Amidst a racial justice movement and a global pandemic, it can be hard to find inspiration to keep fighting for justice and equality. It’s easy to get caught up in the little things and forget about the large-scale issues at hand. We all have problems that can distract us from what’s going on around us, so here are a few women of color who remind me what’s going on and encourage me to keep fighting.
- Maya Angelou
Maya Angelou was born in April of 1928 in St. Louis, Missouri, but she was way ahead of her time. Although she didn’t have an easy childhood by any means, being racially discriminated against and being raped, she grew up to be both extremely successful and influential. She was a poet, writing the first best seller by an African American Woman, and a civil rights activist, working alongside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, promoting racial and gender equality. She wrote many books, seven of which were autobiographies, the first being published in 1969. This autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, refers to some of the discrimination and violence that Angelou faced as a child.
Maya Angelou’s story reminds me that there is nothing that I can’t overcome. Angelou was faced with levels of racism that I couldn’t even imagine, was abandoned by her parents, molested and raped, and still, she fought for not only her rights, but the rights of every black person and every woman. Her story is a prime example of why there is no excuse to stop fighting.
- Michelle Obama
Michelle Obama was born in 1964 in Chicago, Illinois. As a child, she was very involved with her education, learning to read by four and enrolling in gifted programs. She grew up to graduate from Princeton, and then from Harvard, becoming a lawyer, and later, a writer and the first African American First Lady of the United States. Before Obama’s presidency, Michelle Obama worked to develop her hometown of Chicago. She even developed the first community service program at the University of Chicago. Throughout Obama’s presidency, Michelle Obama focused much of her time and energy on poverty, health, and education.
There are countless ways that Michelle Obama inspires me, but one of her quotes stands out to me. Michelle Obama said, “Empower yourself with a good education. Then get out there and use that education to build a country worthy of your boundless promise. Lead by example with hope; never fear.” Throughout her life, she has put such a huge emphasis on education and its importance. She inspires me to learn more every day, not just in school, but also to learn about the injustices occurring, why they’re occurring, and what I can do to help. She expresses the importance of bettering our health, our communities, and our country. She notes the progress that we’ve made as a country, without minimizing the things that we still must overcome. Michelle Obama uses her voice to help, empower, and inspire, encouraging myself and others to do the same.
- Malala Yousafzai
Malala was born in 1997 in Mingora, Pakistan. The Taliban had a lot of power in her childhood, threatening girls who tried to receive an education. At age eleven, Malala was already writing for the BBC about women’s rights to an education and the circumstances she was under. The Taliban found out that Malala was the one writing, and they had issued death threats to the young girl. Even at age eleven, Malala knew that what she was fighting for was important, and she didn’t let these threats stop her. Malala continued to stand up to the Taliban, and in 2012, they tried to kill her by shooting her in the head. Despite being shot, Malala not only survived, but grew up to go to Oxford and be the youngest person to accept a Nobel Peace Prize.
Like Michelle, Malala teaches us the importance of education and is still fighting for educational equality. Malala shows us that we are never too young to fight for justice. Despite going through so much in her life, she has not once ignored the larger issues at hand, and she inspires me to do the same. If death threats and an attempted assassination can’t stop her cause, then what could possibly be stopping the rest of us?
While we’ve all probably heard the stories of these women before, or have at least heard their names, we sometimes forget to apply the things that we learn to our own lives. It’s important to put what these women say into perspective so that we can continue to grow individually and as a country. In these times, it’s critical that we never underestimate the importance of educating ourselves and never stop fighting with, or for, the oppressed.