By Joya Moore
I have been thinking deeply about the experience of women in America since the inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.
I honestly had not anticipated a woman occupying the Vice Presidential office for a long time, so to watch her take the oath and experience the ways in which her ascension inspired a generation of people, particularly women, was both inspiring and redeeming. While the day was largely about the ground being broken by Vice President Harris, she found herself sharing the spotlight with another woman. A young poet by the name of Amanda Gorman became the unexpected topic of conversation during and following the inauguration.
That day, Amanda Gorman became the youngest poet laureate to ever speak during an inauguration and a best selling author after the world met her on that stage.
As I reflect on the happenings of the day and the history made, I am reminded of the power of black women refusing to believe the myths that are often told to and about us in American society. I saw the reframing of narratives in terms of who deserves and is equipped to lead. I was encouraged by the ways in which both the newly inaugurated Vice President and Harvard educated young poet stood on the podium, and chipped away at the stronghold of colorism which through prejudice and racism has irreverently attempted to predestine what a person of color can and will do in the world. Most importantly, I was reminded that these women stood where they stood because they were bold enough to think critically and speak words.
Whether the words were in a courtroom, the Senate chambers, in a poetry contest or in a class presentation at Harvard University, words were spoken, and because they were, their lives and the lives of countless others have been forever changed.
A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of preaching a sermon for CBF and Baptist Women in Ministry. The central theme for the night on CBF Gathering was the power of women’s voices. Shortly after the invitation was extended, I thought of the text which tells the story of the Daughters of Zelophehad in Numbers 27.
As I began the exegetical work, I began to see the highlights of the story and the ways in which it was relevant for today. These women pushed against the status quo. They presented a united front. They asked for what they believed belonged to them and subsequently changed the outcome for women who would find themselves in the same predicament for generations to come. Just like Vice President Harris and Amanda Gorman, these women did this by thinking and speaking.
Yes, one pair of women stood on an inauguration stage and the other set stood before a tent. However, both stood before large crowds and declared with their presence and words that they were willing to take on the patriarchal precedents which had been set before them, moving generations of women into the destiny which has been set by God.
As we celebrate Women’s History month and International Women’s Day, let us remember the women who have fought for us. Let us say their names. Let us tap into the ancestral strength of those who have gone before us to push against the systems and institutions determined to subjugate us.
After all, there are little girls currently dreaming about the stages they will one day occupy and we owe it to them to ensure that those stages are prepared in a manner that will welcome the thoughts and ideas they will impart to move our society closer to one where the inclusion of their voices is not the exception but indeed the expectation!
Joya R. Moore is CBF Leadership Scholar from Augusta, Ga. She is pursing an M.Div. with concentrations in Theology and Ethics and Race and Religion from Candler School of Theology at Emory University and is an Associate Minister at Wheat Street Baptist Church in Atlanta, Ga.