Photo courtesy of Victoria N. McGovern

By Stephanie Younger •

“Womanist is to feminist as purple is to lavender.”

– Alice Walker

At age 13, the fact that adults would teach me to 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 people would rather comment on my body than my intellect was infuriating, so I learned more about the womanist movement. A womanist 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.

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 in my community so they wouldn’t have to endure what I went through.

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. This gained the attention of the National School Walkout, and they were very supportive.

In response to the intersecting misogyny and racism I’ve experienced, I launched a publication called Black Feminist Collective, an intergenerational online collective of womanists who advocate for the liberation of all Black folks.

I continue encourage people in gun violence prevention to amplify the voices of those disproportionately affected by it, and advocating for restorative justice practices. 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 16-year-old student activist and writer who advocates for womanism and the abolition of youth prisons.

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