Shirley Chisholm—Do you know who she was or who she IS (as Ms. Chisholm, in my view, is still alive)?
Shirley Anita Chisholm
was the first Black woman elected to the United States Congress, representing New York’s 12th congressional district for seven terms. In 1972, Chisholm was also the first African-American to run for a major party as a candidate for the US democratic presidential nomination and the first woman to do so.
I’ve heard of Shirley Chisholm before, and I knew vaguely of her involvement in politics, but I did not know the extent to which Mrs. Chisholm affected her country to effect positive change. Watching a newscast yesterday, they brought up Mrs. Chisholm’s achievements for display. The anchorwoman pointed out Chisholm’s West Indian heritage—Guyanese and Bajan to be exact—to inspire the next generation of West Indian children watching. I saw nothing wrong with including myself in this mission, and truthfully, I burst into tears as my Guyanese self finally understood why her name had always had such a ring for me. Looking back, it always felt hauntingly nudging. When I was working in Harlem several years ago, I always passed the state building named after her on 125th street, and it always stood out to me.
I can relate to Mrs. Chisholm’s bold persona and her effective drive for moving our culture forward. I see her as plain-spoken, tender, and measured—skills not often championed in the political realm. However, Mrs. Chisholm’s achievements speak for themselves, and they are a firm reminder of her commitment to civic duty and excellence. In an interview that aired on that same broadcast, Shirley said, “I want to be remembered as a catalyst for change in America.” In reviewing today’s America, that is exactly what Mrs. Chisholm was and is, which is an exciting prospect in my view.
To hear her resounding voice was familiar, as she sounds knowing, purposeful and stolid. In that same interview, Mrs. Chisholm was less concerned with being remembered for her personal achievements and more concerned with being remembered for what she did for America. This insight only galvanizes my belief that Mrs. Chisholm’s love and drive for the good of her country is what we need more of today. Furthermore, Mrs. Chisholm championed this as being “herself,” which is radical in my view. This willingness to upend the status quo by simply offering what you bring to the table is the kind of wisdom that moves cultures forward, brings us closer together as a nation, and heals our distress.
This willingness to upend the status quo by simply offering what you bring to the table is the kind of wisdom that moves cultures forward, brings us closer together as a nation, and heals our distress.
About a year or two ago, a new state park opened up near where I lived. I visited it a couple of times and enjoyed it, noticing that it was named after Mrs. Chisholm. Again, it seemed that she was nudging me to find out more about her, and I have to say, I am glad that I did. I am truly honored to know of Mrs. Chisholm on this side of her life which gives me life.
The future as we know is prosperous because love and kindness give wings to PROSPERITY, which is what America needs, because looking at the ghettos and the border, we have a whole lotta, lotta children to feed. I don't know that America is ready to stop being the nation of hope for the world, so turning people away is not the answer.
Kamala and others continue to champion Shirley, for she is the preparation of the past for our future: women being bold, beautiful, courageous, champions, and more, all in order for this great country to reach its true goal of equality, peace, and vitality. It’s women that it takes to succeed!