Recently, the Women’s Association of NJPAC’s Cultural Legacy Committee with the Newark History Society hosted a lecture at NJPAC, “Open up the Door, I’ll Let Myself In – Migration Stories of African-American Women” by Linda Caldwell Epps. 

Men, women and children filled the room. We listened as Mrs.Epps eloquently spoke powerful reminders and important words like “The 13th Amendment”.  Her talk was a journey through a Jim Crow South and migration to a not so different North. It was hard to hear at times. At one point, she made the statement that we went from “slavery to Jim Crow to ghettoization to mass incarceration.” I immediately thought of hip hop.

Linda Caldwell Epps speaks to a fully captivated audience


It wasn’t about “started from the bottom now we here” so much as WE are the bottom. We were as bottom as it got. But the question, “Where are we going from here?” was always on these women’s minds. 

I honored my ancestors sitting on that chair. Despite the struggle, they made it . They made it to Newark where the opportunity was. They made life possible. They did stuff! If something didn’t work, they did something else.

What I learned is that against all odds many of the wonderful black women Mrs. Epps highlighted accomplished their goals and dreams. They kept pushing. They kept fighting . They fought through lynchings. They fought through never getting out of debt, without full rights.  They dealt with racism and a myriad of issues with strength, cunning,intelligence,dignity and compassion. And if they can do it, I can too! 

I really appreciated my evening at NJPAC. Thank you Women’s Association. I left super inspired. I still am.