With the release of the blockbuster movie, Black Panther, there’s a renewed excitement about black culture, and in particular roles of powerful women. However, these roles are nothing new for Black women. Throughout history we have taken the burdens of our community on our shoulders. Women in ancient Africa held many powerful positions. They ran governments and leveraged political power, served as powerful spiritual leaders, won strategic battles and trained as warriors, and were the economic powerhouses of the nation by setting the rules of trade, organizing and managing the market system.
Let’s celebrate the greatness and tell herstory of such legends as Ana de Sousa Nzinga, born around 1583 in the kingdom of Ndongo, a land ruled by leaders called Ngolas. During this time the Portuguese were advancing towards Ndongo looking to kidnap her countrymen. After the betrayal of a negotiated peace treaty, she led her warriors (many women) for thirty years fighting for her homeland. She returned blood for blood and slaughter for slaughter, all to save her people from the slave trade. She died at the age of 84 in exile after losing the war, but she is still remembered as the woman who lost many battles but never lost the war. Ana de Sousa Nzinga lived a queen and died a queen.
Or, one of several female Pharaohs, Hatshepsut, age 18 years old ruled Egypt from 1479-1457 B.C. and leading her nation into greater prosperity; Amina of Zaria, who would become a great ruler and warrior of Hausa (now Nigeria) around 1576, and reigning for thirty four years building a prosperous empire; The Amazon queen, Tata Ajache of Dahomey who would rise from a servant to become a queen and lead the elite female fighting force feared around the world. These are only a few examples.
Learning about our ancestors is essential for honoring the past and understanding who we are as African American women, and restores them to their dignified place in the annals of world history. While we watch Black Panther for the third or fourth time, let us celebrate that finally the rest of the world can see Black Americans as we see ourselves… S/HEROES.
Yvette Williams is a community advocate and Chair/Founder of the Clark County Black Caucus, a non-partisan community organization driven 100% by volunteer members registered to vote. Follow her on twitter @YvetteBWilliams or contact her at ClarkCountyBlackCaucus@gmail.com for more information.