When February rolled around and with it, Black History Month, historic names absolutely came to mind—Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, Angela Davis, among many. But instead of this being another history lesson, I wanted to focus on the present-day actions of amazing women making a difference in today’s world. By no means am I diminishing the countless contributions of phenomenal women in the past, but it’s easy to feel that greatness is out of reach when only concentrating on past actions. Having a more tangible, recent example shows the next generation that courage in the face of adversity is not only for the history books.
In starting to make a list of the women I wanted to feature, I soon realized that I’d need to write a dissertation just to chronicle them all (hello strong women!!) So instead of writing you a novel, I’ve listed a few that I think exemplify the indomitable strength, courage and resilience that every little African-American girl should know.
Tarana Burke – Founder, #MeToo Movement
“Me Too was just two words; it’s two magic words that galvanized the world.” – Tarana Burke.
Prior to 2017, Tarana Burke was quietly, but effectively organizing resources and aid for survivors of sexual abuse. She had dedicated her time and efforts to being a support system for women who might have never shared their stories. However, all of this quickly changed when a well-known actress started the hashtag #MeToo in response to the large number of women coming forward about their sexually abusive experiences. Thrust into the spotlight, Tarana poignantly stated, “People have these pervasive misconceptions that this movement is about taking down powerful men.” In clarifying what #MeToo actually stands for, she emphasized that it’s about being heard, creating a community of support and reminding survivors they are not alone.
In her role in Orange is the New Black, Laverne Cox has both made a name for herself in Hollywood, as well as in the LGBTQ Community. A two-time Emmy-nominated actress and documentary film producer, Laverne is a staunch supporter of equal rights for all people and, in 2014, was named one of the Top 50 Trans Icons by the Huffington Post, as well as being honored with the Courage Award from the Anti-Violence Project. She is one of The Grio’s 100 Most Influential African Americans and received the Reader’s Choice Award from “Out” Magazine for her dedication in lending her platform to those that have none. She was once quoted as saying, “We are born as who we are, the gender thing is something that is imposed on you.”
Antoinette Harris – Football Trailblazer
Super Bowl LIII just got some Black Girl Magic! Antoinette (Toni) Harris, the first female to play a non-kicker position on any college football team, has been tapped by Toyota to tell her story. Hailing from Detroit, Michigan, Toni has had to struggle to play the game she loves so much. However, at age 22, she received a full athletic scholarship to East Los Angeles College to do just that! Her story resonated with the RAV4 Hybrid Team so much they decided to feature her struggle turned triumph alongside the release of the new vehicle. By comparing its size and how many underestimate its’ strength, Toni’s story shines even more brightly. Her dreams of one day being the first woman to play in the NFL just got a whole lot more real.
Now you know I couldn’t write this feature without looking at the groundbreaking triumphs of our political sisters, right?! Beginning in January 2019, the largest class of African American Women will take their place in Halls of Congress.
Ayanna Pressley – Congresswoman, Massachusetts
It’s not often that you see a politician, from either party, go straight from City Council to Congress. Ayanna Pressley did just that when she beat the 10-term incumbent congressman in 2018. Wait, take that in….. 10-term incumbent. Whew! Running on the premise of “challenging conventional narratives about who should have a seat at the table,” Pressley isn’t afraid to put her past and family difficulties on the front street (girl we all have them). She doesn’t shy away from tough conversations and recognizes that the face of representation needs to change in order for the outcome to change. Preach!
Stacey Abrams – 2019 Candidate for Governor of Georgia
By no means am I a politico, but you have to have been on a desert island over the past few months not to have heard of Stacy Abrams. A former Democratic House leader, who became the first woman of color to hold that distinction, challenged Republican Brian Kemp for the open governor’s seat. Doubted from the second she announced her candidacy, Stacey surprised them all when she won the Democratic primary by 56 points and went on to rally the state to receive more votes than any previously campaigning Democratic. Although she didn’t secure the governor’s seat, Stacey continues to make her mark in politics—and daytime TV (Oprah anyone?)—and is adamant you will see her name on a ballot very soon. To further prove how far her message has reached, she has recently been tapped to deliver the Democratic response to the President’s State of the Union address.
There are so many more great voices, narratives, trailblazers and all around remarkable women that I couldn’t possibly list them all. However, all of these women continue to inspire us, lead us and open our eyes to different points of view that reach far beyond the month of February. I am proud to have written a snippet of their story and am super-duper excited (yes I said it) to see how they change the world!!
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