Remember Your Breath: A Woman’s Legacy in Dignity-Work

 

Inhale. Exhale.

Take a moment to focus on your breath.

Inhale. Exhale.

How did it did it feel to take a moment to focus on your breath? How come we don’t take the time to do that regularly in our busy day-to-day lives? For some reason, we know the benefits of doing “breath-work” but we don’t take the time to notice or appreciate our breath. Our breath only gets our attention when it is threatened or interrupted. We pay attention when we run, when we have asthma attacks and when we do not have the air that we need. Through the last year and a half of research I realized that our dignity-work is a lot like our breath-work: necessary and beneficial, but rarely done unless we feel threatened. Dignity is our sense of self-worth in the midst of the worthiness of others. It is a vital sense-of-self that we often take for granted unless it is threatened; just like our breath.

As a Black woman engaging intellectual warfare on behalf of Black students, particularly Black males, I hold a special sense of responsibility. I stand on the shoulders of ancestors who have fought to maintain the dignity of Black people in all areas of social and political life, such as Kwame Ture, Malcolm X and Huey P. Newton. I also stand on the shoulders of women who have deepened the struggle for Black lives by addressing the intersectional nature of racial oppression. Being gender conscious is not a detriment to the movement; it is a vital asset.

Black women historically have been critical to movements addressing the livelihood of Black men. From Auset’s craftsmanship of her husband Ausar in ancient Kemet to the campaign against lynching waged by Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Black women have led the charge for avenging on behalf of their male counterparts. Our contemporary issues are no different. As #BlackLivesMatter becomes a rallying call across the globe, Black women remain at the forefront for addressing the social, economic and political oppression of Black men. I research developing evaluation capacity for organizations working to promote racial equity. My focus on Black males is not accidental. It is not a timely coincidence of interest convergence. I stand on the shoulders of giants who have constantly reminded our people of their breath-work. I am a part of a legacy. I am responsible for reminding all of my brothers and sisters how important it is to focus on our dignity.

 

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