There are so many accomplished women of color to acknowledge and applaud during Black History Month; women doing great things in the present, and ones from the past. I struggled to pick just ten to introduce here. We all know the names of the former First Lady Michelle Obama, Oprah, Hattie McDaniel, Rosa Parks, and many other black women who have become household names through their achievements, contributions, sacrifices, and resilience for which we admire them. In compiling this list, I hope to introduce a few rising stars and highlight the achievements of some lesser known ladies. Each of these women displays facets of what it means to be vibrant. They are true role models for us all.
Founder of STEM program for Girls of Color
An electrical engineer, in 2011 Kimberly founded Black Girls Code, a training course for girls 7-17 that exposes them to STEM disciplines. It also opens up opportunities for them to learn about technology, and acquire basic coding skills. Since its creation, Kimberly and Black Girls Code have trained more than 8,000 girls in 13 chapters across America, and one in Africa with plans to expand to other countries. Black women make up less than 3% of the workforce in the tech fields, and Kimberly wants to help raise that number.
Distinguished Law Professor
Leading Scholar and Activist
Kimberle’ holds the title of professor of law for both the UCLA School of Law and Columbia University Law School specializing in race and gender issues. A graduate of Harvard Law School, she has done much to raise awareness about the unique kinds of discrimination black women experience at the intersection of racist and sexist institutional practices, coining the term “intersectionality,” now widely used as the term for this issue. Kimberle’ launched the #SayHerName initiative, now a critical component of #BlackLivesMatter.
Thirteen Year Old Out to Change the Book World
At 13, Marley is the youngest person on Forbes Magazine’s 30 Under 30 List. Distressed by the lack of brown faces in books for children, especially female brown faces, Marley founded #1000BlackGirlsBooks, a social media campaign and book drive to collect and donate books for children featuring black girls as the main characters. She has surpassed her goal by a factor of ten. In the spring of 2018, Marley also became an author by writing her own book for Scholastic Books called, Marley Dias Gets it Done: And So Can You! This is a young woman to watch.
Director of Film and Television
The list of accomplishments for this fireball is impressive: the first black woman director nominated for a Golden Globe, the first black woman director nominated for an Academy Award. She is the first black woman to direct a $100M+ film budget and the first black woman to direct a film earning more than $100M. All this and she is only 46.
Melissa M. Freeman
A 91 year-old Practicing Physician
Dr. Freeman, who has been practicing medicine for more than half a century, specializes in internal medicine and is leading the fight against the opioid crisis by treating female patients with heroin addictions in her native New York City. She knew early on she wanted to be a doctor, and was only one of four women in a class of one hundred and fifty students at Howard University College of Medicine. Asked about retirement in an interview with ABC, Dr. Freeman replied, “I’m not ready yet!”
Medical Physicist focusing on Laser Treatment for Cancer
For Dr. Green, finding new cancer treatments was and is personal after losing both the aunt and uncle who raised her, to cancer. After an internship at NASA, Dr. Green saw how important the use of lasers could be in cancer therapy. In 2016, as a faculty member at Morehouse School of Medicine, she received a $1.1M grant from the VA’s Office of Research and Development to begin clinical trials on her theories of using lasers to reduce pain and aid in the treatment of cancer.
Innovator in the field of Artificial Intelligence
After a dozen years at NASA as a senior robotics researcher, Ayanna is now the chair of the School of Interactive Computing at Georgia Tech, where she is pushing the boundaries of what we know in the fields of artificial intelligence, computer vision, and robotics. Ayanna is also the founder and CTO of Zyrobotics, L.L.C, which focuses on developing personalized educational technologies for children with learning differences.
Member of Congress, Georgia’s 6th Congressional District
Rep. Lucy McBath, elected from Georgia’s 6th Congressional District last November, is a dynamic addition to the Democratic Party. Lucy’s passion for public service arises from her family’s 2012 tragedy when her son, Jordan, was shot and killed. She credits her son with inspiring her to run for Congress. Lucy was a private citizen who believed she could make a difference. She harnessed her pain from losing her son by taking action to help save others from experiencing senseless gun violence.
Rising Photographer and Art Director
As beautiful as the women she photographs, Adrienne is the creative genius behind Nylon Magazine’s 2018 Black History Month cover, Nike Sportswear’s FashionAir campaign, and NARS global social media 2018 holiday campaign. Adrienne is one of the few black female photographers ensuring that stunning images of black women are a part of the present visual culture.
Pioneer in the Black Travel Movement
Zim created the digital publishing brand “Travel Noire” to make traveling more relatable and accessible to people of color. Her publication brings the world of black travelers together by sharing tips, tools, and the lure of new destinations around the globe. Zim reaches more than two million readers a month, and has 400,000 Instagram followers.
What a list of accomplished women!
Until next time…Be Vibrant!