By Stephanie Younger •
Many institutions fail to educate Black History and Women’s History from the most marginalized voices in the Black community. Black women, girls and non-binary people are often discredited for our contributions to the feminist movement and the civil rights movement. Civil Rights is often centered around cisgender and heterosexual Black men, while mainstream feminism is often centered around cisgender and heterosexual white women. While many marginalized groups are already degraded for standing for their rights, Black women, girls and non-binary people are often systemically undermined and told that they should be remorseful of their voices when they speak out, which calls for intersectionality and womanism. I am grateful be part of a generation where Kimberle Crenshaw’s theory of intersectionality, Alice Walker’s definition of womanism and movements like Black Lives Matter can build a socially and politically just society.
Kimberlé Crenshaw (@KIMBERLECRENSHAW)
Intersectionality is a term that was first coined by legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw, who is the founder of the African-American Policy Forum. Intersecionality is a good way to analyze how racism, sexism, homophobia and many interconnected systems exist at the same time, which was the subject of her Ted talk she gave at TEDWomen 2016.
“I began to use the term “intersectionality” to deal with the fact that many of our social justice problems, like racism and sexism are often overlapping, creating multiple levels of social injustice.”
With the African American Policy Forum, she launched the #SayHerName Campaign which directs attention to violence against Black women.
“The African-American Policy Forum began to demand that we “say her name”…anywhere and everywhere that state violence against Black bodies is being discussed…We have to be willing to bear witness…to the…everyday violence and humiliation that many Black women have had to face, Black women across color, age, gender expression, sexuality and ability.”
Best known for her novel “The Color Purple,” Alice Walker is a writer, author, poet and activist who coined the term “Womanist” in her book “In Search of Our Mothers’ Garden” published in 1983. She defines a Womanism as Black feminism, and/or feminism for people of color, and “a woman who loves other women, sexually, or nonsexually.” In an article written for ThoughtCo.com, Linda Napikoski wrote, “Womanism identifies and criticizes sexism in the African American community and racism in the feminist community.” A womanist is also defined as a Black feminist who is “committed to survival and wholeness of entire people.”
“Womanist is to feminist as purple is to Lavender.”
Enjoli Moon (@ENJOLI.MOON)
Enjoli Moon is the founder and creative director of the Afrikana Independent Film Festival , based in Richmond, VA, which unites communities by “showcasing the cinematic works of people of color from around the world”. The film festivial has a Noir Cinema Series which presents short films created “by and about people of color.” Afrikana features an annual event on Black History Month called “An Evening with an Icon” which has featured activists and artists like Sonia Sanchez, Julie Dash, and Angela Davis. In the summer, Afrikana features an outdoor “Starry Night Cinema” at the Historic Tredegar at the American Civil War Museum and presents “feature-length films.”
“It’s important that we have diverse voices, authentic voices in different forms of art that are represented, and we think that Afrikana gives a platform for that.”– Enjoli Moon in an interview with Virginia This Morning
Alicia Garza (@CHASINGGARZA)
Alicia Garza is a community organizer based in the Bay-Area, who is passionate about uplifting women, domestic workers, and the LGBTQ+ community and the Black community. She serves as a director at the National Domestic Workers Alliance. Being known for being one of the three co-founders of the Black Lives Matter movement, Garza wrote on Facebook, “A Love Letter to Black People,” in response to the acquittal of the officer who killed Trayvon Martin, the lack of accountability for police brutality and racism in America’s criminal justice system. The phrase “Black Lives Matter” soon went viral.
“Black people. I love you. I love us. We Matter. Black Lives Matter.”
Patrisse Khan-Cullors (@OSOPEPATRISSE)
Patrisse Khan-Cullors is an LA-Based artist, organizer, and freedom fighter who advocates for LGBTQ+ rights and has been advocating for the community ever since she came out as queer at the age of 16. Being the founder of Dignity and Power Now, she is also an advocate for prison abolition, and the work of Cullors is ignited by the criminalization her close family members have experienced. Also known for being one of the three co-founders of Black Lives Matter, Cullors, transformed Alicia Garza’s “Love Letter to Black people” into a hashtag.
Opal Tometi (@OPALAYO)
Opal Tometi is a Nigerian-American writer and an organizer around immigration rights, as she is the executive director of the Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI), whose mission is to “initiate vibrant dialogues with African Americans and Black immigrants to discover more about race, our diverse identities, racism, migration and globalization.” Also being one of the three co-founders of Black Lives Matter, and after Patrisse Cullors made Black Lives Matter into a hashtag, Tometi amplified the hashtag into a movement, which has mobilized millions of people into taking action against police brutality to this day.
