I grew up inside of my mother’s small catering company which she ran from our home for the first many years of my life. After school, my sister and I would ditch our lunch boxes and run back into the kitchen where we’d bargain for long white rubber spatulas dripping with chocolate brownie batter as a snack. We perched on top of sticky wooden stools to watch the hustle and bustle of our kitchen; large knives and practiced hands making quick work of towers of romaine lettuces and the loud crinkle of aluminum foil stretched across enough lasagna to feed 50 people. Both inside and outside of the kitchen, my mother and the legions of strong women who she worked with were a huge part of my formation.
Strong women who get things done continue to be my truest inspiration, my endless well of hope.
From Linda Sarsour and Alicia Garza to Rachel Carson and Ella Baker, I’ve been reflecting on the women, past and present, who light up the world with the ways in which they give their 100% to a world that is more inclusive, more collaborative, better fed, and truly just.
In the sprit of my mother’s work and as Women’s History Month draws to a close, I’ve been dreaming up dinner parties of women who are part of our incredible history who I would have loved to break bread with, scheme with, and just rub up against their brilliance. Although this list could be endless, I’m going to cap it at six so I’d really have time to talk with everyone.
What incredible historic women would you gather around your table?
I’d be deeply and profoundly happy to listen to Audre Lorde talk about just about anything until the end of days. Poet, prophet, and phenomenal activist, Audre Lorde brought searing insights and real emotion to conversations and conflicts around gender, race, class, and sexuality. Read more about her here.
When I think about courage being an act of the heart, I think about Berta Cáceres. A fierce indigenous organizer and protector of the forests and rivers of Honduras, Berta Cáceres was gunned down in her home last year because of the work she did to fight for what she loved. Learn more about Berta Cáceres here.
I’m a lover of the written word and Rachel Carson did some amazing things with hers. This badass marine-biologist turned toxic-crusader wrote Silent Spring and in doing so rang the alarm bell that connected the dots between the epic amounts of chemicals we were injecting into our communities and the environmental and health havoc it created. Learn about Rachel Carson’s life and legacy here.
I have a lot of questions for Ella Baker, but the one that comes to me most often is how it was possible to organize the Civil Rights Movement before the invention of Google Docs? This powerhouse of a woman played a critical behind-the-scenes role in the Civil Rights Movement and played role in the creation of both the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Talk about a woman who gets things done! Read more about Ella Baker and what her legacy continues to inspire today here.
Grace Lee Boggs
Grace Lee Boggs was a legend. A woman who seemed to speak in profoundly quotable sentences, she brought deep love a life dedicated to community organizing during her 100 years on this planet. How can you not love a woman who writes that “Building community is to the collective as spiritual practice is to the individual?” Learn more about Grace Lee Boggs here.
Frida Kahlo’s renegade spirit and work is a testament to the power of turning profound pain into something beautiful. I know I for one could certainly stand to get some more insight into how that process works! The Mexican painter created a phenomenal body of work that is now iconic. And on a lighter note, can you imagine her #styletips? Read up on Frida Kahlo here.
Allison Cook is Director of Engagement at The Solutions Project. Follow her on Twitter @allisonsarah.