Yesterday I sat in a Baltimore restaurant called Ida B.’s Table eating Southern-inspired shrimp and grits in a Creole cream sauce. It’s a new Black-owned spot near the Inner Harbor and when I heard the name I was immediately elated thinking about the late and often forgotten Ida B. Wells. Call me dramatic, but when I go to places built in honor of those who paved a way for us (like Busboys and Poets, or the now closed Eatonville), I can’t help but think about what it means to carry on their legacy.
For those unfamiliar with Ms. Wells, the menu read as follows, “Born a slave in Mississippi, six months before the Emancipation Proclamation, Wells traveled throughout the south investigating lynchings and publishing her findings in pamphlets. She dedicated her writing to the struggles of her people.” She didn’t focus on what she couldn’t control, she took advantage of what she could.
Sitting across from my mother- with her crispy chicken and sweet potato waffle- surrounded by paintings, quotes, and trinkets from Wells’ story, I couldn’t help but ask myself what it means for me to take advantage of what I CAN control. On the brink of tomorrow’s election, the political climate of our country can’t be ignored. I often hear discussions of people expressing how their votes don’t count, and I get it. Politically, many things are out of our control. However, if life has taught me anything, it’s that power comes when we focus on what we CAN control.
Power comes when we focus on what we CAN control.
For Wells, journalism was important because she believed, “The people must know before they can act, and there’s no educator to compare with the press.” In 2018, with technological advancements, we know enough to act. Ignorance is no longer an excuse. Moreover, no matter how frustrated we are with the system and parties, it’s our duty to work within and against the powers that be to make progress.
I recall that during the 2016 election many people were frustrated that the presidential race came down to voting for the “lesser of two evils.” I remember one person asking, “Why are we okay with putting evil in the White House in the first place?” That question couldn’t be more sobering, and two years later, I wonder what we have done to change that reality. Have we actively worked to build a third party or educate ourselves on the politicians or judges in our counties? Maybe our work has been more community focused. Amazing! Why not follow up with some political action?
Wells wasn’t able to vote. That is our torch to carry. Too often we put one strategy or one person’s ideologies against another. We need ALL of it. My focus isn’t on politics, but you betta believe ya girl will be casting a vote tomorrow, because if we all think our votes don’t matter, we give power to the ones who believe theirs do. Lastly, if ancestors like Ida did what they could, I will honor that by doing what I can. 😊