A Stamp of Approval for a worthy African American, Shirley Chisholm, who had 'guts'
This February, as Americas begin to celebrate Black History month, Bajans, Guyanese and the Diaspora at large, can be equally proud that Shirley Chisholm, who has umbilical and familial ties to Barbados and Guyana, was honoured, on January 31, 2014, with the unveiling of a Black Heritage commemorative stamp, from the United States Postal Service (USPS). The dedication ceremony was held at Borough Hall, Brooklyn and was attended by former US Ambassador Andrew Young. The stamp was designed by Ethel Kessler and the portrait is one of a series by artist Robert Shetterly titled "Americans Who Tell the Truth" and it is part of the Forever Stamp group, which is always equal in value to the current First Class Mail one-ounce rate.
The then Shirley Anita St. Hill was born in Brooklyn, New York on November 30, 1924, to Ruby Seale, a Bajan mother, and father, Charles Christopher St. Hill, of British Guiana, now Guyana. In retrospect, we can only marvel at the significance of the month and day, of her birth, which later coincided with Barbados' Independence day. Little did Ms. Chisholm know then that her birthday would have a future intimate relationship with the history of Barbados. She was first married to Conrad Chisholm, a Jamaican investigator, from1949 to 1977 and later to Arthur Hardwick Jr., a Buffalo businessman, in 1986.
As a child, Shirley Chisholm lived with her maternal grandmother, Emaline Seale, in Christ Church Barbados, and received her primary education at Vauxhall Primary. She later credited her early education with her ability to articulate so eloquently. On May 19, 1934 she returned to the United States. Ms. Chisholm graduated, with honors, from Brooklyn College in 1946 and. started her career as an educator. In 1952 she completed her Masters degree in Elementary Education from Columbia University and was a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority.
This USPS distinguished honour is reflective of the life of a pioneer who fought in the trenches during the turbulent sixties and showed great tenacity to further her causes, without fear or favour. With an 'unbought and unbossed' motto she had opposed the US military draft, championed the fight for womens' rights, minority education as well as employment opportunities. Then in 1968, she became the first African American Congresswoman and served until 1983. She sat on the Veterans Affairs, Education and Labor Committees. In 1969, she was also a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus and authored two books, Unbought and Unbossed (1970) and The Good Fight (1973). A highlight of her career was in 1972 when, with limited financial resources but tremendous grassroots support, she became the first African American to make a bid for the US Presidency when she ran for the Democratic nomination. And according to biography.com, she survived three assignation attempts. She was referred to as the' Moses who opened the Red Sea'. President Barack Obama would make his successful bid, for the nomination in 2008.
One of her famous quotes, which, is a challenge to some modern-day politicians was "My greatest political asset, which professional politicians fear, is my mouth, out of which come all kinds of things one shouldn't discuss for reasons of political expediency". Only recently a politician said that he was prepared to be silent no longer. Maybe truth will be told. As far as her legacy is concerned, she said, "I'd like them to say that Shirley Chisholm had guts. That's how I'd like to be remembered'. She died in Florida on January 01,2005 and is buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery, Buffalo, New York.
We are only separated by geography but as a people we are forever linked through bloodlines. If we could only embrace our commonalities we would be a force to be reckoned with. Therefore, I implore you all to go and get your stamps to honour the memory of this great sister.
Michael Headley is a social commentator
'Unbossed, Unbought' Shirley Chisholm Recognized With Sta
|S. Udora Smith|