black women

Women’s Empowerment In African Societies, Before Christianity and Islam

By Nareissa Smith

ancient egyptian women gender parity

Oftentimes when people learn of the status of women in ancient Egyptian society they are perplexed by the amount of human rights women enjoyed in a civilization that existed so far back in history.

On a reported visit to Egypt, fifth century BCE Greek historian Herodotus, surprised by the women’s position in the society, recorded. “Women attend market and are employed in trade, while men stay at home and do the weaving.” The Egyptians, he concluded, “in their manners and customs seem to have reversed the ordinary practices of mankind.”

In a recent CNN article, Egyptologist Valentina Santini said, “The women of ancient Egypt — the mighty and the modest — were considered equal to men” Santini added, “They could divorce. They could own property. They had many rights that women in subsequent civilizations didn’t have.”

The subsequent civilizations Santini is likely referring to are ancient Western civilizations such as Greece and Rome, where women were relegated to second-class status. Greek and Roman women were prohibited from owning or inheriting property. European women in the Middle Ages lived under similar restrictions. Although Santini did not address other ancient African civilizations, there’s a plethora of scholarly work that has tied ancient Egypt culturally to sub-Saharan Africa. Numerous historians have highlighted some of the ancient Egyptian customs that are seen in other pre-colonial/pre-Islamic cultures throughout the African continent.  The empowerment of women in domestic and in public domains is one such tradition.

n his book “The Cultural Unity of Black Africa” Senegalese scholar Dr. Cheikh Anta Diop argued that there exists a cultural continuity throughout sub-Saharan African cultures. He specifically points out the status of women, stating, “The African woman, even after marriage, retains all her individuality and her legal rights; she continues to bear the name of her family, in contrast to the Indo-European woman who loses hers to take on that of her husband.”

Aside from being empowered in marriage, precolonial African society had several avenues for women to exercise power. Throughout African history we have numerous examples of woman as queens who ruled, warriors who shed blood, and traders and merchants who built immense fortunes.

Vanderbilt professor Dr. Sandra Barnes, posits that “women in Africa were “one of history’s most politically viable female populations.” Queens such as Egypt’s Hatshepsut and Ethiopia’s Makeda (thought to be the biblical queen of Sheba) were known for using their leadership and wisdom to protect, expand, and enhance their nations.

ghanian queen mothers

Queen mothers were once very important political figures who commanded respect prior to the colonial era. In some instances, they were even considered to be autonomous rulers. In the Akan tradition, according to an article out of the journal Institute of African Studies: Research Review, queen mothers ruled alongside the chief or the king. They held veto power of the king or chief, appointed their own ministers, and presided over courts that dealt with cases brought by women. The authors of the book “The Swazi, a South African Kingdom,” describes the queen mother’s position in the kingdom of Swaziland as “essentially a diarchy.” In the book “Women in African Colonial Histories,” Holly Hanson writes, In precolonial Buganda, “the queen mother participated in a system of gendered political power in which the mother of the king had autonomous authority, which she used to check his excesses and protect the nation.”

Some African women were soldiers or held leadership roles in the military. Warrior queens such as Queen Yaa Asantewa of the Ashanti people, Queen Nzinga of the Matamba, and Queen Amina of the Hausa demonstrated military skills that rivaled their male contemporaries. These women led military campaigns that embarrassed empires.  Interestingly, the fictional Dora Milaje warriors who protect King T’Challa — The Black Panther — in comic books and on screen are based on the so-called

Dahomey Amazons,” properly known as the Ahosi (king’s wives) or Mino (our mothers) in the Fon language. The Fon were the people of the Kingdom of Dahomy (1600 until 1894), which was located in what is now the present-day Republic of Benin.

Certainly, not all African women were queens, chiefs, or warriors. Dr. Tarikhu Farrar, anthropology professor at Holy Names University in Oakland, California, says in his article The Queenmother, Matriarchy, and the Question of Female Political Authority in Precolonial West African Monarchy that “using the status of royal and aristocratic women as an indicator of the status of women in general could result in a relatively inaccurate portrayal of the overall status of women and of prevailing gender relations.” However, there is evidence that even common women had rights above any known in the Western world at the time.

In the book “African Women: A Modern History,” French author Catherine Coquery-Vidrovitch explains that in West Africa, women were artisans who travelled far and wide to sell their goods. She notes that though East African women were not thought to be as active in trade, they were also involved in the trade of livestock and foodstuffs. In some parts of the region, the food could not be touched nor the livestock sold without a woman’s permission.

