Our Matron Saints

Each member of the Caste Action Alliance chooses a Matron Saint.  A Matron Saint is an African American (black) woman (living or deceased) whom we admire and respect as a social justice and civil rights activist. Through our study and research of her, we choose three of her qualities that stand out as ones we want to emulate. Of these three, we select one quality that we most identify with and can go to as an example of strength, persistence, courage, and support “when the going gets tough.”  Some examples are Ida B. Wells, Mary McLeod Bethune, Marian Robinson, Stacy Abrams, Maya Angelou, Shirley Chisholm. Faith Ringgold, Odetta Holmes. and Barbara Jordan. 

An McDowell creates each of these ‘quilts with a purpose’ as folks identify their Matron Saint.  She likes being able to create a physical object to remind folks how they are inspired by each individual.  The quilts are also great conversation starters which is one of the goals of the group.  An feels she is uplifting and publically honoring each person through the creation of her art which she finds so enjoyable to create.  

The members of the Caste Action Alliance (CAA): Rising Up for Social and Restorative Justice are raising funds to provide scholarships for Black youth in America, stemming from intergenerational and systemic inequities. An McDowell contributes by making small (20” x 24” or smaller) quilt wall hangings featuring admired African American figures. You can find samples on this page. 

An McDowell is ready to collaborate with you in selecting an image and fabrics to create a custom small quilt that includes an African American person you admire.  An will make you a small (20” x 24” or smaller) quilt wall hangings featuring admired African American figures.  Please email An directly at anmcd311@gmail.com.

Instead of paying for the quilt, please show your gratitude by donating to the Caste Action Alliance Scholarship Fund. Your contribution will directly support the pursuit of higher education for descendants of enslaved African Americans, fostering positive change and breaking the cycle of historical injustice. Together, let’s empower future generations through the transformative impact of education.

~ Angela Davis selected by Suzanne Sammon.


~ Faith Ringgold selected by Eva Martin.

Nina Simone is my Matron Saint. She was born Eunice Kathleen Waymon (February 21, 1933- April 21, 2003. I was most impressed by the authenticity and passion she exhibited in whatever she did.
Besides being a gifted singer, songwriter, and classically trained pianist, she was a civil rights activist. Her music was a powerful expression of her activism that began when she was twelve years old. Nina refused to play at her debut music recital unless her parents were allowed to sit in the front row. She got her way, which was unheard of during that time of our overtly racist and white supremacist society.
Lorraine Hansberry deeply influenced the expression of her racial consciousness. This was most profoundly displayed in her anthem “To Be Young, Gifted and Black”.  In her autobiography, she wrote this about her rendition of that song: “I wanted to sing a song that helped my people “.
Like Miss Simone, showing up as my most passionate authentic self is a major expression of my activism. Co-founding Caste Action Alliance is my “song” to help my people.

~ Nina Simone selected by Bry’Andi Brandon.

Shirley Chisholm is my Matron Saint.  As an elected here in Monterey County, I reflect back on how that inclination 
was established.
I remember specifically that my Father was an elected official and he planted the seed to run for office someday…and I remember when Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm ran for President of the United States of America it inspired me to want to be a community servant, an elected official serving the voiceless and those that feel unheard and unseen.  ~ Shirley Chisholm selected by Jacqueline C. Simon.

~ Maya Angelou selected by Tami Sojka.


Ida B. Wells is my matron saint. She was a pioneering activist and journalist who was born into slavery and then freed by the Emancipation Proclamation. I am inspired by her commitment to civil rights. She exposed the horrors of lynching and racial injustice, co-founded the NAACP, and tirelessly advocated for African-American equality as well as women’s rights. I admire her unwavering dedication, courage, and tenacity.  ~ Ida. B. Wells selected by Carie Broecker


~ President Barak Obama selected by Javier Menjivar-Mayo


Mary McLeod Bethune, the poor Black daughter of former slaves, overcame numerous obstacles to obtain an education, found Bethune College, co-found the United Negro College Fund, head voter registration drives, serve as vice president of the NAACP, become a trusted friend of Eleanor Roosevelt, and serve as an advisor to FDR.  She inspires me to work for quality education, civil rights, and responsive government.  ~ Mary McLeod Bethune selected by Sharon Miller


~ Michelle Obama selected by Joni Caldwell.


I chose Marion Robinson, Michelle Obama’s mother, as my matron saint as she is an example of the kind of grandmother I strive to be. She left her friends, moved from Chicago, and dedicated her life to her two granddaughters while they lived in the White House. She wanted them to have a normal life. I have always admired her decision and am trying my best to help out with my grandchildren. ~ Marion Robinson selected by Pam Bonsper.


~ Anita Chase selected by Shanny Brooks.

I’m uncertain whether my first exposure to Barbara Jordan was in 1974 during the Watergate hearings or in 1976 during her DNC keynote address, but it was a moment that left a profound mark on me. This champion of Civil Rights is celebrated as an inspirational figure, revered for her exceptional integrity, eloquence, and unwavering courage. I selected her as a role model because of her unyielding commitment to speaking truth to power, a trait I deeply admire. ~ Barbara Jordan selected by Anita Crawley.

~ Anita Chase selected by Shanny Brooks.

“When you have a platform, you must use it to speak your truth.” ~ John Carlos