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Ai-jen Poo

Ai-jen Poo, (b 1974-)

Domestic Advocate/Labor Organizer

Director, National Domestic Workers Alliance

During Black History Month 2014, the Center for the Church and the Black Experience is honoring faithful Black women freedom fighters. Today we honor Ai-jen Poo.

PooDomestic workers have been historically been employed by upper middle class or affluent families to perform household and childcare duties. Historically, for many African American women, domestic work has largely been experienced as menial and inferior. It is reported by the Association of Black Women Historians that during the 1960s, nearly 90 percent of working black women in the South labored as domestic servants in white homes. Domestic workers were the backbone of the Civil Rights Movement, as they were the catalyst for the success of the Montgomery Bus Boycott.  

Ai-jen Poo, Director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA) and Co-director of the Caring Across Generations campaign, has been organizing immigrant women domestic workers since 1996. NDWA is America’s leading voice for dignity and fairness for millions of domestic workers in the United States.  

Ms. Poo is the daughter of pro-democracy immigrants from Chiang Kai-shek's Taiwan. Her father was a scientist and one-time political activist from whom she inherited her passion for justice. She began her work as a labor organizer while a student at Columbia University. Outraged by stories of low pay and abuse at the hands of employers, Ms. Poo began organizing maids, nannies, and other domestic workers. Her organization is powered by 35 local, membership-based affiliate organizations representing over 10,000 nannies, housekeepers, and caregivers for the elderly located in 19 cities and 11 states around the country.

Among Ms. Poo’s numerous accolades are the Ms. Foundation Woman of Vision Award, the Independent Sector American Express NGen Leadership Award, Newsweek’s 150 Fearless Women list, and TIME’s list of the 100 Most Influential People in the World.

Source:
Photo:  http://www.domesticworkers.org/sites/default/files/images/Ai-jen_HeadShot_2_LoRes.jpg (Accessed 1/24/14)
http://www.domesticworkers.org/aijen-poo#long (Accessed 1/24/14)
Burnham, Linda & Theodore, Nik, Home Economics: The Invisible and Unregulated World of Domestic Work, National Alliance of Domestic Workers, New York 2012, P 41.
http://content.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,2111975_2111976_2112169,00.html (Accessed 1/24/14)
http://www.abwh.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2%3Aopen-statement-the-help (Accessed 1/24/14)

Compiled by Beverly Moore

Nana Afia Dokuaa

Nana Afia Dokuaa (?-?)

First Woman Ruler of Eastern Ghana

During Black History Month 2014, the Center for the Church and the Black Experience is honoring faithful Black women freedom fighters. Today we honor Nana Afia Dokuaa.

During the early 19th century, Nana Afia Dokuaa ascended to leadership as both King and Queenmother of Ghana.  To date, she is the only female who has held those positions simultaneously.   

In 1817, instead of a male heir of her uncle taking the reins of leadership, Nana Dokuaa ascended the Ofori stool to become the 24th Okyenhene (King) and the Ohemaa (Queenmother) of Okyeman (Akyem Abuakwa) (Ghana) from 1817 to 1835.  She continued the tradition of resisting the overlordship of the Asantes (against whom she battled 99 times) and participated in an anti-Asante alliance of coastal chiefs and the British administration.  Nana Dokuaa led the Akyem Abuakwa contingent in 1826 during the battle of Katamanso, and in 1831, was instrumental in the allied victory at Datamanso and the subsequent treaty that same year that freed Ghana from Asante suzerainty.  

Queenmother Dokuaa organized towns and villages into their current divisions for war and administration purposes.  She also labored to prevent revolts and divisions in her kingdom.

As a warrior, Nana Dokuaa also led several other campaigns, including the Gyadam War.  After a quarrel with the Kotokuhene (rulers), she ordered various soldier troops to force the Kotokus from Gyadam.  Because the neighboring Kwabenghene allowed them to depart peacefully, there was no violence.

The birth of royal male twins to Nana Dokuaa and her husband, Barima Twum Ampofo, inspired the ongoing celebration of "ABAM" (The Twins Day), which is celebrated annually; all twins in Ghana attend.  

Nana Dokuaa’s accomplishments have been immortalized in songs praising her achievements.

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Compiled by Rhonda K. Craven

Dr. Isabella M. Garnett

Dr. Isabella M. Garnett (August 22, 1872 – August 23, 1948)

Trailblazing Nurse/Doctor/Philanthropist/Entrepreneur

During Black History Month 2014, the Center for the Church and the Black Experience is honoring faithful Black women freedom fighters. Today we honor Dr. Isabella M. Garnett.

garnettA member of an early black family that settled in Evanston, Illinois, Dr. Isabella Garnett joined the medical profession at a time when it was not commonplace for women, especially black women, to have such aspirations.

Isabella Maude Garnett, the seventh of nine children, attended the local schools as did her siblings.  After high school, she moved to Minneapolis, attended business school and worked for a printer.  When Dr. Daniel Hale Williams, founder of the Provident Hospital and Training School for Nurses in Chicago, recruited her in 1893, she returned from Minneapolis to attend.

She stated “I took up nursing to work my way through school, but I knew I wanted to be a physician and have my own hospital someday.”  After earning a diploma in 1895, Miss Garnett worked as a nurse and later attended the Physician’s and Surgeon’s College (now the University of Illinois College of Medicine), graduating in 1901.  After Dr. Garnett built a private practice in Chicago, she returned to Evanston and shared an office with her dentist brother, William.

In 1907, she married Arthur DeLyons Butler, a medical student at Northwestern University.  Local hospitals became more reluctant to admit black patients, so in May 1914, the couple opened the interracial Evanston Sanitarium in their home.  The only medical facility for blacks north of Chicago, it became the Community Hospital in 1930.  She served as its Superintendent until 1946.

