The stories and histories we share matter.
So many black women feel the constant pressure to succeed—to always be perfect, right, and put together.
We feel this way because of a fear that if we’re not, the doors to opportunity will be slammed shut.
But if we share our stories and learn our history we know that what’s causing doors to shut is the persistent assault on our rights and the continued efforts to beat us down and lock us out.
And when we understand what’s truly going on, we can move forward and continue the fight with integrity and dignity.
This was the topic of discussion with Dr. Michele Goodwin on our first episode of Unlocking the Club podcast—how to continue the fight for our rights while maintaining our dignity.
Dr. Goodwin has a host of accolades to her name. She’s a global thought leader and advisor, award-winning author, professor at the University of California Irvine, and the founding director of the Center For Biotechnology and Global Health Policy.
In her work, Dr. Goodwin sits at the intersection of healthcare and law. It’s a space where she can advocate for women’s rights and continue the fight our ancestors started long before us.
Accountability, Integrity, and Dignity
Dr. Goodwin shared memories of growing up close to her grandparents.
Her grandparents on one side came from Mississippi. They were survivors of Jim Crow and refugees to the North.
On the other side, her grandparents took her to the opera and ballet, spending time instilling some of the “finer things” in life.
But despite this beautiful juxtaposition of growing up as a black American, there was a common thread between her two sets of grandparents—the way they carried themselves. And, the love and respect they had for each other.
Principles of accountability, integrity, dignity, perseverance, and empathy were core to Dr. Goodwin’s childhood experience with her grandparents.
Despite their hardships and challenges, they carried themselves with grace.
And this is a lesson Dr. Goodwin has carried through her life and work. Showing up with integrity and respect is core to her successes because it’s allowed her to remain true to herself and connect with people across political differences.
Understanding Our History
Not only can you draw strength from your own family’s story, but you can use our collective history to fuel action and activism.
We don’t tell our American history correctly.
Because if we did—if the truth of Jim Crow and all the other hellish realities were truly taught and understood—we wouldn’t be told to “get over it.”
If we told the truth of how black bodies were insured to prop up the economy…
… And how black women, today, make up 80% of cardiac arrests during pregnancy in Mississippi…
…And how the contributions of black mathematicians, inventors, and scientists are erased from history…
…And a thousand other untold stories…
If we center these stories in our present-day narratives, then we can say “never again” and walk the final road and close that chapter in history.
But, we aren’t telling these stories. Some of them are outright banned in the classroom. They’re ignored in the courtroom and at the lawmakers’ table.
And because they’re not being told—or, at times, simply not being heard—the impacts of the pain and suffering for generations are still with us. The generational trauma is still here. And we still need to take care of our children and teach them how to respond to a police officer or why they can’t be outside late.
The more we tell our stories and know our histories, though, the more we heal.
Still Fighting for Women’s Rights
Knowing our history can bring healing, but it can also bring anger. And Dr. Goodwin is the first to point out that it’s okay to be angry at the injustices of our world.
But that anger can be fueled into action and activism.
Just as black women picketed and protested in the past, black women today are making powerful movements in our political system today.
Despite very real attempts at voter suppression, it’s black women who are hitting the polls and using their voices. For example, because they stood in line for hours, black women were able to vote for senators in Georgia who responded to the nationwide baby formula crisis instead of ignoring it.
Because her work is at the intersection of law and medicine, Dr. Goodwin’s primary area of activism is for women’s rights and reproductive rights. She refuses to segregate moral concerns and believes that these areas need to be observed and understood together.
Despite being one of the foremost experts in these realms, Dr. Goodwin has felt unheard and unvalued. This is something many of us feel as people often seek to erase our experience and knowledge.
And we’re reminded by Dr. Goodwin that we carry the strength of all our ancestors behind us. You need to remind people who you are. There are 400 years of greatness behind you, so step up into it and carry on the work that they started.
With that knowledge, you can also get rid of any imposter syndrome that holds you back. You are not an imposter—if you have a seat at the table, you deserve to be there. It’s what your ancestors fought for.
If you want to dive deeper into this amazing conversation, listen to Dr. Goodwin’s full episode on Unlocking the Club podcast. You can also keep up with her on her website, Twitter, LinkedIn, or Instagram.