On days that are less filled with animals and administrative duties I sit at my window at the Ebony Horsewomen Equestrian & Agricultural Center on Vine Street in Hartford and look out the window and reminisce of days where just in front of my window were sheep and a caretaker’s house. Sheep on Vine Street – How about that?
Vine Street was once a very prominent Jewish and Italian community and one of the major arteries within the north end community. Its name depicts a now a past memory, but in days’ past “Vine” street was framed by hedges that went north and south on both sides of the street, perfectly manicured, connecting properties– thus keeping in line with its name.
What I most remember is that as a young girl growing up on Clark Street my dad, born in 1899 and whose parents were slaves, learned carpentry and became a Master Carpenter and owned his own business. My mother cleaned houses up and down Vine Street. Being relegated to a domestic worker and making $8.00 a day plus bus fare were not the primary dreams she had for herself as a young girl; however, when her mother died when she was 8, and then her father eleven months later, the foundation got pulled out from under her. Also, not to mention, this is during the early 1900s when African-Americans were still trying to get full access to education, even in the North.
Despite not having opportunity and access, my mother might have been the most intelligent woman I’ve ever known. She was a voracious reader who could finish a book in one day. Despite not having access to education, both of my parents fought for education of their children, all of whom attend college.
Regardless of mother’s tenacity towards education, opportunity had not been afforded to her. Nevertheless, on her back the family rested. Dad worked and brought home the money, but she was the one who negotiated with grocers, paid bills, paid the mortgage, bought the clothes, fought for her kids at the schools, helped us with homework, sent us off to church, cooked every meal, made holidays fun for us (God only knows how she did it.) and got up every morning and stood at bus stops in the winter when her feet would freeze to the ground waiting for a bus. All this emotional labor and then $8.00 a day and bus fare.
Would she have been called a “feminist”? What is Feminism? – According to Merriam-Webster, it’s “the belief that women are and should be treated as potential intellectual equals and social equals to men.” Treated as Potential intellectual equals and social equals to men? This definition does not fit African-American cultural history.
Historically, Black men were targeted, killed, dismantled and denied leadership of their families; Black women stood strong, firm and strategic guarding and managing the family while withstanding abuse and denials themselves. Not much has changed today. Twenty-five percent of America’s total population is imprisoned, and 42% of that population are Black men; again, leaving Black women alone to stand guard while we are still abused and denied opportunities and equality in the workplace.
I am reminded of a quote by Sojourner Truth: “Ain’t I A Woman?” This is just a short caption of the full quote. What she fully stated was:
“That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain’t I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain’t I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man – when I could get it – and bear the lash as well! And ain’t I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain’t I a woman?”
No one should forget or be remised about a Black woman’s strength, our intellect, or equality to a man – any man; history has proven this already. Our issue has always been with being treated as equals.
It’s also important to keep in mind that Black women aren’t only fighting for gender equality, but for racial equality as well.
Patricia E. Kelly is the founder, President and CEO of the Hartford-based non-profit equine youth organization, Ebony Horsewomen, Inc. A youth and mental health advocate and trailblazing cowgirl and equestrian in her own right, Patricia Kelly is a recent inductee in the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame and Museum, a 2014 CNN Hero, and has appeared on several nationally (and internationally) syndicated talk-shows including, The Queen Latifah Show and The Dr. Oz Show. An expert on equine-assisted therapy, Patricia Kelly has given keynote speeches and seminars about the topic. For more information about Ebony Horsewomen, Inc. visit: www.ebonyhorsewomen.us