While Black women should be celebrated and recognized all year long, Black History Month puts particular focus on highlighting the significant achievements and contributions of the Black community. In this vein, the Aleria team has worked to revamp last year’s list of awesome Black women you should know. Over the rest of Black History Month we will be highlighting these incredible women with a new list each week starting with today’s leaders in social impact.
The nine women on this list all approach the important task of social change and equality from different angles: from health and wellness to government to entrepreneurship. They actively work within a system that is often set up against them and commit their lives to amplifying the voices of others and bringing us closer to a more equitable society.
1. As the Director of Public Engagement at Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, Alencia Johnson sits at the intersection of activism, progressive politics, and culture change. In addition to supporting the reproductive rights organization by engaging political, media, entertainment and corporate influencers to shift public opinion among perceptions of reproductive rights, she has been instrumental in engaging communities of color and young people. She created and ran PPFA’s Constituency Communications department that worked to engage and include the voices of underrepresented communities that are often left out of the conversation. She has been recognized on “The Root 100” list of influential Black leaders as well as a “Champion in PR” by PRWeek.
2. Arlan Hamilton is the Founder and Managing Partner of Backstage Capital, a seed investment fund that backs underrepresented startup founders. Backstage Capital has already invested more than $4M in 100 companies led by underrepresented founders so far, and last year Arlan announced the IT’S ABOUT DAMN TIME fund that would look to raise $36 million for Black women entrepreneurs. Arlan movement to minimize funding disparities for women, people of color, and LGBTQ+ emphasizes that these individuals are not only underrepresented, they are underestimated. It’s not just a matter of social responsibility, there’s incredible potential and financial value being lost by not investing in these entrepreneurs. Most recently, Arlan was featured in Fast Company and Backstage Capital launched 4 accelerators globally.
3. Edda Collins Coleman co-founded the All In Together Campaign, a non-partisan women’s organization committed to closing the gaps in politics to advance the progress of women’s political, civic and professional leadership in the United States. She has a long history in the political sphere and has been a trusted advisor to political organizations, startups, Fortune 500 executives and government officials. She is an advocate for greater equality and inclusion in government and works with multinational companies to build public and government affairs strategies, coalitions and advocacy campaigns. She has had a number of awards and recognitions including being included in ESSENCE Magazine’s 2018 100 Woke Women and receiving Women in Government Relations 2014 and 2013 Co-Chair Recognition Award for Outstanding Leadership.
4. A 17-year-old international speaker, health activist, vegan food & lifestyle influencer, podcaster, and the youngest Certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach in the United States, Haile V. Thomas is committed to helping to engage, educate, and inspire healthier generations. At the age of 12 Haile founded HAPPY to bring nutrition education to youth and at risk communities through cooking classes, summer camps, and in-school programs. She also hosts the podcast “Girl Empowered” and has spoken at a number of events including TEDx and the YWCA Women’s Leadership Conference.
5. Focusing on the intersection of youth, policy, and social good, Jamira Burley is an internationally recognized speaker, social justice advocate, and consultant on a mission to lead systematic and sustainable change that improves the lives of young people across the globe. She uses her expertise on youth engagement, education reform, workforce development, global citizenship and gun violence prevention to authentically reshape communities and disrupt the status quo. She is the Head of Youth Engagement and Skills at the Global Business Coalition for Education where she ensures collaboration between youth, bilateral organizations, and leaders. She has been recognized by the White House as a Champion of Change and is a Forbes 30 Under 30 Honoree.
6. An academic and an activist, Janice Johnson Dias is the co-founder and President of GrassROOTS Community Foundation, a public health and social action organization that supports, develops and scales health and wellness programs for women and girls, particularly those in poverty. They also advocate for policies and practices that reduce disparities and foster equity. Janice’s work within the organization, and in her academic and research life, focuses on developing innovative solutions to the challenges facing the poor, particularly black mothers and their children. She has worked with many policymakers and businesses to advocate in the increased investment in the future of women and girls.
7. Kathryn Finney is the Founder and Managing Director of digitalundivided, a social enterprise that takes an innovative, transformative approach to economic empowerment by encouraging Black and Latinx women to own their economic security through entrepreneurship. She conducted pioneering research into the state of Black and Latinx women founders with ProjectDiane. She was named a White House Champion of Change for her work to increase inclusion in tech and is an Echoing Green and Eisenhower Fellow.
8. Kimberly Bryant works to increase opportunities for women and girls in the tech industry. She is the Founder and CEO of Black Girls CODE, a non-profit organization dedicated to “changing the face of technology” by introducing girls of color aged 7–17 to the field of technology and computer science with a concentration on entrepreneurial concepts. Kimberly started the organization after realizing that her daughter’s interests in computer science may go unrealized given the current landscape of racial and gender diversity in tech. She works to introduce programming and technology to Black girls at a young age so they truly know that this can be a career choice for them.
9. Formerly the President of the WNBA, Lisa Borders currently serves as the President and CEO of TIME’S UP, an organization that advocates for women in the workplace. During her time at the WNBA she oversaw the league’s embrace of progressive politics in its business strategy and she was known as an advocate for women’s empowerment and social justice. She considers this work to change toxic workplace culture the civil rights movement of the 21st century. Though her role in TIME’S UP is only a few weeks old, she is its first leader of the and many look forward to seeing how the organization progresses with her at the helm.
Check out the full list of 100+ awesome Black women. Click below to follow our Medium publication or subscribe to our newsletter to see additional lists celebrating awesome Black women each week this month.