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Year of strides, strains for Black women

By Starla Muhammad -Staff Writer- | Last updated: Jan 1, 2013 - 12:26:31 PM

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(FinalCall.com) - No matter the degree of skill, beauty or grace displayed, 2012 was a year of great symbolism and accomplishment mixed with double standards and ridicule for Black women. From economics to entertainment, Black women also had their share of ups and downs.

While Oprah Winfrey and Nene Leakes may have seen their net worth’s increase or remain stable, for the majority of Black women it was a different story financially.

It was a challenging year for Black women said Dr. Avis Jones-DeWeever, from the National Council of Negro Women.

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“We are still reeling from the after effects of the Great Recession so many of us having difficulty getting fully reattached to the workforce and we still are suffering from lower wages than many of our counterparts both male and female for the jobs that we hold even though sometimes we have the responsibility of being the sole bread winners for our families,” Dr. Jones-DeWeever told The Final Call.

The median wealth for single, Black women is roughly only $100 according to some reports.

“On the good side, African American women show a tremendous amount of grit and resiliency and retain our desire and our action in terms of fighting to move ahead. I was proud to see that once again we are really leading the nation in terms of voter participation,” said Dr. Jones-DeWeever.

Black women came out in large numbers in support of President Obama in 2012 like they did in 2008 added Dr. DeWeever, executive director of the 75-year-old organization founded by historic educator activist and civil rights icon, the late Mary McLeod Bethune.

“The fact that, that happened even in these challenging times bears a special recognition that even though so many of us are hurting disproportionately, we still have hope, we still have resolve, we still have fight, we still want to make a difference, we still understand the importance and the responsibility of making our voices heard on election day,” added Dr. DeWeever.

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'Despite the dignity and class of Black women like First Lady Michelle Obama and the academic success as exemplified by Brittney Exline, who earlier this year at 19, became the nation’s youngest Black engineer, media focus continued to be on Basketball Wives and other over the top shows that have come to unfortunately “define” Black women to the masses.'

There were cheers and accolades as gymnastics teen phenom Gabrielle Douglass won gold medals in both individual and team all-around events at the 2012 London Olympic Games.

And, Claressa Shields another talented Black teen won the first ever gold medal awarded for women’s middleweight boxing in the London games.

Yet, Gabrielle’s historic achievements were almost overshadowed by ridiculous conversations about her hair. Tennis champ Serena Williams, winner of seven singles titles in 2012 was not only lambasted by her critics for her celebratory victory dance after winning gold this summer but the year also ended with her “friend”, a White female tennis player padding her chest and backside at an exhibition match in Brazil in a “harmless imitation” of the 31-year-old star athlete.

Despite the dignity and class of Black women like First Lady Michelle Obama and the academic success as exemplified by Brittney Exline, who earlier this year at 19, became the nation’s youngest Black engineer graduating cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania, an Ivy League school, media focus continued to be on Basketball Wives and other over the top shows that have come to unfortunately “define” Black women to the masses.

In the world of hip-hop, pop culture and entertainment Detroit native dream hampton is known for her activism and writing and pens her name in lower case letters in part as a tribute to author bell hooks.

In 2012 there continued to be an attack on Black women, the author and filmmaker told The Final Call.

“Some of it is virtual attacks. There’s a whole lot of talk about everything that we’re doing wrong you know? Be it the way we’re eating, raising our children or failing to attract marriage partners or the very real high incidents of domestic violence,” said Ms. Hampton, the first female editor of The Source magazine and co-author best-selling book “Decoded” with hip-hop star Jay-Z.

“I’m basically demanding that Black people, particularly Black men speak up about the violence that Black women suffer from in their homes in the places where they’re supposed to be safe, in their sanctuaries and sometimes it’s a generation’s long problem. But the numbers are off the charts,” Ms. hampton pointed out as she mentioned the murder of Kassandra Perkins.

The 22-year-old was shot and killed Dec. 1 by Jovan Belcher, her boyfriend a player for the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs.

“When I look back on this year there were some great highs and some great lows when it comes to Black power among women. I like the way that Black women are celebrated now on these different television shows like Black Girls Rock,” said Perri Small, radio host on 1690 WVON in Chicago.

“I look at Gabby Douglas and I look at how proud we were of her and the foolishness about her hair. Which brings me to a health issue too, if Black women cared as much about their bodies as they do about their hair and nails, I think that we would be healthier and we would have better self-esteem,” added Ms. Small.

Terrie Williams, author and mental health advocate said Black women did make great strides this year in areas of trying to work on improving their mental health.

“I do a lot of speaking at colleges. I just did something last week with about 25 young sisters and it was really very interesting because they’re feeling empowered in a way that I hadn’t experienced young women being in a long time,” said the author of “Black Pain: It Just Looks Like We’re Not Hurting.”

Ms. Williams said though she noticed what she called an awakening, steely strength and focus among Black women it is still easy to become overwhelmed.

“I still also think that there’s the matter of it’s a lot for so many of us to shake, is feeling like you have to be superwoman. That you have to do and be everything for everybody and the reality is … but you cannot breathe unless you are taking care of yourself,” said Ms. Williams.

For additional coverage, on what Sisters Avis, Perri, dream and Terrie said 2012 symbolized for Black women and the community, visit Starla Muhammad’s blog at http://simplystarla.blogspot.com.

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