5 black women – you need to know – who are making history now.
There’s so much when it comes to black history. There is joy and resilience and love. Black history celebrates the past while also inspiring the future. And yet, we so often only focus on black history one month of the year. What’s worse? If we focus on black history at all during February, it usually only has to do with slavery and civil rights. There is more to black history than trauma. So much more.
Black history did not begin with slavery and it did not end with civil rights. Black history is now.
During black history month and every day in the Willard House, our 3 girls learn about persons of color who have changed the world. They learn about people who stood up and stand up to racist systems in America. Our girls learn about people from the past and people in the present who are transforming our world.
So today, it would do all of us some good to get to know 5 black women who are making history now.
Brittany Packnett Cunningham
“Stop silencing women of color just because we bring an inconvenient truth.” – Brittany Packnett Cunningham
Have you heard of Brittany Packnett Cunningham? You need to know her. Brittany is a beautiful, fierce, say-it-like-it-is woman who is originally from St. Louis. I first met Brittany on the streets of Ferguson when I gave her my account of witnessing a white woman intentionally drive her car into a black female protester.
Brittany Packnett Cunningham is an activist, educator, writer, and leader at the intersection of culture and justice. She is an NBC News contributor and co-host of Pod Save The People, iHeart Radio’s Best Political Podcast of 2019. Brittany is a former elementary teacher, education executive and Harvard fellow. She was member of President Obama’s 21st Century Policing Task Force and the Ferguson Commission. Brittany is co-founder of Campaign Zero, a platform to end police violence, and founder of Love & Power.
“All you can is be your best self. I’m representing more than just me…This is for the little brown girls.” – Misty Copeland
Misty Copeland made history in 2015 when she became the first Female Principal Dancer with the prestigious American Ballet Theatre. Copeland was considered a prodigy even though she didn’t begin ballet until the age of 13. She’s also an author of three books, including a beautiful children’s book, Firebird.
Sidenote: While writing this section about Misty Copeland, BW walked into the room. We’ve read many books Misty Copeland, but BW still asked who she is. BW then wanted to watch video after video of Misty dancing until I told her it was time for dinner. This is just one example of why representation matters.
“We need a shift in culture so that every single instance of sexual harassment is investigated and dealt with. That’s just basic common sense.” – Tarana Burke
Do you recognize the name Tarana Burke? If not, maybe you’ll recoginize #MeToo. Tarana started the Me Too movement in 2006 to raise awareness on the pervasiveness of sexual violence and sexual assault. #MeToo went viral in 2017 and has become an international movement.
Tarana has been an activist since 1989. She serves as Senior Director for Girls for Gender Equity in Brooklyn, NY. And in 2017, she was among a group of other activist women called “The Silence Breakers”, as the Time Person of the Year.
Valencia D. Clay
“I use my life experience as a way to show [my students] that there is absolutely nothing that they are incapable of achieving, no matter what obstacle they are faced with.” – Valencia D. Clay
Valencia D. Clay is a passionate educator who is bridging education and activism through social media. She’s completing her 11th year teaching 8th grade humanities in Baltimore, MD. And she uses social media to share what’s happening in her classroom.
Valencia was named a 2019 National Geographic Education Fellow. She just created a new documentary-style reading and writing series, Kids Who Know Everything, which allows her students to share the knowledge they learn in class with the rest of the world. She is passionate about helping her students find their passion, discover self-love, and learn more about the black diaspora.
“Black trans women are brilliant and definitely are qualified to contribute to our culture and society and in more ways than just dancing on our stages.” – Andrea Jenkins
The first African-American openly transgender woman elected to public office in the United States, Andrea Jenkins has served on the Minneapolis City Council since 2018. Andrea Jenkins is a politician, writer, performance artist, poet and transgender activist. She is passionate about ending racism, sexism, hatred and bigotry. Her life, work, and activism is centered around the ethos that when you center the most marginalized people in your community, everybody benefits.
Want to learn about other black women who are making history? Here are some great resources for you to check out:
Chris and I brought home our three daughters – BW, MW and SW – in May 2017. The adoption was finalized on September 6, 2018. We learn each day how to navigate life as white parents to three black girls. You can read our adoption story here.