Black history month is always a revitalizing time for me. As a black woman, it is a time for me to reflect on the people who have come before me; to honor and revisit their stories, work, struggles and triumphs. However, I am always deeply drawn to the work of great black women who have risked so much to make space for me in this world. When we hear black history, we think first of those who have already passed. Many of the women we remember like Harriet Tubman and Rosa Parks and Sojourner Truth are women who first inspired me in my youth.
Since then my list has grown more nuanced to include athletes like Flo-Jo and Wilma Rudolph, poets and writers like Maya Angelou, Lucille Clifton, Gwendolyn Brooks, Toni Morrison, Bell Hooks and Zora Neale Hurston, musicians like Billie Holiday, Tina Turner, and Aretha Franklin. Many of these women are still alive and continuing to make history right beside us. We sometimes forget to honor those making history in the here and now. So I wanted to take a minute to honor black women making history in the present – women that I hope my grandchildren might read about.
1. Janet Mock
Janet Mock is a fierce black woman and advocate. She is a leading voice for LGBTQ and specifically trans* rights in the United States. She recently published her book “Redefining Realness” which explores the challenges facing the transgender community and the complex intersections of race, class and gender identity. As an out trans woman she is a role model for all women everywhere!
Harris-Perry is the host on MSNBC of her own “Melissa Harris-Perry” show. As one of the few black woman on a major network doing political commentary, Harris-Perry has become what many are referring to as a thought leader. She is a forward thinking voice for many communities. She speaks with authority and advocates for justice at every turn. She is also a writer and professor at Tulane University.
3. Laverne Cox
Laverne Cox is best known for her breakout role on the Netflix series “Orange is the New Black”. She is looked to as a role model not only for her brilliant acting but for the fact that she is one of very few trans* actress playing a trans* character on a major TV series. Beyond her acting, she has been a badass advocate for queer rights, tackling the issue of trans* women and women of color in the prison system by creating a platform for the voice of CeCe McDonald (another woman who will be in the books…hopefully) in an upcoming documentary.
Mia McKenzie is a queer, radical writer who founded an online forum for the voices of queer people of color called Black Girl Dangerous. She is the definition of fierce and not only has she inspired a community of radical activists with her writing, but she is always creating space for more voices. She is also the author of a book titled “The Summer we got Free”.