because the woman's place is wherever the woman is...

Friday, June 29, 2012

Lilian Ngoyi

In 1952, Lilian Ngoyi was "just" a poverty-stricken uneducated Black 41-year-old seamstress with two kids and an elderly mother to support when she suddenly discovered that she was an in-your-face woman. A year later, much to the horror of The Powers That Be, she was the President of a major women's political organization and helping to lead 20,000 women on a protest march against the apartheid government.

Recognizing the importance of international support of their struggle, but living under a power structure that restricted Black people's (and especially Black activists) every move, Ngoyi and another in-your-face woman decided that they must stow away on a boat under "White" names, convince a pilot to let them sit in segregated "White" seats on a plane, and talk their way into Great Britain to complete a Bible study course, knowing they might never see their families again.

Six countries and countless meetings with radical women later, Ngoyi boldly returned to South Africa, expecting to be arrested -- which she, needless to say, was. Her punishment started off with seventy-one days in solitary confinement and then continued for eleven years, during which she was constantly monitored, often held in what amounted to house arrest. But they couldn't shut her up or shut her down. Her powerful voice inspired all listeners to struggle on to victory.

Today, the square where the women gathered for that first historic march is called Lilian Ngoyi Square. And rightly so.

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