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Black History Month: #FemaleRoleModel

Black History Month: #FemaleRoleModel

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During the month of February, Americans celebrate Black History Month to acknowledge the black men and women who have made a difference by helping to shape this country and its values, and who continue to inspire and fight for us to be better.

You’ve heard us talk about our #FemaleRoleModel(s) before. In a world where both conscious and unconscious bias are still the reality, it’s almost impossible to be what you can’t see. But when our daughters have other women to look up to, especially women who look like them, they’re motivated to aspire for more and to make their success the new reality.

As Black History Month winds down, we wanted to share something special with you to celebrate and acknowledge the African American women in history who have made our world what it is today, but have not always received the recognition they deserved.

Ellevate Network believes that all women hold the power they need to succeed, and the courage to lead others through adversity. So this month, we’ve highlighted some of the African American women who have not only paved the way for all women, but have shown bravery and integrity in their pursuits in breaking barriers particularly for other women of color.

Continue to tell us who your #FemaleRoleModel is on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Need some quick inspo? Here are the incredible women we’ve acknowledged this month.

Shirley Chisholm

Shirley Chisholm became the first African-American woman to be elected into Congress in 1968. She was also the first black candidate for Democratic nomination for U.S. President in 1972, and throughout her career in politics and education, fought for child welfare, black women’s reproductive rights, and more. Inspiring feels like an understatement here. 

We must reject not only the stereotypes that others have of us but also those that we have of ourselves

Sojourner Truth

Sojourner Truth escaped from slavery in 1826, becoming an abolitionist and committing herself to supporting women’s rights and religious tolerance. Her famous speech, Ain’t I a Woman?, was a call for equal human rights for all, and she spent years afterward traveling the country, preaching and fighting for a better life for women and all African-Americans.

I will not allow my life's light to be determined by the darkness around me

Loretta Lynch

Loretta Lynch served as the U.S. Attorney General from 2015 - 2017. She became only the second woman, the second African American, and the first African-American women to be nominated for the position, solidifying her place in history while helping put a crack in that glass ceiling.

Everyone wants to be seen. Everyone wants to be heard. Everyone wants to be recognized as the person that they are and not a stereotype or an image. 

Rosa Parks

Rosa Parks, known as “the mother of the freedom movement,” was an American civil rights activist. Famous for refusing to give up her seat on a bus to a white man, she was an activist for workers’ rights and racial equality.

I have learned over the years that when one's mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear. 

Serena and Venus Williams

Serena and Venus Williams are a sports rivalry like no other — two of the world’s best tennis players, who also happen to be sisters. They’ve shown us that playing your hardest doesn’t mean not having respect for your opponent. Their support of each other’s success, even when it means the other loses, is an inspiring example of #womensupportingwomen.

Venus told me the other day that champions don't get nervous in tight situations. That really helped me a lot. I decided I shouldn't get nervous and just do the best I can.

Bessie Coleman

Bessie Coleman became the first woman of African American descent, and the first of Native American descent, to get her pilot’s license. Because there was no aviation school for women, nor for African Americans, in the United States, she traveled to France to make her dream come true, and later became a successful air show pilot back home. She aspired to build a school for African-American aviators, but was killed in a plane crash when she was just 34 years old. 

The air is the only place free from prejudice.

Oprah Winfrey

It would be impossible to list the things Oprah Winfrey has accomplished since the first national broadcast of her talk show in 1986. Her career spans TV, movies, and print, and she is known as one of the great American philanthropists in history. We would say that the common assessment of her being the most influential woman in the world is not an exaggeration.

I am a woman in process. I'm just trying like everybody else. I try to take every conflict, every experience, and learn from it. Life is never dull.

Coretta Scott King

One of the most important and influential civil rights activists of our time, Coretta Scott King fought tirelessly for African-American equality. She did not slow down after the assassination of her husband, Martin Luther King, Jr., continuing to play a prominent role in the Women’s Movement and LGBT advocacy.

It is only when the poor and disadvantaged are empowered that they are able to participate actively in the solutions to their own problems.

Shonda Rhimes

Shonda Rhimes is the reason you stay home on Thursday nights (on purpose). Creator, writer and executive producer of your favorite shows — Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice, and Scandal — Shonda has proven to be one of the most influential modern writers for TV, and was named one of Time Magazine’s 100 People Who Help Shape The World.

Dreams do not come true just because you dream them. It's hard work that makes things happen. It's hard work that creates change.

Norma Merrick Sklarek

Norma Sklarek was a woman of many firsts: the first black woman architect licensed in the U.S.; the first woman licensed in New York state; and then the first woman licensed in California. She Co-Founded the largest women-owned architecture firm in 1985, and was known as a woman who “was capable of doing anything.”

In architecture, I had absolutely no role model. I’m happy today to be a role model for others that follow.

Clara Brown

Clara Brown was the OG entrepreneur, using her business and earnings for good. After being freed from slavery, she founded a Sunday school and then became a laundress, a mid wife, and a cook. She also knew how to invest, eventually accumulating $10,000 in savings. Clara owned land and properties, and still had enough money and time to give back to her community.

