Black & Multilingual: Shirley Chisholm

Posted on Posted in Black Linguists

“If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.”

For Jamii’s first feature of the blog series Black & Multilingual, we highlight Ms. Shirley Anita Chisholm.  There is a Ghanaian Adinkra symbol called “Sankofa” which means “return and get it.” It is a symbolic reminder to learn from the past.   Do you think 2016 America could learn a thing or two from Ms. Chisholm?

Shirley Chisholm spoke English and Spanish fluently! In fact, she utilized her Spanish language skills to strengthen community outreach and coalition building in her fight for social, political, and economic justice. She was an educator, a political advocate, and a social justice linguist! Chisholm was also a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. Born in Brooklyn, Shirley Chisholm was the child of South American and Caribbean immigrants. Her father was a factory laborer from Guyana, and her mother was a seamstress from Barbados. A strong component of her political legacy was her coalition building and advocacy for people facing poverty, all people of color, Native Americans and Spanish-speaking immigrant communities.

Chisholm quotes:

“Increasing immigration to the United States suggests that we do face — and we better own up to – we do face — new social and cultural problems as these new Americans are integrated into our society. And because most of the new immigrants are people of color, cultural adjustments must be made by all groups in America if we are to learn to live together as one nation.”

“I am not the candidate of black America, although I am black and proud. I am not the candidate of the women’s movement of this country, although I am a woman and I am equally proud of that. I am not the candidate of any political bosses or special interests. I am the candidate of the people.”

“I want history to remember me not just as the first black woman to be elected to Congress, not as the first black woman to have made a bid for the presidency of the United States, but as a black woman who lived in the 20th century and dared to be herself.”

Perhaps we should all try to return and get some of Chisholm’s multilingual, intersectional swag for the people! Unbought and Unbossed! Ase!

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The Black & Multilingual blog series is a component of Jamii’s Language & Diaspora Project

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