Student Senate Collaborates with IRJC Highlighting Shirley Chisholm

By Grace Agbali

Since the beginning of this pandemic, everything around us has changed. We had to adapt to a new way of living, studying, and engaging with each other. Fortunately, Student Life at Montgomery College has successfully managed to keep us in touch and involved with each other as well as with our community.

The Student Senate in collaboration with the Institute for Race, Justice, and Civic Engagement (IRJC), organized the 5th edition of the book club on February 24th on the book Unbought and Unbossed by Shirley Chisholm. The story of this book illustrates the idea of Black History Month as well as Women’s History Month. This fifth and first online book club reunion was a complete success. In fact, due to the important number of registrations for the event, Student Senate had to increase the number of free books from 20 to 30. The high demand for books can be explained by the book chosen for this fifth session

The book Unbought and Unbossed tells the story of Shirley Anita Chisholm who was the first African American Congresswoman in 1968. Born in 1924 in Brooklyn, Chislom was living with her parents until she and her two sisters were sent away to Barbados to live with their maternal grandmother, Emaline Seale. She was only five years old when she moved with her siblings. However, the influence of her grandmother as well as the example of the Barbaros workers fighting for their rights helped her become a strong and confident young woman.

As a result, when she returned to the United States in 1934, she was involved in a lot of activism clubs as well as activities such as the Harriet Tubman Society or courses focused on African American history. She also fights for the involvement of women in the student government at Brooklyn College in 1946. After graduating, Chisholm entered the world of politics in 1953 while joining the effort of Wesley Holder to elect the first black judge in Brooklyn Lewis Flagg Jr. In 1960, she joined the Unity Democratic Club (UDC) led by Thomas R. Jones. With her support, Jones won the election for an assembly seat two years later, becoming Brooklyn’s second black assembly member.

In 1968, Chisholm ran for the US House of Representatives from New York’s 12th congressional district. Her campaign slogan was “Unbought and Unbossed.” In the June 18, 1968 Democratic primary, Chisholm won the election against James Farmer, former director of Congress of Racial Equality, thus becoming the first African American woman in the Congress. She played a key role in the creation of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). Chisholm affirmed that during her New York legislative career, she faced a subsequent amount of discrimination more related to her being a woman than her being African American. That is why she hired only women for her office.

In 1972, she became the first woman to ever run for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination. She had to face a lot of difficulties such as discrimination towards the fact that she is a woman, constant insecurity, and insufficient funds. However, she did not give up. Even though she lost, she became the first woman to appear in a US presidential debate.

Even after she retired from Congress in 1982, she continued giving speeches at colleges teaching them tolerance and unity and being politically involved. In 1990, along with 15 other black women created the African American Women for Reproductive Freedom. In 1993, she was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame. She died on January 1, 2005, at 80 years old. The legacy of Chisholm will always remain, and she had such a significant impact that after her death, she was issued the Presidential Medal of Freedom by former President Barack Obama in 2015.

To achieve such success at this session, the Student Senate acquire the help of the IRJC’s director, Dr. Vincent Intondi, a specialist in African American history who picked a terrific book for this first online session. During the session, the students share their thoughts and opinions about the book. “It is a real eye-opening event,” said Student Senate Vice-President Madison Oswald. “Students have a fantastic opportunity to open their mind to different points of views and to be aware of diverse backgrounds.” Seeing the success of this event, the Student Senate is planning on another one sooner for the joy of all the participants. “We are thinking about doing another one sooner than usual to encourage more people to participate in this challenging time” concluded the Student Senate Vice-President.