Remarks prepared for the Sojourner Truth Election Day event
Jo Comerford, 5 November 2019, Northampton, MA
Heartfelt thanks to all who have shared your thoughts and gifts today.
Thank you to the organizers.
Thank you to the Sojourner Truth Memorial Committees past, present, and future for this enduring statue — around which may many, many gatherings for justice — like this one — occur.
As we’ve heard today, Truth fused her own life with the promise of suffrage, going so far as to say, “…if you want me to get out of the world, you had better get women voting soon. I shan’t go till I can do that.”
For Truth, suffrage wasn’t just a right she wanted personally — and dearly. Though it was.
It wasn’t just a right to ensure women’s well-being.
Sojourner Truth realized that voting rights for women would lift up what she called “the whole creation.”
Long before The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s famous Letter From A Birmingham Jail, Sojourner Truth gave birth to the imperative of mutuality — something that King would later call “a single garment of destiny.”
Yet as we know, Truth’s call for an embrace of mutuality when it came to suffrage wasn’t fully reciprocated — not in the least.
That’s why, by remembering Sojourner Truth today, we’re both celebrating her powerful, and in many ways unparalleled legacy, of prophetic calls for women’s rights, and with her — and through her — the countless African American women over generations who have courageously called out the impossibility of separating racial justice from gender justice.
The inability to rip apart one united garment of destiny.
And here, as a white woman, now charged with representing the best interests of all constituents in our state Legislature, I must say that I feel this fracturing legacy of white supremacy very deeply — and not only the historic resonance, but in the urgency of current organizing around everything from climate justice, to reproductive rights, to changing the state flag and seal, to the necessary voting rights advances needed here in the Commonwealth to ensure everyone has access to the power of the ballot.
In the urgency of telling the truth about a movement for voting rights where white women both obscured and oppressed women of color.
The urgency — and my responsibility — to own the painful lessons from history, and the biting ways in which they continue to manifest today — and take them into this moment to help chart a new and more just way forward in partnership with you gathered here.
Emboldened and propelled by Truth.