Remembering our lost women warriors

Published 10:29 pm Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Our warriors are passing on. It seems like every other week another warrior passes.  Some are well known such as Amelia Boynton Robinson and Julian Bond. Others are not so well known but were very important in our struggle for freedom. And women are more likely to be unacknowledged or under recognized. Therefore, I want to lift four warrior women who passed recently. I want their spirits to inspire you and others. Our warriors are passing on.

Before I lift these warrior women by name, I want to share a West African Proverb: As long as we call their names, their spirits live. I called each of their names at their last rites, but I want to call their names again. I also want to share brief summaries of their deeds so those who know them not will have a fuller sense of their spirits. Our warriors are passing on.

These four warriors passed in the last several weeks: Barbara Howard of Tuskegee on Sept. 3; Connie Tucker of Atlanta on Sept. 26, 2015; Anna Taylor of Selma on Oct.6; and Bessie McMeans of Fort Deposit on Oct. 13, 2015. Each of these women warriors commenced struggling for freedom in the ‘60s and continued until death. Each left her footprints on the sands of time, pointing the way to freedom. There is so much to know about each of them but space allows me to share just a dab of their deeds. Our warriors are passing on.

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Barbara Howard grew up in Montgomery. She started fighting for freedom while she was a student at St. Jude Catholic School. She slipped away from school to march in the last leg of the 1965 Selma to Montgomery March. She also helped desegregate lunch counters and movie theaters. She was determined to tear down the walls of segregation. When those walls fell, she did not stop struggling for freedom for she understood that the walls of segregation were not the only barriers to freedom.

Barbara Howard worked on so many fronts. At the time she passed, she was the chair of the Voting Rights Committee of SOS (Save Ourselves Movement for Justice and Democracy).  She worked tirelessly to transform the Black Belt as a community associate and board member of the Black Belt Community Foundation.

She stretched out a helping hand to legions of students through her work at Tuskegee University. She was a moving force in the Tuskegee community and the state at large. Barbara Howard was a dynamic force forging a better life for all. Our warriors are passing on.

Connie Tucker was born and raised in Seale/Tuskegee before moving to Florida. She started in the struggle in the ‘60s at age 15 in Florida. She became a political prisoner during the Black Liberation Movement when she was convicted on trumped up charges and sentenced to five years in prison. A free Connie Tucker Movement freed her. But these criminal attacks did not discourage her; she became more determined.

Over the years, Connie Tucker participated in other movements for justice in USA and West Africa. She was in the youth leadership movement as state coordinator for Twenty First Century Youth Leadership Movement in the late eighties. She was in the Social Justice Movement as the Director of SOC (Southern Organizing Committee for Economic and Social Justice). She was in the environmental justice movement as Coordinator of the Environmental Justice Project. At the time of her passing, she was in the historical movement sharing the history of the Civil Rights Movement with the National Voting Rights Museum and the Bridge Crossing Jubilee, Inc. Her last communication to me was about the white supremacy of Nathan Bedford Forrest, the First Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.  Our warriors are passing on.

Anna Taylor also started in the ‘60s. She was part of the early struggle to secure voting rights and equal education for African Americans. She continued for the rest of her life. She never ran for office, but she was always turning voting rights into concrete benefits such education, jobs, roads and sewage.

Anna Taylor was particularly active in education. She started early. It began with challenging the practice of books coming to African Americans on after whites had used them. It came from there. Our warriors are passing on.

Bessie McMeans started in the Voting Rights Movement in Lowndes County in the ‘60s when it was truly a matter of life and death. She never allowed fear to stop her or even slow her down. She visited African Americans at night to urge them to register and vote. Her work did not stop in the ‘60s when voting rights were established. She continued into the ‘70s, ‘80s, ‘90s, 2000s and 2010s.

Bessie McMeans not only urged people to register and vote; she made sure they voted.   In every election for decades, she spent countless hours securing absentee ballots from those who could not go to the polls.

The height of her fulfillment came in electing candidates who lifted the community. She not only helped in the voting arena, she also helped people to own their own homes. In fact, she helped in any way she could. She truly dedicated her life to making life better for those left out. Our warriors are passing on.

Death comes to all of us. However, sometimes it seems that death comes in series, one right on the heels of the other in a connected way. Sometimes, it’s family. Sometimes, it’s the young. Sometimes, it’s the old.

This time it’s our women warriors.