For the entire month of February, I featured amazing women of African descent to celebrate Black History Month and Black Girl Magic on social media. These women are activists, coaches, artists, techies, writers and more. They’re also mothers, daughters, aunties, sisters and partners.

They’re our living leaders.

While doing what seemed like a simple enough activity, I gleamed some profound insights throughout the month. These insights shifted me and I wanted to share some of them with you.

Insights from 28 Days of Black Girl Magic

1. There are a plethora of Black women doing amazing things in the world.

The women I featured are only a drop in an ocean of brilliance. Although I know this intellectually, I realized how little BIWOC (Black Indigenous Women of Color) are seen in the media whether in traditional publications or even online on social media. To see ourselves visually affirmed on a daily basis was a public declaration, affirmation, and reclamation of what I know to be true about myself and other women of color.

 

2.  Seeing the magic in a sister is affirming your own magic.

Every day that I celebrated another sister’s beauty, creativity, brilliance and voice I was celebrating my own beauty, creativity, brilliance and voice.

 

3. Women crave inclusivity.

I had women of all races share how much they loved these posts. Some of these women went further and signed up for newsletters, purchased books, became patrons, and got on board with the amplification of Black Girl Magic. Unfortunately, much of what we see in the media is a false ideal of womanhood (young, thin and white). This ideal is detrimental to all women, but especially to women of color. These images create self-doubt and distort our sense of self. It’s also an inaccurate representation of what women truly desire. Based on the messages I received and the work I’ve done with women, I know that we desire to see the full spectrum of us including Black, Brown, Native, Indigenous, every age, shape, ability, gender identity and sexual orientation. We desperately need this in order to fully own and accept ourselves and be the powerful leaders that we are.

 

4. Do it for the love.

I didn’t have any end goal in doing this — no program or something to sign up for (which aren’t bad things to do) but this wasn’t about that and that was wonderful. My intention was to shower each of these women with love and to share that love with my community.

 

5. Centering women of color is needed to dismantle  internalized oppression.

Historically and presently, BIWOC have been tokenized, marginalized, erased and silenced. These are only a few of behaviors that exist on the spectrum of racism. Many WOC unconsciously internalize this, by dimming our light and erasing ourselves, which is why centering ourselves (like seen so beautifully in the movie Black Panther) in an important part of our healing journey.

Once again, the women  featured are only a drop in an ocean of brilliance, so let this be the starting point, not the end.

If you’re a BIWOC I invite you to see your brilliance reflected in each and every one of these women. Let it truly land in your heart. I also invite you to find one way to share and celebrate (publicly and privately) your and a sister’s magic today.

If you’re a White Woman consider this a beautiful opportunity to not only learn about what women of color specifically what Black women are doing in the world, but to also celebrate and support them. Do this by inviting them to be guests on your podcasts and events, hiring them, buying from them and amplifying their voices. I also invite you to share this post with your family, friends and community.

So without further ado, here are 28 women you should know in celebration of Black Girl Magic.

THE ACTIVISTS

Meet Franchesca Ramsey (@chescaleigh) a writer, actress and video blogger based out of New York City. She’s was a writer and contributor for The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore on Comedy Central, and currently is the host of the MTV News web series Decoded.⠀

Franchesca is super funny and super smart and I love how she raises consciousness and dismantles misconceptions about an wide array of topics like race, religion, sexism and so much more. Seriously, check out her show!⠀

As she shares, “my ‘claim to fame’ came in January 2012 when my video, ‘Sh*t White Girls Say…to Black Girls’ (SWGSTBG) went viral. It garnered over 1.5 million views in 24 hours and 5 million views in just 5 days. It also made a lot of white girls cry. SWGSTBG currently has 11 million views and has been featured on MSNBC, ABC, The Daily Mail and the Anderson Cooper talk show, to name a few.”⠀

Connect with her at franchesca.net.

PS: She has a book coming out May 22nd entitled “Well, That Escalated Quickly” too!

