I am blessed to have a great group of sister-friends. We are an impressive and diverse group, if I may say so myself.
The Holy Spirit led us to one another, and our diversity makes us somewhat odd to others—we are poor and rich, Black and white, young and seasoned, single, married and widowed, with PhD degrees and working on a GED. What holds us together is faith, and we are bold women.
Last weekend I spent time with this group and their girls. Whenever we gather, the two of us who are not biological mothers know it is our job to reinforce whatever the mothers have been talking about with their daughters. This gathering turned to the importance of education.
“Dr. Dorothy Height’s funeral was on Thursday,” I said. All the girls and a few of my younger sisters said in unison, “Who?” The door was open. So I gave them a few facts about Dorothy, who was born in 1912, a time when a group like ours probably would not be together. For 40 years she headed the National Council of Negro Women, although she started as a volunteer under her mentor, Mary McLeod Bethune, in 1937. In her 20s, in 1935, she helped New York City resolve the Harlem Riots, helped organize protests against lynching and worked for the desegregation of the armed forces and access to public accommodations. As the only woman leader among the civil rights leadership known as the “Big Six” (which included Martin Luther King, Jr., Roy Wilkins, Whitney Young, A. Phillip Randolph, John Lewis, and James Farmer), Dr. Height played a critical role in helping her colleagues forge a united front during the March on Washington in 1963.
Recounting Dorothy’s everyday boldness helped me realize how different our lives were today because of the bold actions she took. The girls were amazed that they had never heard of her and that she was alive in their lifetimes. My sisters expressed disappointment that most of her actions weren’t acknowledged in a more formal way, and the personal weariness that comes from not being appreciated. Yet none of those things deterred Dorothy, who until her last brief illness worked every day for human rights.
We had a great discussion about boldness and whether we really are today. I don’t know if we are. I hear many say, “Let the young do it.” And the young say, “It’s not my fight.” Do we have what it takes to do the kind of work that Dorothy’s generation has done?
Valora Starr is director for discipleship, Women of the ELCA.
The feature article of this month’s issue of Café is “Wisdom of Women.” If you don’t hang out with women from different generations, you might be missing out. Read “Wisdom of Women” to learn about creating community among the generations and why it can be of such value.