"I believe her life story is a good role model for businesspeople today... She did not acquire money for money's sake but for a greater purpose." - Roger Baker, Author

Beyoncé Knowles

Beyoncé Knowles has been singing and dancing since she was a child growing up in Houston, Texas, and while her talent is undeniable (20 Grammy awards and counting), it’s her confidence on stage and in her lyrics that has made her one of the most influential role models for women everywhere. She has found massive success both as part of Destiny’s Child and as a solo artist, and has used her status to help propel the modern feminist movement, focused on helping women feel — and own — their power.

Your self-worth is determined by you. You don’t have to depend on someone telling you who you are.

Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou was a poet, author, and civil rights activist who left a legacy of beautiful printed works, telling often painful stories of her own hardships in life. But more than anything, her writing inspired, either by helping break barriers for black female writers or giving a voice to those who could not use their own. 

History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again

Madam C. J. Walker

Madam C. J. Walker became one of the wealthiest African Americans in the country by creating and marketing her own line of beauty products of African American women. She took what she knew about hair care from her brothers and the experience from selling for another beauty line and started her own business, setting up salons, store fronts, and even schools to teach black women how to care for hair and train them to sell the product. Her business created thousands of jobs for black women and showed them how they could also succeed with their own businesses and become financially independent.

Don’t sit down and wait for the opportunities to come. Get up and make them.

Dr. Mae Jemison

Mae Jemison was the first African-American woman to travel into space on the Space Shuttle Endeavour in 1992. Mae's interest in science as a child was not nurtured by her teachers, who tried to dissuade her from the subject. Her career spanned many different jobs before her time with NASA, and she has since founded programs and camps to foster kids' interests in STEM.

You have the right to be involved. You have something important to contribute, and you have to take the risk to contribute it.

Audre Lorde

Audre Lorde was a writer, poet, and activist known for pieces that expressed her frustration with the issues surrounding civil rights and feminism — particularly her critique of the exclusion of black women in the feminist movement of the ‘60s. Her openness with her own sexuality in her writing also made her a legend in the New York LGBT community.

It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences. 

Harriet Tubman

Harriet Tubman was a fighter, in every sense of the word. As an abolitionist, she was responsible for the escapes of dozens of enslaved black families via the Underground Railroad. She also cared for injured Union soldiers during the Civil War, and her experience in covert travel and knowledge of the terrain aided her in becoming a scout, an advisor, and she eventually led an armed attack during battle. Harriet Tubman was a woman of action, and mobilized in the face of inequality to help change the world.

You have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.

Letitia James

As New York City Public Advocate, Letitia James’s mission has been to eradicate the gender wage gap, and she is a strong advocate for criminal justice reform, support for children and families, and safe public housing. Her initiative for gender equality in the workforce includes changes in policies for child care, paid family leave, and fair compensation.

The gender wage gap not only affects women but all members of their communities, including the men, children, and families who depend on the important economic contributions of women.

Stephanie Lampkin

In 2015, Stephanie Lampkin founded Blendoor, a mobile app to help tech companies diversify their teams by providing an unbiased and fair recruitment process. It also allows people searching for jobs to see compare diversity rates in companies, putting pressure on companies to make this information public.

If you are not putting yourself out there to fail, you’re reducing your chances of being successful.

Zora Neale Hurston

Zora Neale Hurston, best known for her novel Their Eyes Were Watching God, was a writer, anthropologist and folklorist. She studied several cultures and used her research for her writing, becoming one of the leaders of the Harlem Renaissance, 

It is easy to be hopeful in the day when you can see the things you wish on.

Donna Edwards

Donna Edwards is the first African American woman to represent Maryland in the Unite States Congress. An activist for women and people in need, Donna co-founded the National Network to End Domestic Violence, and has worked with organizations such as Public Citizen, Center for a New Democracy, and the Arca Foundation. She also helped introduce the Restoring Education and Learning Act, which makes Pell grants available to prisoners.

Power is getting things done without having to demonstrate that you can bulldoze it through.

Nina Simone

Nina Simone was an immensely talented singer, songwriter and composer, finding success in a variety on genres including jazz, r&b, blues, folk, gospel, and more. Her experience as an African-American woman was always prevalent in her music, but became integral during the civil rights movement. Outside of her music, Nina spoke passionately at protests and marches, becoming a staple voice for the movement.

I tell you what freedom is to me: no fear.

Ava DuVernay

Ava DuVernay is the first black female director to win the Best Director award at the Sundance Film Festival, and the first to be nominated for a Golden Globe Award and an Academy Award for Best Picture, both for her movie Selma. Now, with the live-action adaptation of A Wrinkle In Time, she’s also the first black woman to direct a movie with a budget of over $100 million.

Be passionate and move forward with gusto every single hour of every single day until you reach your goal.

bell hooks

bell hooks is an author, feminist, and activist who took her pen name from another woman who spoke her mind: her grandmother. Her work covers the intersectionality of race and gender, and her piece Feminist Theory focuses on the belief that men need to be part of the feminist movement for any real progress to take place.

I will not have my life narrowed down. I will not bow down to somebody else's whim or to someone else's ignorance.


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