 

Meet Patrisse Cullors an artist, organizer, and freedom fighter from Los Angeles, CA. ⠀

When people ask, “Who are the modern day leaders? Where are the young people?” Patrisse is one of the people I think about. ⠀

She’s the co-founder of Black Lives Matter and founder of Dignity and Power Now, she is also a performance artist, Fulbright scholar, popular public speaker, and an NAACP History Maker.⠀

She’s received many awards for activism and movement building, including being named by the Los Angeles Times as a Civil Rights Leader for the 21st Century and the Sydney Peace Prize for her work with Black Lives Matter. ⠀

Patrisse is currently in the middle of an international tour for her new book When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir.⠀

Connect with her at: patrissecullors.com
Support Black Lives Matter: blacklivesmatter.com

 

THE ARTISTS

Meet Amy Sherald (@asherald), the first African American woman to create a Smithsonian commissioned portrait of the former first lady, was born in Columbus, Georgia. She remembers being one of only a handful of black students in the private school she attended. She identifies those early years negotiating issues of race and identity in the American south as major influence on her art.⠀

She earned her bachelor’s degree in 1997 at Clark-Atlanta University. Concurrent with her studies, Sherald apprenticed with artist-historian Dr. Arturo Lindsay of Spelman College. She also participated in Spelman College’s International Artist-in-Residence program in Portobelo, Panama, in 1997. Two years later she helped organize and install international exhibitions in Central and South America.⠀

Amy soon relocated to Baltimore and went on to earn her MFA at the Maryland Institute College of Art, where she studied with Abstract Expressionist Grace Hartigan. Before Amy moved to Baltimore, her art had a strongly autobiographical focus. Afterward, she shifted her attention to content that offered a critical view of African American cultural history and the representation of the African American body.⠀

In particular, she is known for using a grayscale to paint skin tones as a way of challenging the concept of color-as-race. View her masterful work at amysherald.com

Source: nmwa.org
Thanks to @desireeadaway for sharing this bio.

 

Meet Courtney Alexander (@reallycourtney) a multimedia artist, creative director, and writer. Her work is striking and mystical. ⠀

She considers her work, “[A] personal dialogue which served to create vulnerability and explore the complex nature of her existence. Her paintings and sculptures are abstract and experimental, allowing for a more tactile sensory experience.” ⠀

She’s also the creator of The Dust II Onyx (@dust2onyxtarot) which is ancestral medicine. She describes this project as ‘a natural progression in her exploration of identity.’ See her gorgeous work at courtneyalexanderstudio.com

 

Meet Ruth E. Carter (@iamruthecarter) costume designer for film and television. Her work is absolutely divine and I love how her designs alone tell a story. She’s the costume designer behind the record-breaking Black Panther! She was also the costume designer for Malcolm X and Amistad (she received an Oscar nomination for both films), The Butler, Selma, Do The Right Thing among others. ⠀
Experience her beautiful work at ruthecarter.com

 

THE BALLERINA

Meet Aesha Ash former ballerina and founder of The Swan Dreams Project @theswandreamsproject. ⠀

When I first saw the images of Aesha visiting her old neighborhood what struck me were the looks on the children’s (and adult’s) faces. It was a visual reminder of the importance of seeing ourselves as beautiful & talented.⠀

This is her mission: “Through the use of imagery and my career as a ballet dancer, I want to help change the demoralized, objectified and caricatured images of African-American women by showing the world that beauty is not reserved for any particular race or socio-economic background. I wish for this message to infuse the ballet world and project to the entire world. While exposing more African-American communities to the ballet, I also hope to promote greater involvement and increase patronage to this beautiful art form. ⠀
​⠀
The Swan Dreams Project’s goal is to convey the message that beauty and talent are not constrained by race or socio-economic status. I want our youth to know that they are not limited by stereotypes nor by their environment, but only by their dreams.”⠀

Some of her career highlights:⠀
“After attending the legendary School of American Ballet, she joined the New York City Ballet at the age of 18, where she remained for eight years dancing numerous soloist and principal roles. Aesha then joined the legendary Bejart Ballet, in Lausanne Switzerland, as a soloist. After enjoying success in Europe, she returned to the United States in 2005 where joined Alonzo King’s Lines Ballet. After a tremendous amount of growth and learning, Aesha has been featured in Dance Magazine, Pointe Magazine, Bazaar, Marie Claire, the New York Times and the San Francisco Chronicle, to name a few.”⠀

Support her organization with a tax deductible donation at theswandreamsproject.org

