Legendary Ladies: 7 Lessons on Rebellion to Ignite the Rebel Woman Within

By Chanté Dyson. Photography by Deun Ivory. 

“Can’t nobody fly with all that sh*t. Wanna fly, you got to give up the sh*t that weighs you down”

—Toni Morrison, Song of Solomon

During her reign as First Lady of The United States, Michelle Obama stated in an interview that she truly fell in love with reading for pleasure after becoming fully engulfed in the whimsical writing of legendary author Toni Morrison. Reading is one of my most sacred self care practices. There is nothing more intimate than a cozy escape into the words of the past, present, and future. With everything going on today, I like to periodically reflect on the wisdom of some of the most accredited writers in Black women’s literature. To be able to have a personal conversation with the mind of an Oprah Winfrey or even an Angela Davis is a precious gift, and can really be useful to the critical conversations of today.

The seven quotes below are lessons on self-love, service, art, feminism and more. They are words that remind me who I am and the legendary voices that support my growth both internally and externally. My hope is that they do the same for you!

Here are 7 Quotes to Ignite The Rebel Women Within:

“I've come to believe that each of us has a personal calling that's as unique as a fingerprint - and that the best way to succeed is to discover what you love and then find a way to offer it to others in the form of service, working hard, and also allowing the energy of the universe to lead you.”— Oprah Winfrey, What I Know For Sure

Oprah is one of the most successful and inspirational Black women in the world, with a platform that has touched the lives and homes of so many. The key component of her success is that she uses her platform to serve communities at large. That is how she is able to deliver her best work. We all can lead fulfilling lives by choosing to lead within our respective fields and operating within the principle of being a service to all.

“Dogs are my favorite role models. I want to work like a dog, doing what I was born to do with joy and purpose. I want to play like a dog, with total, jolly abandon. I want to love like a dog, with unabashed devotion and complete lack of concern about what people do for a living, how much money they have, or how much they weigh. The fact that we still live with dogs, even when we don't have to herd or hunt our dinner, gives me hope for humans and canines alike.”

—Oprah Winfrey, What I Know For Sure

Oprah’s words are so good that she’s featured here twice. To live a proud life with joy seems like the key to fulfillment and wellness. The amazing thing that we can learn about dogs is that they express themselves with joy and devotion. It’s so important to be happy and proud of the lives we are creating for ourselves, so we must hold ourselves responsible for being the artist of a beautifully crafted and intentional life.

“The power of a free mind consists of trusting your own mind to ask the questions that need to be asked and your own capacity to figure out the strategies you need to get those questions answered. Over time, this requires building communities that make this kind of intellectual and political work possible.”

—Patricia Hill Collins, On Intellectual Activism

True freedom requires having both a critical and curious mind. Meditation is an amazing way to incorporate mindfulness into our personal rebellions in life. Constructing an intentional life requires teamwork and building a network of other rebel women and men that can uplift each other to reach our greatest heights.

“And then we do a much greater disservice to girls, because we raise them to cater to the fragile egos of males. We teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller. We say to girls: You can have ambition, but not too much. You should aim to be successful but not too successful, otherwise you will threaten the man. If you are the breadwinner in your relationship with a man, pretend that you are not, especially in public, otherwise you will emasculate him.”

—Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, We Should All Be Feminists

Adichie’s incredible Ted Talk shined a light on one of the most influential women writers from the African diaspora. In our communities, there is often a complicated relationship between our intersectional human rights' battles, and Chimamanda does an amazing job at showing us why it is important to embrace feminism as a true means towards reaching equality. We need voices from women like Chimamanda to continue to speak out about key issues from the perspective of often hidden voices.

“Progressive art can assist people to learn not only about the objective forces at work in the society in which they live, but also about the intensity social character of their interior lives. Ultimately, it can propel people toward social emancipation”

—Angela Davis, Women Culture & Politics

We are all artists. Here at Black Girl In Om, we prioritize using our platform to do the important work of emancipating the minds of women of color, by providing them with the tools that they need to breathe easier. Angela Davis speaking on the importance of progressive art fuels our passion for expressing our creativity in an effort to do social good.

“As a black woman interested in feminist movement, I am often asked whether being black is more important than being a woman; whether feminist struggle to end sexist oppression is more important than the struggle to racism or vice versa. All such questions are rooted in competitive either/or thinking, the belief that the self is formed in opposition to another...Most people are socialized to think in terms of opposition rather than compatibility. Rather than seeing anti-racist work as totally compatible with working to end sexist oppression, they often see them as two movements competing for first place.”

—Bell Hooks, The Feminist Theory: From Margin To Center

We are programmed to view the entities of the world as operating in separation to each other. The more we navigate ourselves towards embracing oneness and the relativity in all things, we can do our greatest good and touch the lives of so many more people.

“She didn't read books so she didn't know that she was the world and the heavens boiled down to a drop.” 

—Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God

Never forget the importance in words and healing. Continue to amplify the words of some of the most intelligent and articulate progressive voice, the legendary ladies, in our communities. They remind us who we are, they are a reflection of glorious rebellion. I encourage you all to take time to indulge in some great minds today.

Who are some of your favorite legendary voices that ignite you? Share below!

Originally born in Washington DC, Chante’ Dyson is now a graduating senior from Rutgers University in New Jersey majoring in Communication and Digital Media. Chante’ is passionate about women’s empowerment and believes that the work of BGIO will positively uplift, inspire, and raise the consciousness of her sisters globally. Her self-care go to is reading nonfiction and self help books (She also loves exercise and the Headspace app).