If you look at films and TV over the years, the words “awkward black girl” don’t exist. Within the past ten years, almost every channel has exculsively portrayed black women as loud, strong, confident, queens with a whole lot of sass. Now don’t get me wrong, black girl magic shines bright. But what the media continually fails to see is that our magic shines into all realms of personality, not just one . This one is for my quirky black queens who haven’t always seem themselves in the big screen, but thanks to black creators, are slowly starting to.
There are a lot of reasons why I consider to be March the best month of the year: 1) It marks the beginning of Spring, (who doesn’t like flowers and warm weather?), 2) It’s my birthday month (an obvious bias but still important ), and 3) it’s the only month entirely dedicated to women’s history.
While the first two may not exactly ‘entice’ you, the celebration of history’s most influential women should inspire everyone to break out the virtual streamers. As my own tribute to Women’s History Month, I’ve decided to highlight one of history’s most unsung heroes and a personal favorite of mine: Ida B. Wells.
Miss Ida Barnett Wells was a prolific journalist, teacher, writer, researcher, and activist of the late 1800s to the early 1900s. I first discovered Wells a few years ago after examining a series of pictures of prominent black history figures on a church bulletin. Noticing the face looked familiar, I handed the picture to my sister, asking her who the woman reminded her of. My sister took the bulletin, looked up, and immediately laughed; “Wanéa, she looks like you!” I, of course, didn’t see it, but every subsequent trip to the National Museum of African American History meant every passerby had to take a picture of me with Miss Ida B. Wells.
This past month, I was assigned a presentation on a historical figure of my choice. When it came to the deadline, all I could think of was one name: Ida. And though I was a little reluctant to be in her shadow once again, researching Wells opened my eyes to her immense impact and the many more uncanny things her and I share in common.
To say that Wells did a lot for the feminist and early civil rights movements is an almost embarrassing understatement. In 1884, 80 years before Rosa Parks’ sit-in, Wells was one of the first people to refuse to give up her seat on a segregated train car, and even bit the hand of the officer who tried remove her. Wells was also one of the first to publicly expose the horrors of lynching in the South through her globally successful pamphlets. As the founder of countless political organizations, Wells established the nation’s first black orchestra, the first black kindergarden, and the first black women’s suffrage group. In 1909, Wells was one of two black women to sign the founding document of the NAACP and a personal favorite fact, Wells forcefully revoluntionized the feminist movement when she pushed her way to the front of the 1913 Women’s Suffrage march despite strict instructions that front positions were for ‘white women’ only.
Wells, who was an opinionated young black girl (like me), who had a strong passion for writing (like me), and who stood well under five feet (like me!), accomplished all this and more for what she believed in. Without her work, women (and men) of all colors, shades, and hues wouldn’t be able to enjoy half of the freedoms and privileges we have today. For this reason, I’m proud to look like and celebrate Miss Ida B. Wells. She, and so many other amazing women, continue to defy the odds and prove that anyone, even someone like me, can make a difference in the world.