THE COACHES

 

Meet Desiree Adaway (@DesireeAdaway) the ‘Principal of The Adaway Group, a minority and woman-owned consulting firm that brings together multi-racial teams to work on projects related to racial equity and social justice. She has over 20 years experience in leading and managing international, multicultural teams through major organizational changes in over 40 countries.’ ⠀

Desiree’s work has always been needed however, given today’s climate #TimesUp. She brings much wisdom to conversations about social justice and I personally love her Dear Sister (not just cister) notes (they were also made into prompt cards that you can purchase). If you have a company or organization or want to suggest bringing in an experienced leader check out her Diversity As An Asset training. Learn more about her and all her offerings at desireeadaway.com

 

Meet Ev’Yan Whitney (@evyan.whitney). I think Ev’Yan’s work is so needed because we live in a society that constantly shames women for their bodies and sexuality. Ev’Yan is a writer, sensualist, and sexuality doula—a person who helps facilitate, educate, and hold space for women and femme-identifying folk who are seeking to come into the full expression of their erotic selves. When she’s not writing or taking sexy selfies on Instagram, she’s helping women step out of sexual shame and into their erotic power via one-on-one coaching and intimacy counseling.⠀

Ev’Yan is also the host of The Sexually Liberated Woman podcast, which is an ongoing sex-positive conversation that highlights, celebrates, and encourages sexually liberated women and femmes.⠀

You can learn more about her work at sexloveliberation.com

 

Meet Nicole Lee, Esq., a coach, public policy advocate and human rights lawyer. Early in her career as an international human rights lawyer, she was the first female President of TransAfrica, a historic foreign policy organization. She led missions documenting human civil rights violations against brave individuals and families seeking justice often against impossible odds. ⠀

She shares, “What I learned from that work is that each of us can be brave, courageous and visionary. Each of us can also give into our worst fears and settle for the life we have rather than the life we want.”⠀

Learn more about her work at nicolelee.org

 

THE FILMMAKER

Say hello to uber-talented writer and director Dee Rees and now Oscar Nominee (she’s the first African-American woman to be nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay). When I first met Dee several years ago what struck me was her humility and commitment to telling compelling stories. She definitely does that with her latest film Mudbound, which is absolutely heartbreaking and beautiful at the same time — truly a work of art! Congratulations Dee!

 

THE HEALTH AND WELLNESS ADVOCATES

Meet Latham Thomas aka @glowmaven. She’s a ‘maternity lifestyle maven, wellness & birth coach/doula, yoga teacher, on the vanguard of transforming the maternal wellness movement.’ She’s also the proud mama of Fulano and one of Oprah’s Super Soul 100. What I admire about Latham is the depth of her wisdom. She brilliantly navigates the world of soul and the world we live in and drops knowledge on all topics from self-care to social justice. Connect with her at mamaglow.com

 

Meet Lauren Ash and Deun Ivory  (@hellolaurenash and @deunivory), the co-founders of  Black Girl in Om (@blackgirlinom). These ladies are revolutionizing the wellness industry and spreading the message of “self-care, self-love and self-empowerment” to black women. I absolutely adore their podcast – it’s like a serving of healthy delicious soul food! Check these sisters out at blackgirlinom.com

 

THE PERFORMERS

Meet my mastermind client who’s become a dear friend the talented Carla Renata aka @thecurvycritic! Carla has taken everything that I’ve shared with her and ran and I’m so happy for all of her success! ⠀

Carla was actually one of the first people to find out that I was pregnant. We were meeting for lunch in LA and she gave me this look and said, “Wait a minute, girl, I’ve never seen you look like this…! Are you?” I was waiting to surprise her in person and it was such a sweet and hilarious moment! And of course she then insisted on buying me lunch to celebrate and to say thank you for the work we’ve done together. ⠀

And that sums up Carla! She’s someone who has constantly giving from her heart and she deserves all the recognition + shine she’s getting! ⠀

Carla is an actress (triple threat baby – singer, dancer, actress) and entrepreneur (film blogger, film critic, branding strategist, and now author). What I love about Carla is that not only is she so much fun to be around and she also keeps it real all the time! I also love that she’s passionate about social issues and uses her platform to highlight them.⠀

