I dreamt that I was the descendant of Ida B. Wells. I summoned her spirit and fire, held them close to my soul. My first memory of learning about her was in grade school. Some where in my mind I conjured up this fantasy that she was a long lost great, great, great, great aunt. She had family in Memphis and had moved there as a child. My family migrated from Memphis in the 1930s, so it wasn’t that absurd, I could be a descendant of Wells.
I listed attributes I possessed that were similar to hers, a handsome brow line and serious gaze could indicate some kinship. I also share her disdain for the regulated position of submission women hold in the church. I to am an educator turned journalist and cofounder of my own online publication. The spirit of Ida B. Wells lives in me and many others.
What struck me the most about the story of this matriarch of civil activism and recorder of history and our stories is her courage and boldness. Born a slave and then emancipated, she spoke up and moved with convicted action during a period in our history when the very color of her skin and gender of her sex would have meant a silencing of her voice and loss of her life.
If Wells was a woman in today’s times who would she be? She would be vocal and her words would be the talk of prime time news. She would speak on the disparities of the marginalized and the inequalities inherent in public policy and government. Her voice would carry a common tone but its affect would be far greater.
“I had an instinctive feeling that the people who have little or no school training should have something coming into their homes weekly which dealt with their problems in a simple, helpful way… so I wrote in a plain, common-sense way on the things that concerned our people.” -Ida B. Wells
She would be straight-no-chaser Anthea Butler, Associate Professor of Religious Studies and African American Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, who uses her sought after media commentary to challenge mediocrity and inequality in politics and religion.
Ida B. Wells voice still rings out like a sharp and discerning siren breaking the barrier of time, race and gender. The spirit of Ida B. Wells lives on in the voices of millions of women educators, writers, bloggers, journalists, entrepreneurs, mothers, preachers, artists and activists. They bring to the forefront the injustices and atrocities faced by the underserved and underrepresented. They trouble the waters of inequality and hatred, creating a ripple effect of change and liberation.
Maybe she should would be me street corner prophet, educator, visual artist and blogger, documenting her own history and speaking on those things that build communities instead of tearing them down.
When we speak the language of light into a dark world we can empower other women to use their voices like Ida B. Wells did.
“If this work can contribute in any way toward proving this, and at the same time arouse the conscience of the American people to a demand for justice to every citizen, and punishment by law for the lawless, I shall feel I have done my race a service.” – Ida B. Wells
- Do you know how Ida B. Wells has affected our lives?(moorbey.wordpress.com)
- Ida B. Wells, Feminist Public Menace(freethoughtblogs.com)
- The Descendants: Ida B. Wells’ great grandchildren says she was a ‘crusader’ for all injustices(thegrio.com)