Crown Heights, Brooklyn native Susan Smith McKinney Steward was the first African American woman to earn a medical doctorate in New York, and the third in the United States. She ran a private practice, co-founded the Brooklyn Women’s Homeopathic Hospital and Dispensary, and presented her paper “Colored American Women” at the 1911 Universal Races Conference in London. Looking back, one could say this conference was an early attempt at practicing anti-racism, yet it’s amazing to even scan the table of contents and preface of the published papers presented at the conference. While it is difficult to get past the idea that these discussions were steeped in a general knowledge and acceptance that race was a scientific phenomenon rather than a social construct, the members of the congress intended to solve their “issues” and strive for equality regardless. I’m still not convinced that this conference is something to celebrate (afterall, who organized it and who benefited from it truly in the end?), but these organizing efforts also inspire and require self-reflection, particularly when we tend to practice organizing tactics in our own silos and in the cyber-sphere.
Still it remains, Susan was awesome, and we love her :)