One of my personal #GIRLHEROES once told me that the path to success for women is achieved when women are uniﬁed through our femininity— however we may deﬁne that femininity— and support one another through our commonalities and despite our differences. She advised me to establish a group of ‘boss ladies’ that never cease to support, encourage, and motivate me. My killer girl group is comprised of Michelle Obama, Malala Yousafzai, Emma Watson, Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche, Benazir Bhutto, Amal Clooney, Jill Biden, Beyoncé, Hillary Clinton, and Yara Shahidi. Quotes and images of these women are posted on my ‘dream board,’ feeding my inner visionary and paying homage to these women who have contributed to the young woman I am today.
There is one woman within my girl group who has been the greatest inspiration to me: Sonia Sotomayor, the ﬁrst Latina and third woman Supreme Court Justice in U.S. History. Sotomayor grew up in Brooklyn and is a self-proclaimed ‘Nuyorican,’ a Puerto Rican from New York. She prioritized her education and persistently worked to achieve greatness and as a result of her academic success, graduated from Princeton University.
Sotomayor’s desire for justice was demonstrated even as an undergraduate, where she participated in an Puerto Rican activism club and later, while attending Yale Law School, co-chaired the Latin American and Native American Students Association. As an attorney, she worked high proﬁle criminal cases, not letting her age, gender, or race act as barriers to her success. Today, Sotomayor is known for her sharp mind and commitment to upholding the United States’ tenet of Justice.
As I reﬂect on 2017 and reminisce upon the year that began with women standing together in solidarity at the Women’s March and comes to an end with the global #MeToo, I can’t help but celebrate Tarnara Burke, the black woman who created this movement and was recognized as one of TIME Magazine’s person(s) of the year, the “Silence Breakers.”
#MeToo became a viral campaign as a result of the sexual harassment and violence allegations that came to light against Harvey Weinstein. However, the campaign began in 2006 as an initiative to bring together those victimized by sexual assault and harassment, speciﬁcally in underprivileged and disenfranchised communities.
Burke explains that “it wasn’t built to be a viral campaign or a hashtag that is here today and forgotten tomorrow,” but rather that “It was a catchphrase to be used from survivor to survivor to let folks know that they were not alone and that a movement for radical healing was happening and possible.” The #MeToo brings survivors together and establishes a safe community that supports, encourages, and motivates one another.
And with that, I challenge you all to surround yourselves with #GIRLHEROES who support, encourage, and motivate you as you do for them. One of my favorite quotes from Sonia Sotomayor is, “I have never had to face anything that could overwhelm the native optimism and stubborn perseverance I was blessed with.”
So, use your native optimism and stubborn perseverance to inspire others.
Alex Riginos is a 2017-2018 Girl Up Teen Advisor from South Carolina.