03/13/2014 05:22 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

The Women Who Keep the Good Going


I love that March marks Women's History Month, and that each year at about the same time, spring awakens me to what's new. I am also reminded of the blessings of old and of what I've received thanks to the many women who've come before me.

There are many women, many blessings. Some are everyday women while others are historical figures, but all motivate me to keep pushing forward, to bravely work for change. For example, at one event, I was honored to receive an award from Farmers Insurance, and the presenter compared me to Harriet Tubman.

I could not have been more flattered and humbled. He went on to explain that, like Tubman, I didn't just run off to the best therapies and treatments in town after I discovered my son had autism. Instead, I returned to a community in Los Angeles that was reminiscent of the place where I grew up and began to help other families get the care and services they needed for their autistic children.

The women we honor this month, including Harriet Tubman, are my role models because they have, as Maya Angelou describes it, "already paid for me." Women like the brave and courageous Rosa Parks, who understood the idea of paying it forward. The people who'd paved her way were on her mind when she quietly refused to give up her seat to a white man on a Montgomery city bus: "When I made that decision," she said later. "I knew that I had the strength of my ancestors with me." Known as the first lady of the Civil Rights Movement, Rosa remained seated not because she was tired but because, as she said in her autobiography, "I was tired of giving up."

I started my nonprofit, Special Needs Network, because I, too, was tired of giving up. I became an advocate for children and followed Rosa's example of doing what's right for those who can't because I was tired of the inequalities in and barriers to care for autistic children of color, tired of seeing other moms and parents like me defeated by a system that didn't take them into account.

The women we honor this month have ensured that we are all taken into account, that we all matter. Maya Angelou is another of my female heroes, one who has helped a new generation of women, particularly women of color, be free in loving themselves for who and what they are. Her poetry reminds us that as woman of color, our curves, kinky hair and thick lips are indeed beautiful and beyond -- they are a part of what make us all phenomenal women.

The inclusivity of Maya's accepting embrace, and that of all the women who helped get us where we are today, is what Women's History Month is all about. It's the perfect time to reflect on how can we keep the good going. "You've been paid for by people who never even saw your face. Your mother's mother, your father's father," said Maya. "And so it behooves you to prepare yourself so you can pay for someone else yet to come. Whose name you'll never know. You just keep the good thing going."