and was a strong supporter of the Alpha Chapter’s activities.