A Tradition That Has No Name: Nurturing the Development of People, Families, and Communities

By Mary Field Belenky; Lynne A. Bond et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 11
PASSING THE TRADITION ON

That which touches me most
Is that I had a chance to work with people
Passing on to others
That which was passed to me
.

"ELLA [BAKER]'S SONG"

BY BERNICE JOHNSON REAGON ( GRANT, 1986)

A leadership tradition rooted in maternal practice and maternal thinking has gone unnamed, just as women's traditional work has been uncounted when governments assess a nation's wealth ( Waring, 1988).Whereas developmentally focused leadership is seldom acknowledged, models of leadership organized around paternal metaphors and practices have been meticulously described throughout all of recorded history. Mary Helen Washington, a scholar who has played a key role in revealing the literary traditions of black women, helps us understand why a tradition would have no name and why a people's contribution would not be counted:

The creation of [a] tradition is a matter of power, not justice, and that power has always been in the hands of men--mostly white but some black. Women are disinherited. Our "ritual journeys," our "articulate voices," our "symbolic spaces" are rarely the same as men's. . . . The appropriation by men of power to define tradition accounts for women's absence from our records. ( 1990, p. 32)

We put it more boldly. Whenever people are cast as Other, they are largely unseen and unheard. The language used to describe them and their contributions is apt to be impoverished, inaccurate, and demeaning.

When a tradition has no name people will not have a rich shared

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