I stood beside a woman and heard her shouts. Beneath her fearless voice I could easily detect the familiar sounds of fear, anger and steadfastness. The others around me were intimidated by her confidence, martyred by the wrinkles in her brows and screech in her pitch. I searched for her through the crowd like a lost pup in a kennel. I followed her voice and finally, our eyes met. She wasn’t what I expected—she didn’t look like you. Her hair wasn’t in coils, her nose was thin, her skin was pale and she was of small frame and stature. Oddly enough, I still empathized with her, I was still captivated by her premises, just as I am with you. You have instilled in me a confidence that soars past physicality. With your influence, I independently participated in the Women’s March in Washington, DC this past Saturday, January 21st, 2017—an event I’m sure you’d kill to attend. I thank you for our political conversations at the dinner table, in front of the TV, at the grocery store and before bed at night. I remember as a young girl, I always had a fascination with your vernacular. I always wanted to be able to speak like you, write like you and think like you—the smartest person I’d ever known. I’m not sure if I’ll ever be able to reach that benchmark, but for now, I am taking the things you’ve taught and shown me with grace as I mature into a woman in your image. You have been the perfect role model. I have watched you not only preach, but also practice your teachings. I confidently stood with other women who may not have looked like you, or been you, but embodied everything you stand for as a woman and even a black woman. You were a feminist before it was “cool”. You were an activist despite being rejected by the very demographic you fought to protect. You’ve never made me feel like I had to choose either my femininity or blackness. You reminded me that I could be both black and a woman and that I could also simultaneously fight for the rights of each even amidst any conflicts of interest. I had to do just that, this past weekend. I marched along women who I’d known only sought to protect my rights as a woman and not so much my melanin. But with your voice as my subconscious, I chanted with them, raised signs and captured every moment of my journey. With my pin curled hair, baggy sweater and red lips, I stood in the crowd—a young visionary, a young Shadevia, which is all I’d ever wanted to be.
Amiyah (19) Sophomore from Buffalo, NY