When I am encouraged to recall my most memorable read, “Their Eyes Were Watching God” by Zora Neale Hurston is always my go to. This novel explores the life of a young African American woman (Janie Crawford) in the 1930’s who discovers her own destiny by challenging traditional norms regarding race, gender roles, and love. She pushes the boundaries and commits to her own happiness, self discovery, and life meaning. The quote “It was not death she feared. It was misunderstanding“ continues to be one of the most impactful lines I have ever recited.
As we think about female pioneers, many of us can rattle off a few who have made tremendous strides amongst male dominated fields, the entertainment industry, and politics. However, I challenge us all to dig a little deeper. How many women do you encounter everyday who provide some form of leadership? These women may not have been recognized on a national platform, but have guided you through life and remain one phone call away. These women offered a free master class in regards to how you should carry yourself with pride and resilience. These women are your grandmothers, mothers, aunts, cousins, sisters, and teachers who have cleared a path for you to move forward.
My family is full of “Janie’s” but one individual I would like to highlight is my paternal grandmother Mae Martha. She is a 5ft tall powerhouse who was born in the late 30’s in the rural segregated south. She is a woman who speaks her mind without fear and is unapologetically herself within any setting. As a little girl she gave me lessons on how to walk with confidence (and a slight twist) down the aisle of Piggly Wiggly and always encouraged me to “open my mouth” when someone asked for my name. Looking back, I equate her to Janie and would often wonder if she was born during the right era. Like Janie, she was bold and fearless during a time when these traits could be compromising. I admire her spirit and remind myself that she entered this world right on time because she was able to pave the way and provide a light for others.
As we continue to empower young ladies within our Hand Made Dreams community, I encourage us to surround them with love and support, give them an opportunity to follow their dreams regardless of popular opinion, and provide them with the tools to become phenomenal women!