She’s now playing the role of Gracie on Living Biblically and also Janet on Superstore! When she’s not on set she’s contributing to @npr Weekend All Things Considered, and running her growing empire. You can learn more about this fabulous lady at carlarenata.com

 

Meet Sarah Jones (@xosarahjones) Tony and Obie Award-winning playwright and performer. I got to experience Sarah’s magic in her “multi-character, one-person show” Bridge & Tunnel and she’s a revelation. The way she’s able to embody every character and show their humanity is a gift. ⠀

She truly is “a master of the genre” as stated by the The New York Times. Sarah and her work are celebrated for their humanitarian approach to character and story through the lens of multiculturalism.⠀

Her brand new show Sell/Buy/Date is playing at the @geffentheater in Los Angeles and I’m really hoping it’s also heading to NYC!⠀

Connect with Sarah at sarahjonesofficial.com⠀
Get tickets for her new show at geffenplayhouse.com

 

 

Meet Staceyann Chin (@staceyannchin) a Jamaican born writer and poet, political activist, performance artist and mother. Years ago, I had the privilege of seeing her one-woman show and she is a force of nature! It’s still one of the best performances I’ve seen in live theater! If you ever get a chance to see her perform do it — she’s truly amazing!⠀

“Her work has been published in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and the Pittsburgh Daily, and has been featured on 60 Minutes. She was also featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show, where she shared her struggles growing up as a gay person in Jamaica.⠀

She’s also the winner of the 1999 Chicago People of Color Slam; first runner- up in the 1999 Outright Poetry Slam; winner of the 1998 Lambda Poetry Slam; a finalist in the 1999 Nuyorican Grand Slam; winner of the 1998 and 2000 Slam This!; and winner of WORD: The First Slam for Television. She has also been featured by Public-access television cable TV programs in Brooklyn and Manhattan as well as many local radio stations including, WHCR and WBAI. The Joseph Pap Public Theater has featured her on more than one occasion, and Staceyann has toured internationally, with performances in London, Denmark, Germany, South Africa and New York’s own Central Park Summer Stage. In 2015, she was named by Equality Forum as one of their 31 Icons of the 2015 LGBT History Month.”

 

THE POETS

Meet Alexandra Elle (@alex_elle) ‘a writer and creative living in the Washington, DC metro area with her husband and two daughters (she recently had a baby)! In her pre-teen years, writing came into her life by way of therapy and the exploration of healing. Many years later, Alex’s voice and words are being shared poetically in the form of self-love and self-care. Her passion for storytelling, poetry, and narrative writing are infused with life lessons, self-celebration, and building community through reading, writing, and language.’ ⠀

Since Valentine’s Day is this week I thought I’d share one of her poems…⠀

when they leave⠀
do not follow them.⠀

there is no need ⠀
to chase what is ⠀
running away from⠀
you.⠀

And that’s the #truth! Check out her book of beautiful prose and poetry entitled Neon Soul and learn more about her at alexelle.com

 

Say hello to poet extraordinaire Nayyirah Waheed @nayyirah.waheed. To read Nayyirah’s poetry is to be touched by grace. Her poetry centers around the experiences of people of color throughout the diaspora. If I had to choose one poem to share today it would be this one; to remind all of my brothers and sisters of who we really are. May we all remember and know this about ourselves and one another. You can find links to buy her two poetry books Salt and Nejma at nayyirahwaheed.com

 

 

THE SCIENTIST

Meet Dr. Tamika K. Cross MD (@tcross_md), Houston OBGYN and assistant professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at UTHealth. ⠀

I first learned about Dr. Cross when I read the story about her flight on Delta Air Lines. “Dr. Cross took a Delta Air Lines flight home from the wedding of a childhood friend. A man fell ill and a call went out for medical help. But when Cross tried to come to his aid, a flight attendant dismissed the young black doctor. “We are looking for actual physicians or nurses,” the flight attendant said, according to Cross. The story, shared via Facebook, triggered thousands of comments, and an outpouring of stories from minorities and women who had faced skepticism from people who didn’t think they looked like doctors.” The incident forced Delta to review their policies.⠀

As someone who has many real nurses, real doctors, and real medical professionals in my family I want to say yes, this is what a doctor looks like! I’m extremely grateful to Dr. Cross for the work that she does.⠀

