There will always be someone you look up to, whether they are someone in your personal life or your favorite actor on TV. There is always hope in finding someone you relate to or feel influenced by their work because it shows you that you are more than capable of doing it too. Throughout my life, there have been people who have impacted me in ways that have changed my perspective and motivated me to pursue greater things in life. Because it is women’s history month, I thought it was important to highlight these amazing women that helped shape who I am today. I was once looking at my life with the wrong prescription of glasses until these women came in and gifted me brand new ones that helped me clearly see the beauty of being a Black woman.
Michelle Obama is the former First Lady of the United States. Michelle became the first ever Black First Lady and served as First Lady for two terms. During her term as the First Lady, Michelle was known as a huge advocate for education and nutrition in schools. She was able to combat childhood obesity by rebuilding school lunches to be healthier nationwide. Michelle also believed it was important to shine a light on arts programs in underrepresented schools, which allowed students to have an outlet to be creative.
Michelle showed that she cared about Americans and their struggles, taking it upon herself to find ways to advocate and bring change. After serving her two terms, Michelle did not just stop caring about citizens. Instead, she continued to fight for important issues and brought hope to so many Black women. She then published books about her personal life and her time as First Lady. Because she was open and personable about her struggles, I connected to her on a deeper level. She influenced me to always fight for change and advocate for voices that have been silenced.
Lupita Nyong’o is a Mexican/Kenyan actress who has appeared in a multitude of films. She received an Academy Award for her incredible performance in her debut film, 12 Years a Slave. Her most recent film series, Black Panther, are record-breaking box office hits. During her rise to fame, Lupita ultimately became the face of dark skin women in the media due to their unfortunate lack of representation.
By wearing her natural hair and exuding beauty and confidence, Lupita was able to represent dark skin women in such a positive light. Growing up, when I was ashamed of my skin tone, seeing Lupita love her skin and natural hair became a confidence booster for me and made me appreciate myself more. Lupita also continues to fight against colorism. Her published children’s book, Sulwe, discusses colorism and the impacts it has on children from a young age.
Quinta Brunson is a producer, actress and comedian who is known for her comedic series, Abbott Elementary. Abbott Elementary, which she created and stars in, is a comedic show about teachers helping their students succeed. Quinta does an amazing job illustrating underfunded Black schools in Abbott Elementary, which brings more awareness of the issues in the school system. She has recently become the first Black woman to be nominated three times in the comedy category for the Emmy awards. I knew Quinta from Buzzfeed and her funny sketches on Instagram. She always brought a positive light through her personality and relatable content. Watching her rise from her sketches to an Emmy nomination showed that perseverance and resilience are important and that with time comes great success.
bell hooks, a pen name for Gloria Jean Watkins, is an African American author and activist. Her writings examine the connections between race, gender and class as well as the perception of Black women, feminist identities and how intersectionality plays a role in that. She is a big contributor to feminist theory and her major work “Ain’t I a woman” gives historical information about the sexism and racism Black women face. She was able to highlight how feminism at the time excluded marginalized people and devalued Black womanhood. bell hooks taught me to be critical and question the patriarchy meant to dismantle Black voices.
Ethel L. Payne
Ethel Payne is an African American journalist known as the First Lady of the Black press. Throughout her career, she witnessed some of the most pivotal episodes in American history and reported about them in the Chicago Defender. She was the first African American woman to join the White House Press Corps and was covered during the Civil Rights Movement. Ethel Payne was a journalist who broke through barriers by asking inquiries regarding topics that other journalists did not want to address. As an inspiring journalist, she motivates me to continue to write about things I find important and to be the voice for those who are underrepresented. Her strength to write about certain topics during her time influenced me to push boundaries and shed light on uncomfortable topics.
Though I can go on and on about the amazing Black women that proceed to encourage me, unfortunately, I cannot. You all would be reading for days. I remain impacted by these women and their work, and I hope by the end of this you all are too.