Today Maxine Waters, the no-nonsense California representative Black women affectionately refer to as auntie Maxine, turns 79. Though she’s served the state of California since 1991, it’s in the past couple of years that Rep. Waters has come to represent more than a Black female face — the most senior of 12 — serving in the United States Congress. Waters represents unapologetic authority, the kind Black women in positions of power are rarely allowed or encouraged to exercise and have been starved of examples of for years. She represents hope for the voices that don’t have her reach but whose needs she carries at the forefront of her political duty. And, most importantly, she represents possibility, the chance that one day there will be more than a dozen Maxine Waters calling the political shots; thus, changing the dynamic of our entire country for the better.
But in order for that to happen, we must carry the lessons Waters has taught us over the years and personify the messages she has taught us about being angry, unintimidated, and reclaiming our time. Here are the top lessons she’s imparted.
“I have a right to my anger, and I don’t want anybody telling me I shouldn’t be, that it’s not nice to be, and that something’s wrong with me because I get angry.”
“I don’t care how big you are, I don’t care how high you are, if you come for me, I’m coming for you.”
“You cannot be successful and continue to be a victim.”
“I don’t try to think about how I can satisfy those who would criticize me, or plot and plan to work in ways that will not get criticism. I tend to follow what I really believe. If I believe in something strongly and I act on it, then whatever comes with that territory comes.”
“I am not afraid of anybody. This is a tough game. You can’t be intimidated. You can’t be frightened.”
“Black women are going to have to take more leadership. I think we are prepared because we bring a tenaciousness with us. We do not fear losing friends, allies, or jobs.”
“People should do what their heart and soul tells them to do.
“I understand that there are a lot of people in this country who don’t care about the problems of the inner city. We have to fight every day that we get up for every little thing that we get. And so I keep struggling.”
Being politically active
“First of all, I would tell any young woman who’s interested in politics to get in touch with herself first and really, really determine if this is what she wants to do – and not do it just because it may be the thing at the moment. What do you care about? What is it that moves you? What would you like to change? What would you do if you were in this situation?”