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Stop Whitewashing Activism: Seven Black Activists to Follow

by Hannah Smith

While our focus remains heavily on the Black Lives Matter movement at hand, we wanted to take the time to highlight Black activists who are paving the way to justice in their own way. But when it comes to other social movements, it seems white faces are always are the forefront. Whether it’s climate change, gun reform, or intersectionality, there are tons of Black activists speaking out on various topics that impact the community. Read about some of our favorites below and drop em a follow – you’ll thank us later.


Marley Dias is a 15 year old activist from New Jersey. Her foray into activism was sparked by her love of books, but not particularly any of the characters in the books. She noted to her mom that most of the primary characters she was seeing in her school’s mandatory readings were either all white or an animal, so she set off to change that. Marley started the #1000BlackGirlBooks campaign to donate 1000 books that prioritized diversifying literature directly to other little black girls in her area – she ended up raising over 9000 and sent the books to a children’s book drive in Jamaica. Marley’s passion for books didn’t stop there, as she went on to write her own book titled Marley Dias Gets It Done: And So Can You! and even had her own column on, “Marley Mag.”


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@teenvogue SUMMIT TIME!!!

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Whether Lindsay considers herself an activist or not, her work speaks for itself. Lindsay became Teen Vogue’s editor-in-chief and the youngest editor-in-chief in Conde Nast’s entire history back in October 2018 and can be credited with the political tone the magazine has embodied ever since. The responsibility she feels to make Teen Vogue a place of diversity and inclusion is immense, but she’s successful in not only making the pages look more diverse, but in hiring a team of highly diverse creatives. For example, she personally DMed Sophia Wilson, a 19 year old Black photographer to shoot a Fenty Beauty editorial for the publication’s notorious September issue. The Young Hollywood issue paved new history for Teen Vogue, as it was the first time a trans person of color ever appeared on the cover. Even the music issue was a feat, featuring Black, queer artist Lil Nas X. Lindsay is undoubtedly beginning to change the standards of an age old industry, and it’s wildly exciting to witness.


Vanessa Nakate is a 23 year old climate change activist from Uganda. Nakate’s activism began with a solitary strike outside of the Ugandan parliament to protest inaction in the face of climate change. Her biggest pull is her country’s dependence on agriculture, and in an interview she noted “If our farms are destroyed by floods… or droughts and crop production is less, that means the price of food is going to go high. So it will be only the most privileged who will be able to buy food.” And like any movement, she began to grab her nation’s attention. She quickly had tons of support online and in person, to help bring further attention to specific actions in their community such as deforestation. She went on to found the 1 Million Activist Stories, a platform to amplify the voices of the climate change movement around the world. Her notoriety in the climate change activism world garnered her invitations to the World Economic Forum and even the Arctic Basecamp.


Kenidra Woods is a 19 year old mental health advocate, activist, and author. Kenidra actively speaks out on a number of topics: she founded the Hope for Humanity Project following the devastating Parkland shooting and in response to gun violence in her own community. In fact, she appeared on Teen Vogue’s gun control cover and is one of the most prominent voices fighting for black voices to be included in the gun reform conversation. She also founded CHEETAH (Confidence, Harmony, Enlightenment, Encouragement, Tranquility, Awareness, and Hope) Movement to help those suffering with self-harm or other suicidal ideations, born of her own experience with mental health while healing from sexual abuse.


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Octavia Butler said, “Belief initiates and guides action- or it does nothing” ⠀ So if you are shouting “Black trans lives matter” at a protest or tweeting it on the interwebs then I am assuming you are ensuring NONE of the following are happening in your world as they all contribute to Black trans folks dying and/or our overall existence being impacted: ⠀ 1. Asking, “so when did you know you were trans?” 2. Using someone’s dead name 3. Not using people’s pronouns (with or without intent) 4. Not asking EVERYONE for pronouns. 5. Asking people about their genitals/any personal information about their bodies when they have shared they are trans. 6. Expressing that trans folks are not your type. 7. Saying that you can tell that someone is trans. 8. Assuming someone doesn’t know which restroom they want to use and harassing them out of said restroom. 8a. Working in a building without gender neutral bathrooms and never addressing it 9. Making transphobic jokes. 10. Biological essentialism: the belief that gender is binary due to binary biological conditioning 11. Expectation that people reveal their gender identity. 11a. Gender reveal parties/announcements by family and/or physicians 12. Assuming that trans people came into existence in the 80s. 13. White people moving into neighborhoods that are gentrified 14. Policing what people are wearing or not wearing 15. Businesses only marketing to the gender binary 15a. Stats or polls about anything only including the gender binary 15b. Only acknowledging and getting activated around the trauma and murders of Black cis people 16. Schools assuming the genders of staff and students and never ensuring that it’s safer for GNC, trans, non binary, agender etc folks 16a. Schools (and everyone) expecting trans and non binary staff and students to educate them on gender 17. Showing up to a protest only when we are gone while never fighting for us otherwise 18. White and NBPOC queers thinking their queerness will absolve their racism/transphobia 19. Being an anti Black misogynoir asshole 20. Taking the path of least resistance ⠀ Feel free to add more in the comments. ⠀ #Blacktranspower #Blacknonbinaryfemme #pride #blackqueer

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Ericka Hart M.Ed., is the host of the podcast “Hoodrat to Headwrap,” a sex educator, a writer, and an outspoken activist on topics such as race, gender, and other social issues. Her breakout moment that helped garner the following she has today is when she got real about her experience with breast cancer in a Black body and went topless to show off her double mastectomy scars back in 2016. Hart is a highly acclaimed speaker and her work as a sexuality educator is literally award-winning. Her mix of personal experience and education lends to one of the most inclusive and educational Instagram feeds around. But if you feel like you need to further your education even more, you can take intro courses to Gender or Racial and Social Justice through her website.


Mari Copeny, better known as Little Miss Flint, started her activism years ago to bring attention to the Flint Water Crisis. Incase you need a reminder, Flint, MI has been without clean, drinkable water in over six years, and Mari has been one of the youngest people at the forefront of a movement like this. She wrote a letter to former President Barack Obama, while he was in office, to ensure he was aware of the issue and has since gone on to make certain that people are always talking about the water crisis, how it effects communities, and how it can even be occurring in other areas of the country unknowingly. She helps to produce affordable filters to be used in the home to help make drinking water safer. Mari herself has made the Flint Water Crisis a national crisis, and she won’t stop until real change is done.


Rachel Cargle is a writer, lecturer, public academic, and all around activist constantly exploring the intersections of race and feminism. She’s held talks on topics such as unpacking white feminism and how to be anti-racist, to name a few, and has even worked internally in universities to to help dismantle racist systems and instill a sense of true allyship. In 2018, she took it a step further with a fundraiser to help Black women and girls gain access to mental health care, something they have a disproportionately harder time accessing. The fundraiser was such a success that she went on the found the Loveland Foundation, which aimed to keep the mission of her initial fundraiser alive and well always. She also founded The Great Unlearn, which is a self-guided syllabi to follow to unlearn history the way we’ve been taught to re-learn it with full context.

Feature Image via Emma Craft

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