No one has quite figured out yet how to add to the 24 hours in a single day, but veteran community activist Faye Wilson Kennedy makes the most of the time she’s been given.
She brokers deals with local restaurants to feed the unhoused and she takes on officials for allowing toxic chemicals to be routed through communities of color. She’s also a lead organizer with Sacramento Poor People’s Campaign; immediate past chair of the Sacramento Area Black Caucus (SABC); co-founder of the Southeast Village Neighborhood Association, a founding member of the Black Parallel School Board; and serves as president of the Colonial Heights Friends of the Library. In her “spare” time, Ms. Kennedy explores her creative side, while preserving Black culture, as part of the local Sisters Quilting Collective.
For Ms. Kennedy, activism dates back to her high school years, when she was involved in student government at Sacramento’s John F. Kennedy High School. She joined the SABC in 1975, as a young student attending California State University, Sacramento. She’s still active with the leadership organization 46 years later.
She’s still at the work of social justice, she says, because the work remains.
“We struggle to end White supremacy. This form of oppression — White supremacy is a threat to our collective health and well-being,” she shared.
These days, Ms. Kennedy is heavily involved with the Sacramento Poor People’s Campaign and is among the first to roll up her sleeves, whether it’s fighting for the rights of the unhoused or showing Black residents how imperative it is for them to use their right to vote. She joined the campaign because of its focus on social justice and its fundamental principles, mainly its commitment to “lifting up and deepening the leadership of those most affected by systemic racism, poverty, the war economy, and ecological devastation and to building unity across lines of division.”
Ms. Kennedy points to the magic that happens when Black women have united for a shared cause or simply for the sake of sisterhood.
“Locally and nationally, we have outstanding groups and talented sisters changing things for the better and moving the nation and world forward with Black women’s power, intellect and beauty,” she said. “Black women formed the Women’s Civic Improvement Club based on our needs; we created local groups such as Sacramento Black Women’s Network, Black Women United, Sacramento Sister Circle, Sisters Quilting Collective, NCBW Sacramento – National Coalition of 100 Black Women-Sacramento Chapter, Sacramento Chapter, Sacramento Valley Section-National Council of Negro Women, The Birthing Project, Earth Mama Healing; Sojourner Truth Multicultural Art Museum; and Black women co-founded Black Parallel School Board, Black United Fund of Sacramento Valley; Greater Sacramento Urban League, Sacramento NAACP, etc.”
Ms. Kennedy is a strong believer in collaboration and is open to sharing her wealth of knowledge with others. She’s seen a new generation of activists emerge and feels there’s room for everyone.
“I enjoy listening, observing and learning from my younger peers and leaders,” Ms. Kennedy said.
“(We) need to create both formal and informal mentoring programs, discussions and interactions to engage each across generations,” she adds.
Even with all that Black women have accomplished and contributed, there is still a fight within the fight.
“Black women don’t get the respect, support, protection we deserve while leading the fight for change,” she admits.
“One only has to look at the nation’s long history of sexism and racism. Black women have been on the frontline of social justice issues for centuries and will continue,” she said.
She remains optimistic, that, like the old song says, “a change is gonna come.” That Black women will continue to lead the nation and engage locally on issues such as education, politics, environmental justice, health access and economic development, and others that “impact us.”
In her time serving in the community, Ms. Kennedy has seen a lot of organizations come and go. In order to weather the storms that come with the work, she says all activists and organizers must engage in self-care and, women leaders, specifically Black women leaders, must practice self-love.
Ms. Kennedy has learned, over the years, to acknowledge her “limitations” as an elder activist.
“I simply cannot attend five to six meetings, events or even Zoom calls,” she said.
By Genoa Barrow | OBSERVER Senior Staff Writer
The Sacramento OBSERVER introduces a special series, “Sistahs on the Frontlines,” acknowledging and highlighting the work that Black women are doing as “essential workers” on the frontlines, furthering the causes of the community. READ MORE