[Image: An illustration of Amina of Zaria, a Black woman wearing traditional Zarian clothing. in the background is a picture of her on a black horse, raising a sword and charging into battle.]
Amina of Zaria.
Amina was born around 1533 in Zaria, a province of today’s Nigeria. She was the daughter of Bakwa of Turunku. Their family’s wealth was derived from the trade of leather goods, cloth, kola, salt, horses and imported metals.
When Bakwa died in 1566, the crown of Zazzua passed to Amina’s younger brother, Karama. Their sister, Zaria, fled the region and little is known about her.
Although Bakwa’s reign was known for peace and prosperity, Amina chose to hone her military skills from the warriors of the Zazzau military. As a result, she emerged as leader of the Zazzua cavalry. Many accolades, great wealth, and increased power resulted from her numerous military achievements.
When her brother Karama died after a ten-year rule, Amina had matured into a fierce warrior and had earned the respect of the Zazzau military and she assumed the reign of the kingdom.
Amina led her first military charge a few months after assuming power. For the rest of her 34 year reign, she continued to fight and expand her kingdom to the greatest in history. The objective for initiating so many battles was to make neighbouring rulers her vassal and permit her traders safe passage. In this way, she boosted her kingdom’s wealth and power with gold, slaves, and new crops. Because her people were talented metal workers, Amina introduced metal armor, including iron helmets and chain mail, to her army.
To her credit, she fortified each of her military camps with an earthen wall. Later, towns and villages sprung up within these protective barriers. The walls became known as Amina’s Walls and many of them remain in existence to this day.
According to legend, Amina refused to marry and never bore children. Instead, she took a temporary husband from the legions of vanquished foes after every battle. After spending one night together, she would condemn him death in the morning in order to prevent him from ever speaking about his sexual encounter with the queen.
Legend also decrees she died during a military campaign at Atagara near Bida in Nigeria. Her exploits earned her the moniker Amina, daughter of Nikatau, a woman as capable as a man. Her legendary escapades made her the model for the television series Xena Warrior Princess. Today, her memory represents the spirit and strength of womanhood.
So. Wait a second. WHY THE HELL WAS XENA WHITE, EXACTLY, if she was based on a BLACK QUEEN?
Lucecita (Luz Esther Benítez) - musician and activist.
Lucecita was blacklisted from Puerto Rican television during the early 1970s for her refusal to whiten her appearance and for her support of revolutionary movements in Puerto Rico and Cuba (many Puerto Rican television stations were owned and staffed primarily by white cuban exiles). In response to the harsh criticism she drew due to her adoption of what was referred to by the Puerto Rican press as ‘the African look’, Lucecita released songs that rejected eurocentrism and celebrated the African heritage of Puerto Rico. She also transgressed gendered boundaries by performing in ‘masculine’ outfits, such as suits and tuxedos, which were traditionally never worn by women on stage. In addition to her outfits, Lucecita often used masculine adjectives in her songs and interviews, sometimes interchanging between masculine and feminine. The catholic church and homophobia were also targets of Lucecita, both of which she openly criticized throughout the 1970s.
Trigger warning: talk of rape.
Phoolan Devi - From Bandit Queen to Parliament
Phoolan Devi, who was murdered in 2001, was one of India’s most famous outlaws.
She was born to a poor family in northern India. She was forced to marry at the age of 11 to a man three times her age who later abandoned her and their children. By the time she was twenty, she had been the victim of a number of sexual assaults. She turned to a life of crime and took a bandit-lover.
She eventually became a leader of a band of robbers (dacoits). Together, they orchestrated a number of robberies in Northern and Central India. Rumor suggests she was a sort of Robin Hood, targeting high-caste families and distributing the booty to the less fortunate. The Indian authorities insist this is a mere myth.
The most remembered incident took place in 1981 when Phoolan Devi’s band of dacoits entered a small village, intending to carry out a robbery. She recognized two men who had sexually abused her and killed her lover. She took her revenge by ordering her gang to open fire, and they shot and killed 22 men.
The press claimed this was the bloodiest massacre by bandits in Indian history. A huge manhunt resulted, but Phoolan Devi constantly outwitted her pursuers. However, the hunt took its toll. With most of her band dead, she surrendered in 1983. She spent the next eleven years in prison.
When she was released, she claimed she was a new woman. She was elected to the Indian Parliament where she tried to establish a reputation as a champion of the poor and oppressed in India.
She was murdered in 2001, but remains a renowned figure in Indian history.