I’ll admit it: in the midst of my joy at the amount of people attending protests around Minneapolis, a cynical part of me wonders where these people were last year. When every corporation is denouncing racism, when donations flood neighborhoods, when all your friends are doing it–it’s pretty easy to speak out under those circumstances. How many of these people are allies who can be trusted when times get hard again?
Instead of complaining, I decided to fuel my energy into a new post. I’ve collected a small sampling of Black people who have been fighting the good fight well before this current wave of support. These people put their jobs, futures, and safety on the line. They are the ones we should try to emulate, even after public attention shifts.
Writer: NK Jemisin
Nora Jemisin is a powerhouse in the world of genre fiction. But it wasn’t an easy road. Even after her novels finally found a home, she had to face down (and raise a middle finger) to openly racist groups within the publishing world. Learn more about NK Jemisin here.
Actor: Amandla Stenberg
Nineteen-year-old Amandla has used her platform to promote racial justice ever since experiencing the backlash to her casting as Rue in The Hunger Games. The youngest person on this list, she’s a voice for a generation of Black teens, especially in movies like The Hate U Give. Learn more about her here.
Journalist: Elaine Welteroth
What happens when journalism and activism meet? This conversation is happening in a lot of spheres, and perhaps none are more important than in the media we present to children and teens. Former Teen Vogue editor Elaine Welteroth tackled big issues during her tenure, insisting we not underestimate the conversations young people are capable of having. Learn more here.
Politician: Shirley Chisholm
There are a lot of empowered Black female politicians right now, but I wanted to take at least one category to make a nod to all the trailblazers who have come before us. None of the women on this list exist in a vacuum, and it’s an important reminder that we are paving the way for those who are coming behind us. As the first African-American woman in Congress, Shirley Chisholm is the perfect example. Learn more here.
Activist: Mariame Kaba
Only last year, at the time of this interview, Mariame Kaba’s ideas about the criminal justice system were labeled “radical”. Now, they are being openly discussed here in Minneapolis. An activist and organizer with broad experience across the world of criminal justice, she’s the one we want to be taking pointers from. Learn more here.
What do all these women have in common (besides being some of my faves)? They’re all individuals who have broken the mold to become pretty successful in their white-dominated fields. So let’s take a look at the other end of the spectrum:
The Working Class: Fight for $15
“The Fight for $15 began in 2012 when two hundred fast-food workers walked off the job to demand $15/hr and union rights in New York City. Today, we’re a global movement in over 300 cities on six continents.”
Racial justice intersects all aspects of our society, not just the criminal justice system. As you move beyond hashtags and take your next steps into activism, consider these intersections and how you can help broaden the fight.