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We are who we have been waiting for

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Dr. Toni Luck for Assert Magazine.

In a poetic tribute to the struggles of the South African women, the great African American poet June Jordan coined the phrase “we are who we have been waiting for” in her poem entitled “Poem for South African Women” which she presented at the United Nations on the 9 August 1978 in commemoration of the 40,000 women and children who, on August 9, 1956, presented themselves in Pretoria in bodily protest against the compass.  Such words of hope and challenge, inspire me to believe that June was giving a clarion call for what the future of Africa would be and the impact of its women in that future.

When I consider the passion and possibilities of today’s courageous African women,  I am reminded of so many strong, courageous warrior women, upon whose shoulders we stand, great women like Deborah, the Hebrew Israelite military strategist that saved a nation,  The Dahomey Amazons: the All-Female Warriors of Benin; Sojourner Truth, the African American warrior who spoke out and stood against racial and sexual inequalities; Harriet Tubman, the African American abolitionist who risked her lifetime and time again to free more than 300 enslaved men, women, and children, Seh-Dong-Hong-Beh one of the great leaders of the Mino of Benin. 

Queen Mother Yaa Asantewaa of the Edweso tribe of the Asante, who fought and beat the British; Queen Nanny, a Jamaican national hero of the Jamaican Maroons in the 18th century; Amanirenas, who ruled over the Meroitic Kingdom of Kush and her army against the Roman Emperor Augustus and won.  I think of Queen Nzinga Mbande, a powerful 17th-century ruler of the Ndongo Kingdom (modern-day Angola) who fearlessly and cleverly fought for the freedom of her kingdoms against the Portuguese.  I think of Muhumusa, a feared leader of East Africa who was influential in Rwanda and Uganda, and in 1911, she proclaimed “she would drive out the Europeans” and “that the bullets of the Wazungu would turn to water against her.” 

I think of my beloved BFF, Nomzamo Winifred (Winnie) Zanyiwe Madikizela-Mandela with her intelligence, beauty, fearlessness, and courage that kept a freedom movement alive with her capacity to inspire millions to be free.   And so many more past and present sheroes such as  Maya Angelou,  Mariam Makeba, Angela Davis, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, H.E. Ellen John Sirleaf, Nana Rita Marley, HE. Joyce Banda, H.E. Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Mrs. Binita Diop, H.E.Samira Bawumia, H.E. Amina Mohammed and H.E. Ambassador Erieka Bennett, and millions of mothers, sisters, daughters, aunties, grandmas who gave us hope and carried our lives in their lives, our hearts in their hearts, and gave voice to their passion, voice to our struggle, leaving a legacy and a path for us to follow…

…and then there is You, the one reading these words which are written to inspire you, to encourage you, truths so sublime that are designed to move you to know that you have the power to mobilize actions that will save our children, our families, our homes, our nations, even our world, because


Rev. Dr. Toni Luck. At Johannesburg, South Africa. 22 August 2020

Poem for South African Women

Our own shadows disappear as the feet of thousands
by the tens of thousands pound the fallow land
into new dust that
rising like marvelous pollen will be
even as the first woman whispering
imagination to the trees around her made
for righteous fruit
from such deliberate defense of life
as no other still
will claim inferior to any other safety
in the world

The whispers too they
intimate to the inmost ear of every spirit
now aroused they
carousing in ferocious affirmation
of all peaceable and loving amplitude
sound a certainly unbounded heat
from a baptismal smoke where yes
there will be a fire

And the babies cease alarm as mothers
raising arms
and heart high as the stars so far unseen
nevertheless, hurl into the universe
a moving force
irreversible as light-years
traveling to the open 

And who will join this standing up
and the ones who stood without sweet company
will sing and sing
back into the mountains and
if necessary
even under the sea

we are the ones we have been waiting for. June Jordan. 1978

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