“Among her professional accomplishments include serving as administrative chief resident and being honored with the Outstanding Resident of the Year Award at McGovern Medical School. In addition, she earned the following acknowledgments: McGovern Medical School ‘s Recognition of Excellence in Minimally Invasive Gynecology McGovern Medical School Faculty Senate’s Resolution for Dedication to Service and Discrimination Faced by Minorities in Medicine, Becker Hospital Review’s Top 60 Most Powerful People in Healthcare in 2016, The Links, Inc., and The Choice Foundation’s Health and Human Services Award, and the United States Congressional Recognition for Dedication and Outstanding Community Service.”⠀

Connect with her: http://www.memorialhermann.org/doctors/ob-gyns/dr-tamika-cross-md-648925/

THE SINGER-SONGWRITER

Meet Rickie Byars Beckwith @rickiebyarsbeckwith (affectionately called Rickie BB). She’s a Singer/Songwriter, Community + Human Rights Advocate, and the Founder of the Agape International Choir. I absolutely love and adore this woman, who is the embodiment of radiance and grace! Her music is truly a transformational gift from God, and I’m so grateful to have been in her presence week after week for many years. Thank you Rickie for always reminding me of who I truly am. I am grateful for the unconditional love you’ve given me and our entire community worldwide! Experience her transformational gift of song at rickiebyars.org

 

THE TECHIES

Meet Karen Okonkwo (@karenokonkwo) co-founder of @tonl whose mission is to turn stock photography into culturally radiant stories. ⠀

When I found out about Karen’s company I was jumping up and down because personally as an entrepreneur it’s been VERY difficult, frustrating and exhausting to find diverse stock images of people of color that reflect our diversity and beauty.⠀

In a recent interview, Karen credits her Nigerian heritage for her drive and passion. She also shared, “Often times the narrative for people in our community is already decided for them: criminal, thug, loud, low income and the list goes on. We felt that it was important that we allow the underrepresented the opportunity to tell their own stories; allow us to really get to know them. The hope is that people reading will embrace who these people are and not what they think they are.”

TONL launched just last year and you can learn more and buy some diverse images at tonl.co (There’s currently a promo going on when you use the code ‘TONL’ for 10% off a single image)⠀

Interview source: @createcultivate

 

Meet Kimberly Bryant Founder of Black Girls Code (@blackgirlscode). I absolutely love that Kimberley is sharing her love of technology with this generation of girls. ⠀

Her vision with Black Girls Code is “to increase the number of women of color in the digital space by empowering girls of color ages 7 to 17 to become innovators in STEM fields, leaders in their communities, and builders of their own futures through exposure to computer science and technology. To provide African-American youth with the skills to occupy some of the 1.4 million computing job openings expected to be available in the U.S. by 2020, and to train 1 million girls by 2040.”⠀

Now that’s powerful! ⠀

Don’t you love that?! I know I do! ⠀

Learn more and support her organization blackgirlscode.com

 

Meet Morgan DeBaun (@morgandebaun) Founder and CEO of @Blavity (a mashup of “black” and “gravity”), the web site is a gathering place for black millennials to share their thoughts, stories and experiences. ⠀

In the summer of 2014 everything changed. Morgan shares, “It was after the death of Mike Brown. Almost every media source painted this kid out to be a monster, all while his body still laid in the middle of the street. Too often we see the narrative around people of color go from bad to worse in the media before real facts have been presented. Blavity was created to change that.” ⠀

“So in the fall of 2014, she quit her high paying Silicon Valley job at Intuit and dedicated herself to getting the online community off the ground. Fast forward to today, she’s built a thriving community of millions that empowers Black voices. Find out more at blavity.com⠀

Sources: cnn and createcultivate

 

THE WRITERS

Meet Alexis P. Morgan (@alxpmorgan) Artist. Abbess. Wordsmith Sorceress. What I admire about Alexis how unapologetic she is in her writing. ⠀

Even her bio encapsulates this energy. She describes herself as…⠀

“The pole-dancing, troublemaking, pro-heaux, Black AF sorceress you’ve been warned about. As an anticapitalist commerce babe, I occupy my time and make my cheddar as a writer, artist, consultant, and professional opinion-giver.⠀