All this does not mean that Africa was an utopia of gender equality. Dr. Farrar noted that men and women did have different spheres of influence in African societies and that most leadership positions were held by older men, But it does suggest that African women were valued in ways not seen in most places outside of Africa.

Many modern-day African women are not enjoying the same level of freedom as their ancestors. This begs the question if ancient African societies valued women so much, what happened? Why did some communities in the diaspora reverse course and decided to subjugate women in a way that seems foreign to African traditions?

Many aspects of colonialism resulted in reduced public roles for African women. Dr. Ambe Njoh, professor of Environmental Science and Policy at the University of South Florida, wrote in his book “Tradition, Culture, and Development in Africa,” “Most of the socio-economic and political problems which African women face have their roots in European colonial development policies, which were designed to discriminate against women.” He notes that beginning in the colonial era, women were barred from trading, attending school, holding jobs, or participating in the economy in any way.

“Colonial rulers erased the balance that women provided in the political structures of African Societies by systematically preventing them from any participation in the new political order,” wrote Dr. Toyin Falola in the book “Women’s Roles in Sub-Sharan Africa.” European colonizers would avoid discussions of political matters with African women, even the queen mothers, who they often referred to in historical documents as “sisters” of the men in power. Post-colonial governments continued with policies that suppressed women’s traditional authority.

Furthermore, as Europeans took control of African land and agriculture, the perceived value of women’s contribution society was greatly reduced. In an article titled Women and Development in Africa: From Marginalization to Gender Inequality, the authors argue that the “establishment of commercialized agriculture also contributed to the loss of women’s economic power. In Africa, commercialization begun under colonialism, often led to the granting of government titles to the land. Consequently the effect was to transfer farmland that had been controlled by women to [white] male ownership.”

Adoption of foreign cultural and religious values may have also helped changed the way African women were valued. In a paper about the impact of religion on women in African society, Wenpanga Eric Segueda, a writer from Burkina Faso, wrote that in contrast to traditional African religions, Christianity and Islam demanded a lower status for women. He notes that “Islamic and Christian teachings led Africans to deny their own perceptions of things, viewing them as primitive, backwards, and worthless,” a perception that was encouraged by those touting the new religions.

“Arabs, hence Islam, found a lot wrong with indigenous African norms, traditional practices and beliefs,” write the authors of a 2001 paper “The Impact of Religion on Women Empowerment as a Millennium Development Goal in Africa,” published by Springer Science+Media B.V. The researchers specified that “this was especially true with respect to gender relations in both the domestic and public spheres. Consequently, disciples of Islam wasted no time in altering these relations in the areas of the continent they successfully penetrated.”

Christianity had a similar impact on the status of women in African cultures. University of South Africa theology professor Matsobane J Manala says in his paper “The Impact of Christianity on sub-Saharan Africa,” that the religion “led to the demise of African customs, which it viewed as pagan and evil; the religion also led to the implementation of apartheid (to which it gave its theological support), and undermined the leadership role of women.”

As stated before, Africa was not free from gender tensions, and gender equity had not been totally achieved. But as the world moves towards the direction of  gender equity, it’s important to know that the Western world was never a better example — despite how much it avows women’s equality and attempt to impose its conceptualization of it onto others. Though there may be specific Western concepts Africans can use to improve the status of women in relationship to men, traditional African cultures provide some great solutions for the world as well.

READ MORE AT: https://atlantablackstar.com/2018/03/23/womens-empowerment-big-deal-african-societies-christianity-islam/

When Maternity Wards in Black Neighborhoods Disappear

Experts fear that closures will become a trend nationwide because of the covid-19 virus, devastating an already vulnerable population

Dr. Joi Bradshaw-Terrell provides obstetric care to the majority-black population in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood, where three nearby maternity wards have shut down in the past year.
Dr. Joi Bradshaw-Terrell provides obstetric care to the majority-black population in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood, where three nearby maternity wards have shut down in the past year. Credit…Joshua Lott for The New York Times

By Kelly GlassMay 5, 2020

Shamya Bland had both of her children at St. Bernard Hospital in the Englewood neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago. When she found out the hospital would stop delivering babies until further notice “to respond more effectively to the increase in patients who are sick with the Covid-19 coronavirus,” according to an announcement issued on its Facebook page, she was devastated. “It’s heartbreaking,” she said. “It’s in the heart of the hood. Most black people in the neighborhood were going to go there.”

