Sandra Clark, 58, Vice President of News and Civic Dialogue at WHYY
When I was pregnant, that’s one of those times when you’re reflecting on the future. I was hoping that I would have a daughter.
I was thinking, “What would I want her to be?” and “How could she impact the world?”
My husband is from Nigeria and we did the name game just like everyone else. I knew that she was somebody who was going to be headstrong. So we’d wake up and he’d give me a name and I said, “No.”
I would say, “I need something that’s really powerful.”
One day he woke up and he says, “Well, how about Moremi?” I said, “Oh.” It didn’t mean anything to me at the time.
It turns out that Queen Moremi was going all the way back to 12th Century Yoruba history.
Her father was a warrior. She ended up marrying the son at the head of the Yoruba kingdom and the tribe was under attack. She took it upon herself to come up with a way to save her people. She let herself get captured by the tribe that was attacking her.
[Editor’s note: Queen Moremi’s plan was to be taken to Igbo land so she could learn their secrets. Due to her beauty, she was given to the king as a slave. While there, she gained their trust and learned their weaknesses.]
While there, she discovered they were not gods, like the Yoruba had thought. They were human. Queen Moremi managed to escape. Then, she was back to her tribe [and shared what she had learned] and she eventually conquered them. So when my husband said, “Queen Moremi,” I’m thinking, here’s a person who was courageous, who like so many women understood so much outside herself and managed to save her people.
This Nigerian Queen to this day is revered. I think of how many women in history known and unknown were not necessarily revered in that time.
Now, they’ve erected this 43-foot statue of her that’s towering over the town. She changed the course of history for Yoruba people.
Twenty-two years later, I see Queen Moremi in Moremi every day. It's scary. It's really gratifying.
She’s very courageous. She wants to determine her own future. She doesn't want to be bound by what other people think or what society expects from her. Moremi can be both fierce and kind. She can think outside herself. It's not to say that when she wants something she doesn't go out and take it. She fights on behalf of other people and she helps people fight for themselves. It's great when she's talking to one of her friends and I hear her say, "I'm so proud of you."
The history of Black women is us supporting our families, being strong, brave and courageous. There’s a selflessness [about us] and sometimes this selflessness wears down Black women. Our history is lined with Black women, many of whom are unrecognized. Their names don't roll off anyone's tongues. We've always had all of those characteristics of Queen Moremi. And what I love is that in Nigeria, she is still revered. That matters.
It's about calling on your own Queen Moremi in yourself and understanding that there's a potential for empowerment in all of us. It’s about absorbing yourself sometimes, finding your independence, your voice and then acting on it. There's so much coming at all of us all the time, but there's a Queen Moremi in everybody, in every Black woman.
Sandra’s Revolutionary Picks:
“The history of Black women is us supporting our families, being strong, brave and courageous. There’s a selflessness [about us] and sometimes this selflessness wears down Black women. Our history is lined with Black women, many of whom are unrecognized. Their names don't roll off anyone's tongues. We've always had all of those characteristics of Queen Moremi.”