Shirley Chisholm, a descendant of Bajans born and raised in New York City, is the first Black woman to ever be voted into United States Congress in 1968. She is a woman of many firsts. As the first Black Person and First Black woman to ever run for president of the United States, as well as the first woman to run for the Democratic Party; she was “Unbought and Unbossed” as she titled her first published book. I resonate with her so much because I have the same sentiments, everything I do doesn’t need sponsorship or censorship, I move according to conviction on what’s right. Ms. Chisholm did the same.
Like many of us with parents from other countries, Shirley Chisholm spent time in Barbados which she credited for her strict education and structured upbringing. She credits her grandmother for giving her a sense of pride in herself that she didn’t need from others.
Prior to entering politics, Ms. Chisholm worked as a teachers aide until gaining her masters degree in early childhood education. While directing a daycare; she became well known for her advocacy on early childhood issues. She had a spirit of advocacy which carried her through her time at the New York State Legislature & all the way until her time at Congress. She helped create many policies that directly affected disadvantaged people, such as the SEEK program (Search for Education, Elevation and Knowledge) to the state, which provided disadvantaged students the chance to enter college while receiving intensive remedial education.
Ms. Chisholm ran for Congress with the slogan “unbought and unbossed” as she campaigned to women voters due to strong opposition from men. Her election to congress made her the first Black woman and only woman elected that year. She played a critical role in the creation of the SNAP food program for women and children, and expanded the food stamp program. As a member of the education and labor committee, she was the third highest ranking member. Half of Ms. Chisholm’s staff was black women, while she only hired women as staffers. She was also a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus.
Later in her career, Shirley Chisholm decided to explore the option of running for president. She became the first black personality to run for presidency as part of a major party. Although criticized, she understood the dynamics of what she was running up against so it did not discourage her; she ended up finishing in 7th place. She is also the first woman to ever appear in a presidential debate.
The reason I look up to Ms. Shirley Chisholm is because like many Black women, she led the way. She kept herself high and did not let the discouragements of a majority stop her. Everything she did was to uplift and create change for underprivileged people, and she was not there for just politics. She stood her ground and even though the works may not talk about her much; she created a legacy that any Black woman who wants to be a politician can look up to. She shows us that it’s possible to be genuine and not follow the clear set rules; but break them in a good way to create lasting change.
I plan to follow in Ms. Chisholm’s footsteps; thank you for layout out the blueprint for young change makers like myself!