Words By Ambar Ramirez
Aside from the best part about being a woman is “the prerogative to have a little fun” as Shania Twain puts it, is having a whole month dedicated to women’s history.
While every March the United States celebrates Women’s History Month, the path to assigning a month to women’s history was not an easy one. Much like after the cold winter comes the blooming spring, after fighting for women’s rights came the time to recognize and celebrate the history that led women to where we are today.
Before becoming a nationally recognized celebration, it began in 1978 as a local celebration in Santa Rosa, California. The Education Task Force of the Sonoma County Commission on the Status of Women organized “Women’s History Week ” to start on March 8 coinciding with International Women’s Day. For the following years, the movement spread across the country as other communities and cities began women’s history celebrations of their own. It wouldn’t become official, though, until the National Women’s History Project (now known as the National Women’s History Alliance) successfully lobbied for national recognition. In February 1980, President Jimmy Carter made the first presidential proclamation declaring and marking the week of March 2-8 National Women’s History Week.
But being the strong and independent women that we all are, we didn’t settle for only seven days. After seven years of recognizing Women’s History Week, Congress passed Public Law 100-9 in 1987. The Public Law, petitioned by the National Women’s History Project (aka the National Women’s History Alliance), designated March as Women’s History Month. Additional resolutions requesting and authorizing the president to proclaim March of each year as Women’s History Month were made between the years 1988-1994. Since 1995, each sitting U.S. presidents has made annual proclamations assigning the month that marks the beginning of Spring as “Women’s History Month.”
Contrary to what some may believe Women’s History Month isn’t just a celebration for women but for all genders (I mean, it goes without saying, but none of us would be here without vaginas). It is an important month that highlights our history as well as women’s contributions that have been too often overlooked and even erased from mainstream culture. At its very base, it is a time to celebrate the women in your life.
Further, every year the National Women’s History Alliance assigns a yearly theme, and this year’s is “Celebrating Women Who Tell Our Stories.” This theme, according to the National Women’s History Alliance’s website, “honors women in every community who have devoted their lives and talents to producing art, pursuing truth, and reflecting the human condition decade after decade.” And fittingly, “Folio” wanted to highlight a certain woman that is telling her truth through poetry.
Suni Storm began writing at a young age. Weekly, Storm recalls going to the library with her mom and siblings, discovering different worlds inside books that offered her security and confidence having been brought up in a military family. After discovering a character in a book described as griot, Storm began to write.
“By definition, a griot is a member of a class of traveling poets, musicians, and storytellers who maintain a tradition of oral history in parts of West Africa,” Storm said. “From the time I researched it, I recognized a sense of responsibility in the assistance of preservation of my culture.”
Having found a way to express themselves as well as preserve their culture through writing, Storm now helps others do the same. Specifically through the nonprofit organization, Hope at Hand.
“Hope at Hand, Inc. [was] initiated to implement healing and positivity through poetry,” Storm said. “Some of our locally esteemed partners include Kids Hope Alliance, Gateway rehab center and a variety of DCPS elementary schools in collaboration with Girls Inc.”
Throughout various sites in Jacksonville, Storm teaches poetry, including a recent blackout poetry course made available by The Cummer Art Museum in collaboration with the Ritz Theatre and Museum. And every first and third Sunday of the month, Storm hosts a free poetry course at Chamblin’s Uptown located downtown.
“I take pride in structuring my courses to be safe spaces for creative exploration and societal networking,” Storm said. “It’s important to me that I show up where I can to be of service to our thriving, yet steadily improving, community.”
Not only are the courses highly educational, but also, in a sense, freeing. As Storm puts it, a safe place for creativity and for reflection. She is playing her role (very well, might I add) in showing up for our city and our youth. If that doesn’t scream this year’s theme of celebrating “Women Who Tell Our Stories,” I don’t know what does.
If you haven’t already, take the time this month to show the women in your life how important they are to you and our history. And if you are a woman reading this, high-five! What a privilege it is to live in a time where we can fully express ourselves and continue the fight the women of our past laid out for us.