Unbought And Unbossed by Shirley Chisholm
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Though the term has been carelessly tossed around over the past couple years, Shirley Chisholm embodied the definition of "political outsider". A regular, Black woman schoolteacher from Brooklyn, Chisholm knew that her very presence ran counter to the political agendas within both New York & national politics, but she gathered the guts to take them to task anyways. Chisholm understood how to run a real grassroots political campaign, standing firm in her decision to be a voice for the most disenfranchised, even when - no, *especially* when it meant possible political suicide. With a keen and knowing eye, Shirley studied the ways of local and national politics in order to work both within and around their confines, to do as much work for her people as possible.
Unbought & Unbossed is quite honestly a timeless read. Shirley Chisholm's struggles in Washington under the Nixon administration provides a blueprint for working within politics today. It conjures up the old adage: the more things change, the more they stay the same. And there is much to be learned from a true political outsider's foray into the mouth of an old and unyielding political beast. Chisholm is brutally honest about the shortcomings of American politics, from the unwillingness of the old guard to yield power, to the carelessness and nauseating misbehaviors of so-called representatives in Congress. Chisholm identifies and calls out the Old Boy's club for what it is, and makes it clear that true change will come not from our local govts or Washington, but from the collective efforts of grassroots movements made up of a coalition of the disenfranchised.
It's a shame how little we discuss Shirley Chisholm's brave and tenacious political career; I admit that I didn't know much more about her than her given moniker of "first woman to run for President". It's a shame - and a testament to the strength of this nation's enduring sociopolitical structure - because that is precisely how she did *not* want to be remembered. I urge everyone to read her own words and take the time to know Shirley Chisholm the woman, the Black woman, the citizen, the insistent voice of the downtrodden and discarded. For sure, you'll find more bravery within these pages than can be found in most political spaces today. Shirley Chisholm, an underacknowledged catalyst for change, is a true unsung American hero whose use of agency, tenacity and determined, progressive action should serve as an inspiration for us all.
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Niv Mullings is a writer, poet, and plant-based health coach hailing from The Boogie Down Bronx.