I recently came across a book called “Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History” written by Vashti Harrison. It’s a beautifully illustrated children’s book about 40 trailblazing black women in American history. It covers both iconic and lesser known pioneers such as abolitionist Sojourner Truth, pilot Bessie Coleman and mathematician Katherine Johnson. Amazing stories! It got me thinking… I’ve always wanted to write a children’s book. What if I wrote a similar book but on African women?? What would it look like? Who are some of the characters/legends that would be featured? In this blog, I present you with a teaser of my future bestselling children’s book: Legends of the African Sun.
Some may say legends are extraordinary human beings who achieve great things. Others say legends are ordinary human beings who achieve great things. I say legends are who are they are because they rise up, speak up, and dare to be different. Long after they are gone, we still talk about them. The African women presented here are legends. Some are long gone; others are living legends. Some, like the Disney character, Mulan, are like superheroes who have literally led battles. Here are the first 5 of many legends of the African sun.
Yaa Asentewaa of Ashanti
We enjoy so many freedoms today and this is because some brave men and women fought very hard for them. One of these brave women was a young Queen called Yaa Asantewaa from the Ashanti region in Ghana. When her king was banished to another country by the British colonialists, she was outraged and offered to lead a battle for the return of the king. She fought bravely for months but the British had far more soldiers and eventiually captured her. Her bravery was rewarded when the King was allowed back in the country. Sadly, she was not alive to see the King returned. Her battle is the last known one to be led by an African woman.
Caster Semenya of Limpopo
An exceptional middle distance runner and 2016 Olympic gold medalist, Caster Semenya is a modern day living legend. There are many great athletes from the African continent but Caster stands out because her talent was never enough. She had to go through a publicly humiliating process to determine whether she is male or female because of the way she looked. She handled the ridicule with courage and never considered changing anything about her to fit society’s ideals. Caster is a role model for every little girl ridiculed for how she looks. She is still in her 20s and even though she is already legendary, she has a long life ahead of her to showcase her amazing talent and poise.
Queen Amina of Zaria
Born around 1533, she became a Queen in Zaria (then Zazzau), Northern Nigeria, at the tender age of 16. She embodies the definition of a warrior queen. She reigned for 34 years all the while leading an army of 20,000 soldiers to expand her territory. She never married nor had children. Her legacy lies in her sheer power and her ability to create wealth for her people and protect them. It is said that some of the protective walls she built around her people as she expanded her territory still exist today. She is widely celebrated especially among the Hausa people as a warrior queen.
Wangari Maathai of Nyeri
Born and raised in Nyeri, Kenya, Wangari Maathai is a dedicated environmentalist and the founder of a movement which encouraged women to plant trees. 20 million trees have been planted by women in Kenya because of Wangari Maathai. When she obtained her doctorate degree in 1971, she was the first woman in East and Central Africa to obtain a doctorate. Having this prestigious degree did not change her love for planting and getting her hands dirty. She won the Nobel Peace Prize for her caring so deeply about the environment and for being a champion of women’s rights.
Dambisa Moyo of Lusaka
About 10 years ago, a young lady from Lusaka, Zambia, said something powerful and the world took notice. She said that when rich countries give charity in the form of money to poor countries, it only makes the poor countries poorer. This was very unsettling because poor countries did not have enough money to buy books for schools or medicines for hospitals. So, this money was needed… or so we thought. But Dambisa Moyo had been thinking about these issues for a long time. She argued that if the charity stopped, poor countries find creative and better ways to solve their own problems. She has been given awards for being a thinker and an influencer. She reminds us that one’s voice is the most powerful instrument we have and we must take every opportunity to use it.
Folks, this is potentially the start of a project which will need a good amount of research and some cool illustrations. We owe it to ourselves and our kids to take control of our narratives. I happily invite contributors (who will be duly acknowledged) to submit stories of African legends to me and I will compile them and seek out a publisher. My hope is not only to document our history but inspire our kids to be daring… to be legendary. Let’s do this thing!
Peace and love
The photos are illustrations sourced from Pinterest (black art)