By Stephanie Younger • 

I recently had the opportunity to be on the organizing committee of the Women’s March & Expo. Today, I Delivered a Speech at this year’s event.

“Womanist is to feminist as purple is to lavender.” – Alice Walker

At age 13, people would rather comment on my body than my intellect. It infuriated me that adults would value my appearance over everything else, especially at an age where I was extremely self-conscious about the way I looked as a Black girl, so I learned more about womanism, which is a term coined by Alice Walker that describes a Black feminist or feminist of color who analyzes the intersections of race, gender and sexuality. She started this movement in response to the prevalence of anti-Black racism that exists within the mainstream feminist movement and misogyny within the mainstream Black Power movement.

Another reason I identify as a womanist is because at age 14, people tried to stop me from pursuing my dreams of being a programmer because I was a Black girl. I recall being isolated, stereotyped and discredited. When I asked out of frustration I was being treated unfairly, my coaches and mentors accused me of being ungracious and acting out. The only other female programmer was a feminist who attended the Women’s March however she didn’t show up for me while she saw me experiencing racism. I turned that negativity into something positive by starting a coding program for Black girls so they wouldn’t have to endure what I went through.

The third reason I identify as a womanist is because at age 15, I faced racism directing attention to Black and Brown youth who experience gun violence at disproportionate rates. When I organized with a group of gun violence prevention activists in Richmond, I called the white student organizers out for being insensitive. I was harassed on the internet, and accused of attacking other people and exchanging my opinions violently. Even though a Black girl named Hadiya Pendleton is literally the reason they wear orange for gun control, I was told that this was about “all lives, American lives and not Black lives.” After being called out for being racist, excluding me and a few other Black students from participating in their school walkout and not addressing gun violence as a whole, that youth organizing group in RVA no longer exists.

In response to the intersecting misogyny and racism I’ve experienced, I launched a publication, called Black Feminist Collective, an intergenerational online collective of Black womanists and feminists who advocate for the liberation of all Black folks. I advocate for diversity in S.T.E.A.M by creating safe spaces for Black girls and encouraging them to learn how to code and enter this field.

I continue pushing for gun violence prevention by encouraging people to amplify the voices of those disproportionately affected by it, and advocating for restorative justice practices and community non-violence. My call-to-action to white feminists is to start showing up for us by confronting your biases and not only showing up to the events that make you comfortable, but also showing up for causes that challenge issues that may not directly affect you.

Stephanie Younger is a 17-year-old student, organizer and writer who advocates for womanism, diversity in S.T.E.A.M, the abolition of youth prisons and gun violence prevention.

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