You put yourself in danger too.
Leadership is standing with your people. People say you have to live to fight another day, but sometimes you have to show you are a true leader. If those women were out in the blazing hot sun protesting, I, who put the group together, should be out there, too, instead of sitting in a very boring conference.
Out on the street, we danced! Women parked their cars and joined us. The military could not believe it, because the king sent armored vehicles. But we danced in their faces. Sometimes I do fear death, and I fear for my children. But the one thing I have never been afraid of is standing before important people and speaking my mind. I represent women who may never have the opportunity to go to the UN or meet with a president. I’m never afraid to speak truth to power.
Many people feel helpless, thinking, There are so many problems, and I’m just one person. What do you say to that?
There is something in this world that every individual can do. God has created all of us with something unique to contribute. Some people are called to be the neighbor who will bring kids together to sing or to listen; some people are called to be great orators.
I lost my sister, Geneva, and I wish she were still around because she was one of those people who never thought they had a gift. She took care of my children while I worked, and when I look at them now, I cannot take any glory because this woman did a perfect job with them.
For instance, my kids used to sneak sweets before coming home from school. She would stare at the kids, all 200-plus pounds of her, and she would say, “Everyone give me a kiss before you pass.” That was her way of testing their lips to see if they had had sweets—and the sweets ended because no one wanted to be kissed by this very fat African woman as they came back from school!
What do you want American readers to understand from your book?
I want to bust the myth of African women with saggy breasts holding bowls, with three children at their backs, during conflict. I want to bust that myth that we are victims all the time. Even as victims, we survive. We are strong women who go through hell, and we can still balance on our feet.
I was speaking to a group of American children, and this eight- or nine-year-old boy said, “Go back to your country, loser.” Where did he get that? I don’t want any other African woman to be referred to as loser in this country. I want people to see us as we are, victorious in the work we have done.
And I want to inspire Americans. It’s about time we see a female president in this country. I want young women in this country to stand up, especially for kids in the inner city. I want to inspire young men to be with real women. Wherever you find yourself, you can pull yourself up. Nothing can stop you from being what you want to be.