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Sometimes “you have to start a thing.”
Lillian Exum Clement said these words after being elected as the first woman in the state General Assembly, or any Southern legislature, in 1920. This was just before the ratification of the 19th Amendment granted white women the right to vote. Women of color, women like me, would have to wait another 45 years, until the Voting Rights Act was signed into law to have this right.
This quote was a pretty big deal at my last job, and I thought about it often, although mostly in contrast to Sojourner Truth’s famous speech “Ain’t I a Woman?” delivered at the Woman’s Rights Convention in 1851. In it, she said, “If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back, and get it right side up again!” For me, Sojourner and Lillian go hand-in-hand.
I’ve been black as long as I’ve been female, and there is no way to separate the two. Sometimes people don’t look any deeper than the surface to see that I’m also a creative, an optimist with a wicked sense of humor. I love words, art and politics. I love my family and work hard to help build our legacy for my future grandchildren. If people choose to overlook the attributes that make me human, that’s their issue, although many times, it also feels like mine.
For the past three years, I’ve toyed with the idea of creating a safe space for women of color to share their experiences with intersectionality, or the oppression and discrimination that results from the overlap of an individual’s various social identities, within our society. As a journalist, I crave honest stories and realized that sometimes, because of the platform or the idea that we may disappoint others, we weren’t always comfortable with our real voices and authentic stories. For three years, I waited for someone to create that space. About 18 months ago, I realized that I was the only person in the world uniquely qualified to create the platform I desperately wanted to see.
I decided to start a podcast. I listened to podcasts on a regular basis during the two hours I spent commuting to my job every day and started to formulate the ideas for the tone, cadence and overall sound of my show. As someone who had grown accustomed to being in the background and enjoyed the peace of anonymity, asserting my voice has been a process. Writing this column has helped immensely.
Last week, I debuted my new podcast, “The Collide.” It’s been received pretty positively so far, and I’m excited to see it grow and develop over time. The feedback I’ve received is already helping me to mold it into the ideal safe space I initially envisioned.
Honestly, not sure if anyone would even listen, I only planned to release an episode every two weeks. I didn’t want anyone to be overwhelmed. However, after hearing from a few folks, I’m now working to make weekly episodes and testing different formats. “The Collide” is shifting on an almost hourly basis, and it’s been fun to watch.
One more thing: This is my platform and my opinions. And I have a lot of them. I invite you to check out a bit of what I do in my free time (if such a thing actually exists). You can find “The Collide” whereever you listen to podcasts or by visiting www.anchor.fm/lamonique-hamilton-barnes. It’s February, after all. I’m making some black history.
LaMonique Hamilton Barnes is a reporter and copy editor for The Wilson Times. She blogs about arts and culture at iamlamonique.com.