Englewood, which is 95 percent black, is slowly becoming a maternity-care desert, with two other nearby hospitals closing their maternity wards within the past year. St. Bernard Hospital has coordinated transporting women in labor to Mercy Hospital, about six miles north, according to St. Bernard’s media relations representative David Rudd, but transportation is not the main concern for doctors and patients in the neighborhood.

Research has shown that black patients receive better care and communication when they see black doctors. Official statistics weren’t available, but St. Bernard boasts a racially diverse care team, according to staff members like Dr. Joi Bradshaw-Terrell, M.D., an OB-GYN. “There’s a trust factor,” Dr. Bradshaw-Terrell said. “We have black men and women taking care of you. We got you.”

Black women in America are three times more likely to die of pregnancy- and childbirth-related causes than white women are, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In Chicago, that tragic disparity doubles, with black women six times more likely than white women to die because of pregnancy and childbirth and even more experiencing injury or trauma.

Bland, 24, came back to Chicago to give birth after moving more than two hours west to a town near the border of Iowa, seeking a doctor she could trust. “I was five months pregnant and having heart palpitations. I knew something wasn’t right, and my doctor kept telling me it was fine,” she said. He told her it was her weight and her heart “pumping for two.”

Bland drove to St. Bernard Hospital to see a black doctor, who quickly ordered EKGs and a CT scan and told her she had a heart condition — the leading cause of maternal death. “I was out there with new doctors and new faces, and I was kind of getting blown off,” she said. “But here I got taken care of and treated as if I actually mattered.”

Her story could have ended differently, and she’s concerned for the fate of the women in Chicago’s South Side neighborhood whose birth stories will soon unfold in a different hospital than they originally planned. Dr. Bradshaw-Terrell shares that concern.

“It’s a big disadvantage to our population in Englewood,” she said. “Black women have more pre-eclampsia, more hypertension, gestational diabetes. People here are high-risk, and to feel like you have abandoned them is a horrible feeling.”

A 2019 study, among others, found that patient outcomes are better when hospitals not only understand but also focus on the experiences of the communities and populations they serve as part of the care they give. Racial bias in health care and consequently black people’s distrust of the health care system are well documented. Hospitals in black communities that employ black doctors and health care workers combat this by reimagining health care to fit the needs of their population, Dr. Bradshaw-Terrell said.

“Half of the time I’m basically a social worker and a psychologist. If you don’t have water at home, I’ll bring you a case of water,” she said. “I don’t have to do that, but these are real-life issues.”

Disregarding the importance of race, poverty, gender and other social factors on health outcomes makes it all too easy for institutions to prioritize the financial bottom line over saving lives, say those who track the connection between race and health outcomes.

Andre Perry, a fellow in the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution think tank and author of “Know Your Price: Valuing Black Lives and Property in America’s Black Cities,”said that as the coronavirus pandemic moves the United States into an economic downturn, cities and states will start looking to cut budgets.

“They’ll create austerity measures,” Perry said. “Oftentimes that means shutting down resources or assets in the black community. Black people and our assets are sort of like sacrificial lambs of this virus.”

Budget-driven closures of both urban and rural hospitals have plagued communities nationwide over the past decade. Since 2010, nearly 130 rural hospitals have closed, leading to an increase in births without proper obstetric care and preterm births in rural areas.

Dr. Laurie Zephyrin, M.D., vice president of delivery system reform at the Commonwealth Fund, an independent health care research foundation, said inner-city hospitals and safety-net hospitals (which see patients regardless of financial or insurance status) tend to run on tight operating margins, putting some of their health care services at risk. “When it becomes about funding and it becomes a budget issue, they forget about the people we’re trying to serve,” Dr. Zephyrin said.

It’s the people — the black women living in neighborhoods marked by poverty, violence and the chronic stress they both cause — that Dr. Bradshaw-Terrell worries about most. “I have a lot of patients say if they wanted to deliver at another hospital, they would have gotten care there. They trust me. They know we’re going to take care of them, and now we can’t,” she said, expressing concern that some patients might skip out on prenatal appointments altogether and show up at an unfamiliar hospital while in labor.