Angela Y. Davis
Prison abolitionist and Black feminist Angela Davis doesn’t simply talk about how the privatized prison system targets Black women. Many people didn’t appreciate the fact that she taught classes at UCLA and bombarded Professor Davis with racist hate-mail. In an attempt to funnel her out of the university, she was incarcerated for a crime she never committed, for two years before being found innocent. The controversy ignited a world wide movement called Free Angela. Professor Davis is currently a professor at UCLA and an inspiration to many and continues her advocacy for Black feminism, prison abolition and the decriminalization of marginalized communities.
Kat Blaque (@Kat_Blaque)
Kat Blaque is a powerful voice for Black youth in the LGBTQ+ community looking for positive voices. She is a transgender LGBTQ+ youth advocate and graphic designer who uses social media as a platform to discusses the intersections of race, gender and sexuality. Blaque has contributed to websites such as Everyday Feminism and Huffington Post’s Black Voices, and hosts a series called True Tea, where she answers her followers’ questions about the intersections of racism, misogyny, transphobia, and inequality in general.
“I’m a woman, I’m black, I’m curvy and I’m trans. There are a lot of things that I deal with. When I talk about those things, I am literally talking about my embodiment of these intersections.”
Amandla Stenberg (@AmandlaStenberg)
Amandla Stenberg is originally known for portraying Rue in The Hunger Games, where they became the target of anti-black racism and backlash. Stenberg used their platform to become very vocal on cultural appropriation and created the viral “crash course on cultural appropriation” entitled, “Don’t Cash Crop My Cornrows.”
“What would America be like if we loved Black people as much as we love Black culture?”– Amandla Stenberg’s “Don’t Cash Crop my Cornrows”
At the core of their activism is intersectionality. After coming out as non-binary, Stenberg became a powerful voice for Black folks in the LGBTQ+ community. They will star in the upcoming movie ‘Everything, Everything’, and will star in another upcoming movie entitled, ‘The Hate U Give.’
Mikaila Ulmer (@MIKAILASBEES)
Environmental advocate Mikaila Ulmer is founder and CEO of Me and the Bees Lemonade. Inspired by her great-grandmother’s 1940’s Flax-seed Lemonade recipe, Mikaila founded her own business at age four.
“I got stung by a bee twice in one week -one in the neck, and one in the ear. I saw a beehive and I wanted to learn more about bees.”
Ulmer invests a portion of the profits to organizations that advocate for our environment. She also volunteers her time educating youth about the importance of uplifting our ecosystem by saving the bees. In 2016, Ulmer landed a $11M deal with over 50 Whole Foods stores.
“One thing I do to help the bees is I donate some of my profits to organizations to help the bees, and one of those is Heifer and another one is Austin Beekeeper Association.”
MArley Dias (@IAMARLEYDIAS)
Marley Dias noticed the low amount of representation of Black female protagonists in literature. In November of 2015, she set a goal to collect 1000 books with Black female protagonists in three months and launched #1000BlackGirlBooks campaign.
“I decided to start a campaign where Black girls are the main characters, and I think this is important because when you see someone you can relate to in a book, you’ll normally remember the things that they learn so then you can use them in your life to make your life better.”
Using the power of social media, Dias’ book drive went viral and young readers across the globe wanted to participate. In February of 2017, she partnered with Scholastic and to publish a guide to youth activism in 2018. Her book will guide kids to utilizing the power to positively make change, from volunteerism, social justice, to using social media for good.
Kimberly Bryant (@6Gems)
Electrical engineer Kimberly Bryant is the founder of Black Girls Code a non-profit whose mission is to diversify and change the face of technology by “exposing girls of color and in underrepresented communities to STEM.” While there’s been much progress in closing the racial disparity in S.T.E.M, there’s still a need to close the this gap even further in this field.
“By launching Black Girls Code, I hope to provide young and pre-teen girls of color opportunities to learn in-demand skills in technology and computer programming at a time when they are naturally thinking about what they want to be when they grow up.”
Yara Shahidi (@YaraShahidi)
You may know Yara Shahidi as Zoey Johnson on black-ish and as the 17-year-old who is outspoken on racial justice. In response President Trump’s executive order banning refugees from 7 countries including Iran, where her father is from, she posted on Twitter,
“I am the result of love. More specifically, Black and Iranian love, of a love that highlights how interconnected we truly are…Xenophobia destroys the power of love and our collective potential, it creates a false sense of security for some, and an environment of fear for others.”
Franchesca Ramsey (@chescaleigh)
Franchesca Ramsey, also known as Chescaleigh is a social activist, a writer and a comedian. In 2012, she first went viral on social media when she turned a popular YouTube meme (Sh*t White Girls Say…to Black Girls) into a lasting, global conversation about things white women casually say to Black women and girls that intentionally, or unintentionally marginalize them. Ramsey is the host of MTV’s Web series, Decoded, a platform which discusses the intersections of gender, race, and other issues that aren’t always comfortable to discuss.
Stephanie Younger is a 14-year-old Black student, aspiring computer programmer, poet, writer and a Central Virginia based activist.