How my grandmother inspired #BlackGirlMagic in me

Mar 25, 2016 at 1:00 p.m. ET
Image: Atullya Srivastava/EyeEm/Getty

For centuries, black women have been on the front lines, fighting to be seen and heard in a country that tries to silence them. I know I possess a supernova and superpowers that were passed on from my maternal grandmother. My grandmother, Annie Mae Dailey, was born in 1925 in rural Atmore, Alabama. Annie's parents married when her mother was just 14. Her father was a war veteran who fought in World War II. Her mother witnessed her own brother's lynching, and the couple went on to see more of their friends and family lost to this violence. This inhumane treatment also left her family with trauma, brokenness, and undiagnosed mental health issues.

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My grandmother Annie survived the Great Depression, the Jim Crow era and integration. Her education journey ended in the fourth or fifth grade. As the oldest child, she had to make a difficult choice by sacrificing her education to help her parents pay off debt to own their land and feed the rest of her siblings.

These are the sacrifices that paved the way for me to obtain an education, run a business and advocate for and mentor black girls and women.

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My grandmother birthed and raised seven children (two with special needs) as a widow and single parent with limited opportunities and education, during one of the most turbulent and inhumane times for blacks in the United States. She was a homeowner, independent woman, worker and proud black woman who instilled greatness and confidence in my mother and her siblings.

She found creative ways to survive and thrive. She cleaned homes, sewed my mother's and her siblings' clothing, bartered with neighbors for food, instilled education and a strong work ethic in her children and became a caretaker for her extended family. She made sure the family needs were met by any means necessary.

Despite her adversities, my grandmother didn't allow anyone to define who she was as a black woman. She was a feminist before her time. She felt women should be independent, educated and well versed in every area in life, believing they should live life to the fullest without having to depend on everything from a man.

Black women like my grandmother know how to turn nothing into something. We are the original alchemists. Since the beginning of time, black women have birthed movements and stood side by side to fight racism, sexism, classism — and every ism. We are the original healers within the community.

From Africa to America, black women endured second-class treatment. They were at the forefront of activism against the 1890s separate-but-equal laws, Jim Crow — from standing with the 1960s civil rights movement, the Black Panther Party and fighting the war on drugs all the way to a new era of mass incarceration and police brutality.

I am proud of my lineage because I understand why I stand on the front lines and advocate for black women. We deserve equal access to health and food, business opportunities, reproductive rights — and the right to speak our truth.

We will no longer be invisible, silenced or used to do the work of others.

I honor and give thanks to the original alchemists: my ancestors and my elders, who have paid a huge debt for me to continue the work that was left for me and every black woman to complete.

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