“BWSW: across continents, across time, a short compendium of inspirational stories of black female leadership across the globe.”

Black Women Shaping the World: Across Continents, Across Time (2022), co-written by Kah Walla, Bergeline Domou and Alice Malongté, is a short compendium of inspirational stories of Black female #leadership across the globe. The book presents a selection of black women whose extraordinary courage, talent, foresight, leadership, and commitment to humanity have shaped and continue to shape the world across continents and time in our collective pursuit for various forms of justice.

A few landmarks in black female leadership

Where the contribution of Black women to worthy causes has been written out of history, these three authors help to write them in, thus spotlighting the sacrifices of Black women in causes and movements such as the African Independence movements, the Civil Rights Movement in the US, the fight against Apartheid in South Africa, the #BlackLivesMatter Movement in the US and the #EndSARS Movement in Nigeria.

In this way, Walla, Domou and Malongté endeavour to correct the omissions and silences of #history while creating room for #herstory and showcasing Black women leaders from Africa, America and the Carribeans, many of whom move(d) intellectually, ideologically, digitally and physically between continents and time to shape the world positively.

For instance, the authors sketch out brief but uplifting portraits of Black female leaders such as Army Ashwood Garvey (once Marcus Garvey’s wife) and Maya Angelou whose militancy and leadership were instrumental in both the Civil Rights Movement and African Independence movements. Both Garvey and Angelou had straddled many borders across Africa, America, the Caribbean, Europe and elsewhere.

UDEFEC women at the front line for independence in French-speaking Africa

The three authors also demonstrate how central women were to the Independence movement in French Cameroon. A case in point was the creation of the “Union démocratique des femmes camerounaises” (UDEFEC, Democratic Union of Cameroonian Women) in 1951 and whose members sent over 1000 petitions to the United Nations Trusteeship Council with demands aimed at ensuring women’s rights and gender equality in an independent Cameroon/Cameroun. Marthe Moumie, one of their members, addressed the All African People’s Congress (AAPC).

Other members of UDEFEC included Marthe Ouandié, Gertrude Omog, and Marie Djat. It now becomes clear, I hasten to add, that if the genuine independence fighters in French Cameroun (UDEFEC and UPC militants) had been granted that independence we wouldn’t have waited till 1970 to have Delphine Zanga Tsogo appointed as the first female minister in Cameroon–deputy minister of health! UDEFEC had many female leaders ripe for ministerial positions before the Independence of French Cameroun in 1960.

That said, Walla, Domou and Malongté proceed to present some of the Black female leaders who were at the heart of the fight against Apartheid in South Africa. These included Dr Mary Francis Berry (USA) who was one of the founders of the Free South Africa Movement; Eleanor Holmes Norton (USA) who was one of the activists that organised sit-in strikes at the South African Embassy in the United States; Zenzile Miriam Makeba, an exiled South African musician who became a global voice for the anti-Apartheid movement and also took part in the Civil Right movement and others; and Lindiwe Mabuza (South Africa), one of the earliest members of the African National Congress (ANC) who fought against the Apartheid regime.

A new generation of black female leaders revealed by the Black lives Matters and End SARS movement

The three authors of the book conclude it with portraits of some key Black female leaders of the Black Lives Matter and End SARS movements. One of these leaders is Ayo Tometi, daughter of Nigerian immigrants in the US, and one of the three co-founders of the Black Lives Matter Movement that has been fighting police brutality on Black people in the US and across the world. Tometi was also instrumental in the End SARS Movement in Nigeria. Another Black female leader portrayed is Rinu Oduala who demonstrated extraordinary courage and leadership during the End SARS strikes in Nigeria. The authors also present the Feminist Coalition, with membership in Nigeria, the US, the UK and elsewhere, which also played a crucial role in the End SARS Movement.

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