An Ode to Black Women who Resist: Our Activism
Written by Ekeoma Ugo Ezeh
Today marks the second edition of our 3-part guest post series by Ekeoma, a fellow Igbo-Ngwa sister & beautiful writer whose words capture the minds of many. These letters are an exploration of her work, An Ode to Black Women who Resist: Revolution, Activism, & Rest. If you find these guest letters mind-shifting, please consider sharing TCW to spread the joy.
Claudette Colvin. You were the original catalyst of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, yet so few of us know your name. At just 15 years old, you confronted the entire Jim Crow system. In March of 1955, in the face of an angry bus driver and four angry police officers, you held fast to your convictions and refused to give up your seat on a bus packed full of people.
Your arrest, and especially your criminal convictions, piqued the interest of your community, the local NAACP, and national civil rights leaders.
Yet, they dropped out of your life when it did not seem to their benefit. Remaining in the fight, they used the fervor you generated and the righteous anger your actions incited to motivate the community to change, but they excluded you. How could you be the face of the bus boycott? They thought you were too young, too poor, too emotional.
When, as a personal protest, you stopped straightening your hair, proclaiming, “I won’t straighten my hair until they straighten out this mess!”, now that was too far, even your peers kept their distance at that point. And when December rolled around and Rosa Parks was the new face of the movement, and you were the pregnant, unwed teenager, they didn’t even invite you to speak at the meetings.
With your courage, beliefs, and body in that seat, this movement you started showed that you sacrificed for this movement with a permanent mark on your criminal record. This movement is the same one that pushed you out of the forefront for not living up to respectability politics.
Well, today, I thank you. I thank you for having the courage to be the first. I thank you for knowing who you are. I thank you for being proud of yourself even when others were ashamed of you. I thank you for insisting that your blackness, and by extension mine, does not make us less.
You, Ms. Colvin, are a pioneer. You are a shining example to so many young activists that no voice is too small. You may not have been the face of the movement, but you were the match that ignited it. You are proof that you do not have to be perfect to make an impact.
As a human rights advocate myself, I am particularly encouraged by your steadfastness to truth and justice even when those around you turn their backs. As an activist, I too have experienced leaders who shy away from being too real or too radical, leaders who will only take the necessary risk after every possible fallout has been carefully calculated.
Ms. Colvin, I commend you for acting for justice without regard for the status quo. I commend you for choosing truth over strategy. You are a Black woman who resists, you resisted through activism, and your action ignited long-lasting systemic change.
Who is She?
Ekeoma Ugo Ezeh is a Nigerian American woman from Albuquerque, New Mexico. She has a Bachelor's degree in Economics with minors in Women and Gender Studies, and Sociology, and a Master of Arts in International Law and Human Rights. She’s passionate about human rights, racial justice, and institutional equity, especially for Black women across the diaspora. Ugo enjoys reading and learning languages. For more of her work, you can check out her blog, Instagram, or LinkedIn where she publishes book reviews and reflections dealing with culture, identity, and personal development.