As young girls, many of us were shown that people who look like us weren’t noteworthy. The who’s who of entertainment, literature, art, philosophy, politics – you name it, we weren’t there. With a little digging, it’s not that hard to uncover the truth that black women are trendsetters in a variety of fields. This holds true even though we’re not always given the credit we deserve for being great. Well, its high time we give it to ourselves. Let’s start with a look at these examples of black women leadership and excellence.
Black Women in Activism
Ella Baker is affectionately referred to as the Mother of the Civil Rights movement for good reason. From 1940-1960, she played an instrumental role in the NAACP, MLK’s Southern Christian Leadership Organization, and the voter registration campaign called the Crusade for Citizenship. Later on, she decided to switch her focus to young activists and founded the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.
A native of the South Bronx, Ms. Carter has dedicated her life to revitalizing the area in a sustainable way. When she noticed her community was turning to a literal dumping ground for sewage and toxic waste, Carter spearheaded a grassroots organization ‘Sustainable South Bronx’ to halt the development. From land reclamation to opening the Bronx’s first waterfront park in 60 years, her accomplishments are just too many to count. Suffice it to say, she’s left a mark.
Black Women in Art
Dubbed the ‘high priestess of soul,’ Nina Simone is partly responsible for transforming music as we know it today. This year she finally received some well-deserved recognition when she was inducted into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame. Apart from the various samples that continue that make frequent appearances in modern music, Nina’s style as a pianist and songwriter has been imitated by generations of musicians.
A fearless activist, Nina’s music was first and foremost rooted in her experience as a black woman. She may have missed out on a couple opportunities in her heyday. When you consider all the women she inspired to be courageous and stand in their truth (a topic she speaks to in the song ‘To Be Young, Gifted, and Black’), her outspokenness was definitely worth it.
In her time, the world of science fiction writing had very little dark faces. In spite of her lack of contemporaries, Butler managed to create dystopian stories that checked all the epic sci-fi boxes. They fill you with wonder while entertaining and igniting your imagination. What’s more Octavia Butler’s use of black characters allowed her to explore previously unchartered territory for the genre.
Black Women in Technology
Kimberly Bryant is the founder and director of Black Girls Code. This is a nonprofit dedicated to increasing the representation of women of color in technology. An engineer herself, Foster created the organization upon noticing that her daughter was the only black girl at her technology camp. As of today, her workshops, hackathons and Black Girls Code has chapters all over the country and a few overseas as well, with over 8,000 participants.