As we enter Black History Month, we wanted to take the opportunity to highlight the leadership of some of our local African American leaders. Sojourner Truth was part of the Northampton Association, a utopian community based in what is now Florence. She was an activist in the Women’s Rights and Abolition Movement. Truth was born into slavery and was originally called Isabella, however, she managed to escape to a new family who bought her freedom (National Women’s History Museum). Truth dedicated herself to helping other slaves secure freedom, and became a prominent orator of her time delivering speeches across the country to important figures. Truth published a biography detailing her life and philosophies entitled Narrative of Sojourner Truth (Folsom, Black History Month: The Crusade of Sojourner Truth).
From this black activist we can learn the essentials behind resistance, and cultivate a new generation of leaders. From Truth, we learn that leadership and politics go hand in hand, and in this day and age we are asked to consider the relationship between activism and leadership (Zammit-Lucia, 2017). Activism is defined by Permanent Culture Now, as an effective way of making long lasting social change in your community (Permanent Culture Now). Activism is closely related to advocacy, a topic that is discussed in detail in the Leadership Pioneer Valley “Positive Leadership Curriculum” . If one views advocacy as the act of using your voice or acting for the purpose of supporting a cause, there are indeed similarities between the two. Both practices require clarity and a compelling case (Positive Leadership, 4). We are able to use Truth’s work with speeches as an example of success due to their clear message for equality, her speeches eventually became a staple of the Women’s Rights Movement (National Women’s History Museum), and thus she was able to demonstrate effective leadership. It is also essential to note Truth’s inspiring resilience, a tool that she relied on in order to survive and continue fighting for Civil Rights. Effective leadership requires the resilience of the participant to be able to overcome obstacles and hardships in order to carry out their original mission.
African-American leaders like Truth, teach us the need to be strong advocates in the face of injustice. There are many opportunities to lead locally in the Pioneer Valley with organizations like Western Mass Showing Up for Racial Justice. By getting involved with the local community you can help make a positive impact through activism, and develop a fuller understanding of black history in the Pioneer Valley.
“National Women’s History Museum.” Education & Resources – National Women’s History Museum – NWHM. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Feb. 2017.
Dr. Burton W. Folsom, published on Feb. 1, 1999. “Black History Month: The Crusade of Sojourner Truth.” [Mackinac Center]. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Feb. 2017.
Truth, Sojourner. “The Narrative of Sojourner TruthSojourner Truth.” The Narrative of Sojourner Truth, by Sojourner Truth. Read it now for Free! (Homepage). N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Feb. 2017.
“About Us.” Sojourner Truth Memorial. N.p., 18 Aug. 2015. Web. 05 Feb. 2017.
“Leadership in an Age of Activism (SSIR).” Stanford Social Innovation Review: Informing and Inspiring Leaders of Social Change. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Feb. 2017.
“Introduction to Activism.” Permanent Culture Now. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Feb. 2017.
Pioneer Valley Handbook, Positive Leadership on Advocacy and Resilience, positiveleadership.com
Other Ways to Get Involved/ Resources:
https://www.healingracismpv.org/ Healing Racism Institute of PV