For the United States, Canada, the Netherlands and the U.K., February marks the start of Black History Month, dedicated to honoring and remember the accomplishments and contributions of African-American people who continue to shape history everyday.
We asked Teen Advisors to share a few of the incredible black women who inspire them. Check out their list of impressive politicians, activists, journalists, artists, and STEM leaders – and get them on your inspo board stat!
1. Yara Shahidi
Shahidi is well known for her role in ABC’s hit TV show Black-ish, but she is an inspiration on-and-off the television screen. She has always believed in the importance of education, bringing school work with her while filming on set. Now, she’s using her platform to speak out on representation and diversity in Hollywood.
Girl Up Teen Advisor Chanice Lee says: “Yara is an inspiration and voice for teens and young people all over the world.”
2. Angela Davis
Angela Davis activist, academic, and author whose many contributions include fighting for the rights of black women, poor and marginalized women, and the LGBT community. Though she is now retired, Davis was a professor at the University of California, where she taught about many things including feminist studies, African-American history, Marxism, social consciousness, and the prison-industrial complex.
Girl Up Teen Advisor Sawyer Taylor-Arnold says: “She’s such an incredible activist and spent so much of her life educating herself and others and fighting for important causes.”
3. Marley Dias
At just 13 years old, Marley is the youngest person on this year’s Forbes 30 Under 30 list. Marley made headlines when she started her campaign #1000BlackGirlBooks at just 11 years old. She says the idea to gather books about girls of color came to her when she was complaining to her mother about always reading books about “white boys and dogs.” She’s written her own book, and we know we can expect more from her in the future!
4. Maxine Waters
Congresswoman Waters is a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, representing the 43rd district of California. Last year, Waters’ use of the phrase “reclaiming my time” during a committee hearing echoed across the country, becoming the slogan for the first ever Women’s March Convention.
5. Katherine Jonhnson
This mathematician and former NASA employee whose significant contribution to the United States’ aeronautics and space programs made many NASA missions possible, including putting a man on the moon. In 2015 she was awarded the prestigious Presidential Medal of Freedom by former president Barack Obama.
Girl Up Teen Advisor Khushi Gandhi says: “She really showed that your race, gender, and background should not define your passion and whether or not you can pursue your dream. By being a significant part of the STEM field she’s really inspired girls all around the world to explore various career opportunities and not be forced to follow what society has written out for them.”
6. Mari Copeny a.k.a. Little Miss Flint
At just 8 years old, Mari used her voice to write to former President Barack Obama, spurring a visit to Flint, Michigan, in the midst of the Flint water crisis. Mari is an activist, raising money to buy backpacks for her peers in school. She is also the youngest Women’s March Youth Ambassador.
See Mari speak at last year’s Girl Up Leadership Summit!
7. Laverne Cox
Laverne Cox is an actress well known for her Emmy Award-winning role in TV show “Orange is the New Black.” Laverne is also a transgender rights activist, encouraging people around the world to live authentic lives and be true to themselves. She advocates for the rights of transgender people and was honored by GLAAD for her work as an advocate in 2014.
Girl Up Teen Advisor Lauren Woodhouse-Laskonis says: “Laverne Cox had been an advocate for not only black rights but trans and LGBTQ+ rights in America. Her prominence and visibility in mainstream American culture has made her a trailblazer for the trans community by starting the conversation about trans issues, more specifically how race and gender identity intersect. She is also is the only transgender person to be on the cover of Time magazine and the first trans person to be nominated for a Primetime Emmy.”
8. Lena Waithe
Producer, screenwriter, and actress in the hit Netflix comedy “Master of None,” Waithe made history in 2017 as the first black woman to win an Emmy for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series. Waithe says she uses her writing as activism, weaving her own personal experience of coming out to her mother as inspiration for the “Master of None” episode for which she won an Emmy.
9. Soledad O’Brien
Maria de La Soledad Theresa O’Brien is an American broadcast journalist and executive producer at CNN. She has won multiple Emmys for her coverage of such important topics as the earthquake in Haiti and the 2012 U.S. presidential election. She has been commended for exploring her mixed-race heritage, and using her platform at CNN “to tell great stories about people of color.”
10. Tarana Burke
Activist Tarana Burke has been fighting for the rights of survivors of sexual abuse and assault for over a decade. Through her work at a non-profit organization that supports survivors, she created the “Me Too” movement, hoping to bring power through numbers. Most recently, the “Me Too” movement went viral online, with the hashtag #MeToo.
Teen Up Girl Advisor Alex Riginos says: “Tarana Burke has been an inspiration to me throughout the past year; as creator of the #MeToo movement, she established a bond of solidarity between survivors and victims of sexual assault. This movement also brought to light some of the most egregious perpetrators of these horrific crimes. What a woman!”