When I began the Brave Sis project in 2019, the objective was to uncover and elevate stories of little-known women of color in US history. Inspired on Christmas morning 2019 by a dreamscape chorus of my long-departed grandmother and other Black women out of the history books to “tell our story,” I discovered a deeper passion for the women of the past who would have been world wide celebrities had they been active in an era that held more pluralism about who a feminist she-ro could be.
Today, as the Director of impact and equity for Camber Collective, I work at a global level to help instill values of equity, racial justice, and anti-colonialism into the development, humanitarian philanthropic, DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) and strategic advising spaces.
Our Brave Foremothers is infused with the spirit of both of my vocations (my job and my passion project) inviting my readers to embark on a personal journey into history to learn a bit about the lives and impact of mostly little-known Black, Brown, Asian, and Indigenous foremothers (there are a few famous she-roes who most inspire me, added for good measure) and discover what lessons, inspirations, and activations these women will have for us all today.
For me, my work, through Foremothers as well as the historical vignettes shared on the Brave Sis social media platforms provide an exciting aperture into collective celebration and shared empowerment.
For Black women, it's a chance to go deeper into our history, and learn about women, whose accomplishments have been erased by the broader culture and positioning of “merit” in historical narrative.
For all women of color, it is an opportunity to look past what are often constructed or coerced divides and discover our shared heritage around bravery, brilliance, and resilience. I hope this book can help bond us as communities and bring us closer together towards collective uplift of station—in life and in society, while also providing a chance at the individual level to go deeper into our own sense of purpose.
Optimally, when a person shifts something in their heart and mind about “who matters” (meaning "I matter, people who look like me matter, and, importantly, women who don’t look like me matter too—immensely!") we then start to create a joy-filled antidote to divisive and scarcity-minded narratives that are so prevalent in these times.
The bravery of these foremothers should be exponential for us all!
And now, when it comes to white women, this work is an enticing opportunity to move past the default narrative in the sectors of history, self-help, and celebration, and discover that we need not be so generically prescriptive and limited about who gets to star in the collective show.
I don’t like to use words like “empathy” in describing this shift (and certainly not “tolerance! That’s so 90s!) , because that implies that there is one group that holds all the cards and bestows them upon others, through a sense of largesse of noblesse oblige. Or worse, guilt. Indeed, many of the foremothers, like Kathleen Johnson, the human computer, already did that labor of space-making for us.
Then you have firebrands like Flo Kennedy or Yuri Kochiyama, who were busting down doors. And trailblazers like Sylvia Rivera or Susan La Flesche Picotte. And even quiet leaders who never expected to be lionized at all like Florence Ebersole Finch, or Clara Brown. Few have even heard of them, but shining a light on them and others continues to be an absolute thrill and honor.
They were carrying the flame of people like Harriet and Sojourner of course, who paved the way.
Collectively, these are 100 women who, where they alive in today's age of intersectional and multicultural feminism (a handful of them still are, thank goddess) would be on posters in college dorms, or on desk calendars in workplace or home offices as a matter of course.
They are all inspiring to that level!
These are about one-fourth of the growing database I have of inspiring Black, Brown, Asian, and Indigenous she-roes in our U.S. history. I love that some of the friends and fans of Brave Sis Project often point out additional women I should be highlighting! I LOVE LEARNING ABOUT THESE FOREMOTHERS!!!
It's my hope that in the future, I will be able to create Global Brave Sis editions. The next journey-journal is going to be a perpetual journal, so I am not as bogged down by the constraints of a calendar year in building these. And I will continue creating blank notebooks, t-shirts, totes, and other merch that lets people carry the sisterhood spirit with them throughout their day as well as pay homage to some of my favorite foremothers.
And in the work I drive in my professional space, helping interrogate and shift power imbalances and institute social impact at national and global levels, we know that everyone has something to contribute—a story to tell. Therefore, it’s been wonderful to see how this book intersects with that broader work as well.
Ultimately, Our Brave Foremothers can exist at a very personal level of reclaiming joy, wellness, hope, and celebration, but also at a meta-level it really can become part of a person’s toolbox for how they enact with, and drive social change — because by learning how to step aside and let others step in and shine, we are literally changing the world from the top down and the inside out.
Because as many of us know by now, the only lasting change, from personal habit to transformative policy, is when the individual shifts their personal prism of what matters to them.
At the broadest level, I hope the spirit of this book and of Brave Sis Project overall can help a few people incorporate these women and others like them, into their circle of influence and inspiration.
Look forward to this ride with you!