The Third Reconstruction: Pan African women are rising again!


By Rev. Dr. Angelique Walker-Smith

Her children rise up and bless her …. Nations will come to your light, And kings to the brightness of your rising. Proverbs 31:28 and Isaiah 60:3

In their 2016 book, The Third Reconstruction: How a Moral Movement Is Overcoming the Politics of Division and Fear, Rev. Dr. William Barber and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove argue that the first reconstruction period was in the late 19th century and the second one was the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and 1960s. They write that we are in the “embryonic Third Reconstruction in America, where there is a profoundly moral awakening of justice-loving people united in a fusion coalition powerful enough to reclaim the possibility of democracy.” Similarly, Dr. Ibram X. Kendi argues in Time magazine that we are now living during a “Black Renaissance.”

A key factor in discerning the merits of these claims is the visible rise of Pan African women, nationally and globally. While Pan African women have always risen to leadership, the dominant narrative has often overlooked or marginalized this truth. Consider the earliest Queens in Egypt and Ethiopia, African women who led dynasties. They are identified in the Bible and by historians—and yet, the Church and Christian history has not had equitable regard for these “her-stories.”

This disregard remains stubbornly entrenched globally and in the United States, even after the reconstruction periods of the 19th century and the 20th century—and despite the significant contributions of women like Rev. Jarena Lee and Ms. Fannie Lou Hammer, who were advocates for food equity and Black gender equity. Women like Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti and Mabel Dove-Danquah had important roles in Black liberation movements in Africa, but they are also often overlooked.

But these narratives of Pan African women are becoming more visible, in great part because of the demands and victories of women today. I am thinking of the accomplishments of people like Stacy Abrams and the women who fired up the Black Lives Matter movement, Alicia Garza, Opal Tometi, and Patrice Cullors. All four of these great women have been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Their leadership demonstrates the power of this transformative moment. They have helped usher in a third reconstruction moment and a Black Renaissance. Women like these, along with other emerging leaders of all ages, have raised the consciousness of their nation and have contributed to the election of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris. The global scene mirrors this moment with the appointment of people like Dr. Nig Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who serves as the first woman and first African president of the World Trade Organization.

People in positions like these can help move the many women who are smallholder farmers in the global South to a stronger position of economic strength—to help them feed their families and their nations. Bread for the World has helped to lead on policies like Feed the Future, the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), and the African Women’s Entrepreneurship Program (AWEP), which are important for empowering women.

Today, the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 is vital for women’s empowerment, nationally and globally. During this International Women’s Month, won’t you advocate with Bread for the World to advance this mission?

Angelique Walker-Smith is senior associate for Pan African and Orthodox Church Engagement at Bread for the World.


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