What we are is truth tellers, change agents, and troublemakers—in the best way. We’re agitating. And advocating. Standing on the shoulders of a long line of resourceful and resilient black women. And preparing the next generation to take on the mantle with their own kind of activism. In this issue, we’re celebrating just a few of the many women making a difference.
There are, of course, some big names who are without a doubt changing the world. You cannot speak of black women who are change-makers in this country without Oprah Winfrey, whose contributions are too numerous to count.
The best-selling author, columnist, podcaster, and veteran blogger behind Awesomely Luvvie serves up biting social commentary with a big side of humor. When she’s not challenging her audience of millions to do better, or consulting with brands as a successful digital strategist, she is the executive director of The Red Pump Project, a nonprofit she co-founded that’s on a mission to educate women and girls of color about HIV and to erase the stigma surrounding the disease.
She’s built a career of putting her law degree to work for social change through legislative advocacy, having handled legislative affairs for HBCU umbrella organization NAFEO and the Congressional Black Caucus. She’s also the principal and CEO of political advocacy firm IMPACT Strategies, though she’s probably best known to audiences at home for her frequent appearances as a political commentator and now as host of her own BET special, State of the Union.
She wanted little brown girls to be able to see themselves in the books they read, so she founded #1000BlackGirlBooks, a social media campaign to collect and donate children’s books with black girl protagonists—and she’s met her goal 10 times over. She also launched a national literacy tour in partnership with the White House, is now a published author herself.
This prima ballerina, the first African American woman to become a principal dancer with the American Ballet Theatre, has shattered barriers in the world of ballet and leapt off the stage to become her own brand. She’s a best-selling author; the face of products such as Under Armour, Estée Lauder, and Dannon; she even has her own Barbie doll—all of which have made her the most famous dancer on the planet.
Her accomplishments on the tennis court are unparalleled: 39 Grand Slam titles; 186 consecutive weeks ranked No. 1, which ties her for the longest; four Olympic gold medals; and more than $84 million in prize money, the most of any female athlete. But she’s also a powerhouse away from her sport. Recently she’s been tackling racial disparities in healthcare and tech, joining the board of SurveyMonkey and speaking up about childbirth-related complications.
This political and communications strategist served as the national press secretary for Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign at age 25—the youngest presidential campaign press secretary on record—having already worked 15 different campaigns. Now she’s a Harvard Institute of Politics Fellow, a political commentator, and a contributor at CNN, where she’s an outspoken advocate not only for liberal issues such as juvenile justice but for the inclusion of people of color and millennials in the democratic process.
A lifelong activist—she was born into The Movement as the child of founding members of the National Action Network—she has fought for civil rights, women’s rights, healthcare, and against gun violence and police misconduct. She is best known as a co-president and co-founder of the historic Women’s March on Washington, which, together with almost 700 sister marches around the world, brought 5 million people across all seven continents out to protest for equality for women.
By Alisa Gumbs