READ MORE AT: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/05/parenting/coronavirus-black-maternal-mortality.html

“Time for an Awakening” with Bro.Elliott, 3-01-20 guest Dr. Ava Muhammad

“Time For An Awakening” for Sunday 3/01/2020 at 7:00 PM (EST) our guest was Attorney, Author, National Spokesperson for Minister Louis Farrakhan, Dr. Ava Muhammad. “THE CASE FOR SEPARATION“, along with related subjects was topics for discussion with our guest, Dr. Ava Muhammad.

Meet the Former Enslaved Ancestor Turned Real Estate Investor And Business Owner

Clara Brown

Clara Brown was a pioneer, a community leader, a philanthropist, and the first African American woman to live in Denver, Colorado. At the age of 56-years old, she became a real estate investor who established a successful laundromat chain during the Colorado Gold Rush in the 1800s.

he was born as a slave in Virginia in 1800, but in 1856 she obtained her freedom because her master died and his will stipulated her freedom. Her family had been split up and sold off one by one to different owners, so Clara decided to search for them – especially her 4 children. She headed west, moving from state to state while working as a cook and laundress.

After not being able to successfully find her family, Clara decided to settle in Colorado in a town outside of Denver called Central City. There, she opened a laundry business for gold miners. In addition, she collected whatever gold dust came out of the miners’ pockets and made extra money by cooking and cleaning for them as well.

Clara was known for her generosity in the community; She denied herself any luxuries, and chose instead to help fund non-profit causes such as the construction of a local church.

Over time, Clara expanded her laundry business to several locations, and invested her earnings into real estate and mines. When she died, she owned quite a bit throughout the state of Colorado – building lots in Denver, houses in Central City, and mines in Boulder, Georgetown and Idaho Springs.

READ MORE AT:https://www.blackhistory.com/2019/12/clara-brown-former-slave-real-estate-investor-owner-laundromats.html

“Time for an Awakening” with Bro.Elliott, 12-08-19 special guest Dr.Arikana Chihombori-Quao

“Time For An Awakening” for Sunday 11/08/2019 at 7:00 PM (EST) our guest was Medical Doctor, Activist, Diplomat, former African Union Ambassador to the US, Arikana Chihombori-Quao. Dr. Chihombori-Quao discussed strategies to move our people from both the Diaspora and the Continent together, to move forward, among other important topics

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“Time for an Awakening” with Bro.Elliott 10-27-19 special guest: Documentary Filmmaker, Producer, Jeremiah Camara

“Time For An Awakening” for Sunday 10/27/2019 at 7:00 PM (EST) 6:00 PM (CST) our guest was Documentary Filmmaker, Producer, Jeremiah Camara. Is there is a correlation between the number of churches in the Black Community coexisting with poverty and powerlessness? We talked about this and related topics with our guest, producer of the movies “Contradiction” and ” ‘The Religious Roots of Racism in America”, Jeremiah Camara.

“Time for an Awakening”with Bro.Elliott Fri.10-18-20 guest Phila. Activist Jihad Ahmed and N.O.I Captain Dennis Muhammad

“Time For An Awakening” for Friday 10/18/2019 at 8:00 PM (EST) our guests was Activist, Radio host, Jihad Ahmed and N.O.I  Captain Dennis Muhammad. Both our guest gave us details on what they plan to accomplish  in “Establishing a Culture of Peace” for targeted Black neighborhoods in Philadelphia. Catch Jihads program “Acres of Diamonds”  Mondays at 6:00pm – 8:00pm https://www.timeforanawakening.com/

“Time For An Awakening” with Bro.Elliott, Sunday 9-29-19 guest Dr. Kellie Carter Jackson

“Time For An Awakening” for Sunday 9/29/2019 at 7:00 PM (EST) our guest was Historian, Author, Assistant Professor of Africana Studies at Wellesley College, Dr. Kellie Carter Jackson. Dr. Jackson discussed her book ” Force & Freedom: Black Abolitionists and the Politics of Violence”, the role of violence on the long road to black freedom, and how our ancestors increasingly called for violent resistance to slavery.

“Time for an Awakening” with Bro.Elliott, Sunday 8-25-19 Are there plans being made to replace Rep. Rashida Tlaib in Detroit?

“Time For An Awakening” for Sunday 8/25/2018 at 7:00 PM (EST) Are there plans being made to replace Rep. Rashida Tlaib in Detroit, a city of 83% Black population? This was one of the topics in open forum conversation.

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