Black History: Continuing the Legacy

By on February 4, 2014

Unbought and Unbossed! Living the legacy.

By Eden Duncan Smith

On January 31, 2014, I had the pleasure of attending a historical event! I went to the unveiling of the Shirley Chisholm Forever Stamp at the Brooklyn Borough Hall. It was so educational and of course super fun! I met so many people and learned so much about this amazing woman. Shirley Chisholm represented “Girl Power” to the highest degree. You know before Hillary Clinton even thought about being the president, she was already paving the trail! You say, you never heard of Shirley Chisholm? Well before we get into my day, let me give you some background.

Shirley Chisholm was an American politician and educator. She was a civil rights leader and a big time activist for many of the things that affect you and I today. She represented New York’s 12th Congressional District from 1969 until 1983. In 1968, she became the first African-American woman elected to Congress. In 1972, she became the first woman to run for president and also the first Black person to run for president. Not only was she a trailblazer for Secretary Hillary Clinton, but also for President Barack Obama. Actually, Barack Obama ran during his election campaign with a slogan that said, “Change We Can Believe In…” well he got it from her. Her slogan way back in the 70’s was “Catalyst for Change.”  I love that. As smart as our president is, I am sure that he was sending a shout out to her and symbolically walking in her legacy. He was continuing the legacy that she started and did just that in so many ways. Her other slogan was, “Unbought and Unbossed.” Do you understand what that means? She could not be bought by evil politicians, lobbyists or corporations like so may politicians that we read about in the media. People who did not have the best intentions of the people she served also could not boss her around. She was a BIG advocate for the rights of women and people of color. She was a member of the National Organization for Women (NOW) and a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated, Brooklyn Alumnae Chapter that is the same chapter that my mother is a part of.  She also was a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus. Our current president was a member of that too.

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“The world does not want and will never have the heroes and heroines of the past. What this age needs is an enlightened youth not to undertake the tasks like theirs but to imbibe the spirit of these great men and answer the present call of duty…”   — Carter G. Woodson

Now really, tell me that she doesn’t sound like an amazing woman to you! I dare you! If you really are into “Girl Power” like I am, this is right up your alley!


Pictured with Eden is Al Johnson who painted the portrait of Shirley Chisholm that was used for the Forever stamp

So many great people came out to support this event. First the Honorable Al Sharpton, who you can watch on MSNBC every night at 6pm, spoke about her. When he was 13 years old he volunteered for her in her campaign office. He did everything for her. He held her pocketbooks and even her coat when she would give her speeches. Afterwards, she would talk to him about the importance of service to the community, made him speak in complete sentences and made sure they were grammatically correct. Imagine if many of our leaders believed in mentorship like that now! By the way, I look up to Rev. Al. He is a great man in my opinion and he too is continuing the legacy.

I also met Anika Noni Rose and she was the mistress of the ceremonies. You know her! She was the voice for Princess Tiana from Disney’s Princess and the Frog. I could have died and gone to heaven! She is like a huge influence in my life because she is a singer, dancer and actor! I love her.

My aunt, the Honorable Yvette D. Clarke, she occupies the same congressional chair that she did over 40 years ago also spoke about Shirley Chisholm influence on her. The similarities are scary, they were both West Indians, both were members of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated ( #BkACDST ) and they both were sharp dressers. My auntie is fly and so was Ms. Shirley! Auntie Yvette is continuing the legacy!

The room was just full of excellence.  Role call: Congressmen Hakeem Jefferies (D-NY), Charles B. Rangel (D-NY), Karl W. Reid of the United Negro College Fund, Brooklyn Attorney General Ken Thompson Borough President Eric Adams, Hazel Dukes from the NAACP and ME!  You know what… we are all continuing the legacy.

There ceremony was quite an experience. To be part of such a historical event filled me with such emotions. I mean I was fueled with feelings that raced through the roof! It was a day like no other.  As we enter into Black History Month, no matter what race you are, please try and find out something new about people of African descent. There are great things to learn in many different fields. Google can be your friend and help you out as you aim to continue in the legacy of Ms. Shirley Chisholm. 

“Service is the rent we pay for the privilege of living on this earth.” — Shirley Chisholm

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