Devoted to Truth, Justice, and Liberation, I live in the spirit of my foremothers before me: Unbossed. Unbought. Unbothered.”⠀

So, you’ve been warned. :)⠀

Connect with her and learn more about her work at: thechurchofsaintfelicia.com

 

Meet Enid Marie Reyonolds is one of my bffs and she’s one of the most amazing people that I know! Our friendship has taught me so much about the meaning of true sisterhood. We’ve navigated the challenges and the sweet moments together. ⠀

When we both lived in Hollywood, we were at a festival chatting with a producer and during the conversation I had to step away for a moment. When I returned, he said, “Wow, you two are really friends!” He went on to say that based on our interactions that he witnessed over a number of occasions he saw that we truly had one another’s back, and that’s something he practically never saw in his years in Hollywood. We were like of course, “We’re not friends, we’re sisters!” ⠀

She’s also a talented writer who really knows how to break down story. She’s building her publishing empire and will be releasing book two in her urban fantasy series this Spring! She saw that there were no stories about women of color in that genre so she decided to create it! Check out her first book at enidmariereynolds.com

 

Meet Glory Edim founder of Well-Read Black Girl (@wellreadblackgirl), a Brooklyn-based book club and digital platform that celebrates the uniqueness of Black literature & sisterhood. ⠀

I personally love what Glory is doing especially as an avid reader. As a child, I’d devour books every chance I got, but many of these books didn’t have any characters that looked like me. ⠀

Well-Read Black Girl’s mission is to increase the visibility of Black women writers and initiate meaningful conversation with readers. Glory has worked as a creative strategist for over 10 years at start-ups and cultural institutions, including the New York Foundation for the Arts and The Webby Awards. ⠀

Connect with her at wellreadblackgirl.com

 

Meet my friend and sister Layla Saad also known as the Wild Mystic Woman. Layla is an unapologetic writer, poet, speaker and guide and when I came across her I immediately felt that I had known her before. What I love about Layla is that she speaks her truth on topics like race, social justice and spirituality without minimizing her lived experiences. Her writings are a reminder that truth can hold both love and accountability. “As an East African, Arab, British, Muslim, feminist, soul seeker, living in the Middle East,” she brings a fresh lens to these important discussions. Both her blog and her podcast are absolutely ah-mazing! Get to know her at wildmysticwoman.com and support her work on patreon.com/laylasaad

 

Meet Leesa Renee Hall (@leesareneehall) is a writer, storyteller, and diversity advocate. One thing I can tell you right away about her is that Leesa asks questions that takes you on a soul deep dive!⠀

Author of seven books, Leesa was lauded as a technology pioneer and futurist before turning her attention to using her words to disrupt the stories we tell ourselves about diversity and identity.⠀

After writing half a million words over 365 consecutive days, Leesa discovered that words can help one find their true purpose. Leesa helps spiritual and business leaders use curious inquiry to question their views on diversity so they can become effective leaders and create truly inclusive communities, companies, and corporations. She teaches that the only way you can have hard conversations around systemic oppression is to first breakthrough your inner oppression using the combination of curious inquiry and expressive writing.⠀

Learn more about her at leesareneehall.com
Go deeper on patreon.com/leesareneehall

 

 

Meet Roxane Gay (@roxanegay74) writer extraordinaire whose writing is thought provoking and insightful. I admire how honest and raw she her writing is.⠀

Her writing has appeared in Best American Mystery Stories 2014, Best American Short Stories 2012, Best Sex Writing 2012, A Public Space, McSweeney’s, Tin House, Oxford American, American Short Fiction, Virginia Quarterly Review, and many others. ⠀

She is a contributing opinion writer for the New York Times. She is the author of the books Ayiti, An Untamed State, the New York Times bestselling Bad Feminist, the nationally bestselling Difficult Women and the New York Times bestselling Hunger. She is also the author of World of Wakanda for Marvel.⠀

Her next book Not That Bad – dispatches from rape culture comes out May 1st!

Connect with her roxanegay.com

PS: She wants a tiny baby elephant. 🙂

Wasn’t that amazing?! Please support these women by buying from them, donating to them, hiring them, and amplifying their voices. We are all needed to create a truly just and equitable world.

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