Dr. Garnett’s long-time affiliation with the Second Baptist Church of Evanston inspired her to pay off its longstanding mortgage in 1942.  During a testimonial in recognition of her support of the hospital and service in organizations such as the NAACP and the Iroquois League, she turned over a purse of nearly $4,700.00 collected on her behalf.

The Isabella Butler Park in northwest Evanston stands as a memorial to her legacy.

Sources:

Compiled by Rhonda K. Craven

Gloria St. Clair Hayes Richardson

Gloria St. Clair Hayes Richardson (May 6, 1922– )

Leader of the Cambridge Movement

During Black History Month 2014, the Center for the Church and the Black Experience is honoring faithful Black women freedom fighters. Today we honor Gloria St. Clair Hayes Richardson.

richardsonGloria Richardson was an outspoken leader during the fight to overturn the Jim Crow laws in Cambridge, MD during the early 1960s.  She incorporated armed self-defense tactics that inspired the more militant factions of the Black Power Movement.  A native of Baltimore, MD, she moved with her family to Cambridge, her mother’s home town, during the Great Depression.  Mrs. Richardson earned a sociology degree in 1942 from Howard University and worked briefly as a civil servant based in Washington, DC.  She returned to Cambridge and unsuccessfully sought a job in social work.  In 1948, she married a local school teacher, Harry Richardson, and for the next thirteen years, she was a mother and homemaker.
 
After her divorce from Mr. Richardson, a freedom ride came to Cambridge in 1961.  Subsequently, she and her daughter joined the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).[1]  Though she disagreed with the concept of non-violence, a year later, Mrs. Richardson organized the Cambridge Nonviolent Action Committee (CNAC), the first adult-led affiliate.  The group initially used sit-ins to desegregate segregated restaurants, bowling alleys, and movie theatres, but later Mrs. Richardson worked more aggressively to change the chronic low wages, high unemployment and low voter registration numbers in the city.  Because CNAC’s confrontations were more violent, the Governor called in the National Guard in the summer of 1963, placing the city under martial law.  U. S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy brokered an agreement between CNAC and Cambridge’s white politicians, resulting in the Treaty of Cambridge that desegregated key public facilities and institutions.  
 
Mrs. Richardson was recognized as one of six “Negro Women Fighters for Freedom” during the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.  She was also scheduled to make remarks, but the microphone was taken from her immediately after she greeted the audience.  In 2013, on the 50th anniversary of the March, she spoke out about the sexism she and other female participants encountered in the Movement.  

In 1964, Mrs. Richardson resigned from CNAC and moved to New York, where she remained active in other civil rights organizations.

1 The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), founded in April 1960, did civil rights field work across the South by participated in Freedom Rides and sit-ins and organizing voter registration drives.

Sources:

Compiled by Rhonda K. Craven

Luisa Moreno

Luisa Moreno (August 30, 1907-November 4, 1992)

Labor Leader/Social Activist

During Black History Month 2014, the Center for the Church and the Black Experience is honoring faithful Black women freedom fighters. Today we honor Luisa Moreno.

morenoA Guatemalan immigrant who became a union organizer in the United States and an outspoken critic of injustice, Luisa Moreno was a passionate crusader on behalf of all workers, particularly women of color.

Born Blanca Rosa Lopez Rodriguez to an upper-class family, Mrs. Moreno’s family immigrated to the United States in 1916.  She attended the College of the Holy Name in California before returning to Guatemala.  For the next few years, she wrote poetry and worked for local newspapers, which fueled her interest in social issues.  When she moved to New York City in 1928 with her husband, Guatemalan artist Miguel Angel de Leon, Mrs. Moreno immediately became involved in labor organizing after she saw how segregation affected people of color living there.  Because of her parents’ disapproval of her outspoken positions, she changed her name to Luisa Moreno in honor of the Mexican labor organizer, Luis Moreno.   

During the Great Depression, to support her unemployed husband and their daughter, Mrs. Moreno worked in a sweat shop in Spanish Harlem, experiencing first-hand the challenges of long hours for little pay.  Soon, she took a job at a cafeteria and participated in a strike with her co-workers during which her face was bloodied.  Mrs. Moreno joined the Communist Party, having been attracted by its goals of desegregating public facilities, organizing workers, providing relief for those in need, protesting police brutality and the deportation of Mexicans.  She traveled the country, organizing black and Latina cigar rollers in Florida, cane workers in Louisiana, sugar beet workers in Colorado, field and packing house workers in California, as well as tuna packers in San Diego.  Mrs. Moreno became a leader in several union organizations, including the United Cannery Agricultural Packing, and Allied Workers of America (UCAPAWA).

By 1937, Mrs. Moreno and her husband had divorced, but the single mother was undeterred in her quest for justice.  As a forceful bilingual speaker and writer who was also trustworthy and likeable, she was effective in building coalitions among the diverse groups as she helped people see the oppression that affected them all.  She also organized in San Diego the El Congreso de Pueblos que Hablan Español (the National Spanish-Speaking Congress) that networked Mexican American unions, organizations, clubs and associations.  This triggered an investigation by the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC).

Mrs. Moreno continued her work across the country and married Gray Bemis, a U. S. Navy sailor, in 1947.  They settled in San Diego, but in 1948, after she had applied for U. S. citizenship, the HUAC determined that she was a “dangerous alien”.  As the situation deteriorated and she saw that her associates were being affected by the HUAC’s witch hunt, she and Bemis decided to voluntarily leave the country, moving to Mexico and then back to Guatemala, where they opened some small businesses.  Though she no longer worked as an organizer, Mrs. Moreno’s legacy as an early activist remains etched in the labor movement’s history.

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Compiled by Rhonda K. Craven

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