Let’s have a glance at the state of affairs of our black women in society. Society evaluates us women by our accomplishments, such as college degrees, financial promises, attractiveness, hairstyles, and to some extent the men who accompany us to the altar. When they see all these things, they say, “She is a successful woman.”
Far from that model, women ought to focus on achieving happiness, self-esteem, self-confidence and control over the decisions they make in their everyday lives. This means being self-empowered. They need to have a vision of what they have to do and what needs to be done, and a sense of direction about where they are going. There seem to be several influences that make some women more successful than others. Therefore, it is presumptuous to think that if I can make it, other women should be able to make it as well.
It is a challenge for a woman to succeed. The anticipation can create fear in many women, and that is one of the main reasons why women walk different paths in life. To improve our social status in society, women must not lose sight. They must stay focused and look at setbacks as challenges rather than barriers. Above all, do not be gender blind because it is not always true that the harder a woman works the more successful that woman will be. Sometimes women work harder than their male counterparts and still get nowhere. Developing extra skills, finding mentors, and simply having luck may take you an extra mile.
But having a clear sense of direction or a vision gives a woman a sense of control over her destiny. If she succeeds, it paves the way for other women. To pave that path, structures are needed. Let me suggest that we can certainly pave that path by introducing open communication and trust as the basis for the most effective organizational structure for black women. In such an environment, women can easily afford to exhibit more nurturing, open, and supportive interpersonal interactions. I believe that black women who have been successful are willing to facilitate the advancement of other women although their willingness may just be less outwardly acknowledged.
Happiness or humor are important ingredients of success and are essential for networking among women who want to secure the advancement of other black women. How about being humorous and just being ‘one of the guys’, a team player? These are major success factors. Let others get to know you in a different light. Go out of your way to meet other people that matter – and yes, it can be intimidating at first sight; but remember, “Practice is the mother of success and success is as success can be.”
A balance of vision and control can lead to happiness and a sense of accomplishment. Much as society tends to think that accomplishment, power and money leads to true success, a high profile life can mean intrusions and undesirable attention from the media which can destroy the family, the home, and even the career. Women who appear to have it all may, after all, not be happy. The irony is that the price of success is often family life, but it is because of the family that we work so hard. There are no easy answers. But balancing work, family life, and economic independence leads to a healthy and genuine marriage. All these factors combined are the true woman’s social status. That’s why as women we need the supportive network and interpersonal interactions in order to succeed in making significant changes for ourselves both here in America and in our beloved, tantalizing homeland, Africa.
Our burdens as African women immigrants can be summed up as visibility, recognition, and choice.
One of our foremost obligations as African women is to be visible and endeavor to recognize who we are, who our allies are and who should benefit from our sweat.
If you ever attended any meeting you know what I am getting at. Men argue in the abstract and use the kind of language that is considered intelligent. He sounds informed. A woman may put the same point forward, but because she does not sound as “abstract,” her remarks do not get the same kind of recognition. They are not valued as highly. When women work together, we need to be conscious of these kinds of hierarchies. We need to ensure that we work in an atmosphere of mutual respect and trust. This fosters creative solutions, which benefit our communities. However, we should be prepared for attacks that make even strong women break down. But women must remember that we possess an innate, natural knowledge that we must assemble and use collectively.
Women need to take strong positions in whatever choices we make because we will be nailed and attacked for them. We need to keep in mind how we choose to respond to all the issues that beset us. This means we need to look squarely at liberty issues – to find ways to overcome and free ourselves of obstacles that lie in our paths. This is important because, after all, women are the glue that holds the community together. Having the community behind us is another way we are going to feel comfortable, to make changes that will transform the world. In so doing, we shall have paved a path that will lead us to the destiny of the sweet bottle hanging in the heavens that here in America is called the “American Dream.” How wonderful it is when the American dream snuggles with the African dream?
There are subtle differences in the way men and women think. The way women organize their thoughts is different from the way men organize theirs. We take a broader, more holistic perspective than men do on any issue. For instance, women are flexible and imaginative and they think in the long term. But the problem is that in society, men make most of the decisions. In other words, decision-making is not a mutual activity. Therefore, decisions are male-biased. Women need to participate in decisions at all levels of society. Mutuality is a God-given virtue.
The Association for the Advancement of Africa should have avenues to enable women to enjoy full participation in the public affairs that concern us, be they social, political, economic or cultural. Women should foster this environment of full participation and teamwork within the organization. It is, therefore, incumbent upon us as women to learn the necessary strategies to move ahead and gain influence. In the long run, we can surely expect to be taken seriously.
Remember: yesterday is ours to recover but tomorrow is ours to win. Let us bring comfort and novelty to millions as we participate in these issues.