Leading Stories

by Lilly Paradise, Staff Writer

African American leaders remain trailblazers of our generation, and we have celebrated their courageous hearts every February since 1926. In honor of Black History Month, we remember all of the fearless women who came before us and interpret their actions into the modern inspiration from which students from diverse backgrounds can benefit. 

From 1954-1965 a civil rights movement progressed our country and unveiled the true power of the black women. Harriet Tubman and Rosa Parks were just some of the prominent women who took a stand during a crucial time in history and proved that change is never impossible.

As a journalist, speaking up for yourself is vital to the drastically changing society we live in. Maya Angelou, singer, poet, and civil-rights activist, underwent a childhood that tricked her into thinking her voice was useless. She dreamed of one day restoring the power she had locked away due to racism. 

During the 1950s, African American writers in New York City created a Harlem Writers Guide to revolutionize the publication of black authors. Angelou was one of the members on the team and later published her most remarkable book, “I Know Why the Cage Bird Sings”, showcasing how power in character and a love for writing can defeat racism.

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you,” Angelou said after the release of her autobiography. 

Publishing a book as a woman of color during a civil rights movement was as brave as brave could get. She hid in the darkness of her past without a voice but ended her career with a golden tattoo of hope for every African American woman. 

Within this last decade, black women jump-started their campaigns and promotions for equal rights. Our country may not be enduring an aggressive civil rights movement today, but unjust words will forever echo in hallways. The work is not done yet. 

Tarana Burke created the #MeToo movement in 2006, encouraging young black women to open up about their experiences with sexual abuse. A simple hashtag spread like wildfire through the internet and encouraged women to embrace their self-worth and dismantle systems of persecution. 

Burke’s success has allowed young women to feel comfortable in advocating for themselves without fear of rejection. 

“Every day I meet people who have moved from victim to survivor by simply adding their own ‘Me Too’ to the chorus of voices,” Burke said in a 2018 Variety interview. “They have freed themselves from the burden that holding on to these traumas often creates the power of release, the power of empathy and the power of truth.”

Looking into a crowd on campus, whether a classroom, basketball court, or theater, diversity is shared and appreciated. Students at UWF have resources available for guidance and support during their college journey. Events like the Campus Conversation put on once a month, allows students from all backgrounds to join a discussion and empower others. 

Dr. Kim LeDuff, Chief Diversity Officer and Vice President for Academic Engagement and Student Affairs, explains how students of racial diversity and ethnicity should embrace their identity in our modern world. 

Dr. Kim LeDuff speaking during the 2019 Trailblazer Awards.

“Be who you are and be unapologetic,” LeDuff said. “In this age of social media, reality shows, and hyper concern with fashion, body image and living up to sometimes unrealistic standards, I think young women of all races and ethnicities sometimes get lost.”

LeDuff speaks further on ways college students can use their voice for good in today’s modern world.

“I think that college is a time to learn, explore and find what you are passionate about,” LeDuff said. “Getting involved in student organizations and being involved in the community is important. I encourage young people to find the issues and causes they believe in and are passionate about and inspire others to join the conversation and spread the word.”

African American women of the past and present found a voice in a loud room, ignited sparks of change, and inspired young woman to speak up with passion. As college students, it is our job to take the roots of the past and grow an equally diverse society where every individual can flourish. 

1 thought on “Bold women, brave hearts: African American women use their voices for change

Comments are closed.