Four Inspiring Young Black Women Who Are Stepping Into Their Power
Meet the leaders who are fighting for social justice and equity, founding change-making organizations, and fearlessly speaking their truth.
Yolanda Renee King
In 2020, 57 years after her grandfather, Martin Luther King, Jr., took to the steps outside the Lincoln Memorial, Yolanda Renee King followed in his footsteps to share a dream of her own.
“We have mastered the selfie and Tik Tok,” she said to her fellow Gen Z’ers. “Now we must master ourselves.”
King was referring to the ongoing fight for social justice and equity in America — one she’s taken a large part in today as the descendant of one of the most powerful Civil Rights leaders in American history. Best of all? She’s just getting started. King is just 12 years old. We can’t wait to see where she leads our country.
Even at age 12, you have the power to make an impact. No matter your age, if you’re looking for small steps to take today to further a more equitable future, check out the Atlanta History Center’s Civil Rights Toolkit for some ideas.
Abriana Johnson and Caitlin Gooch
Caitlin Gooch founded Saddle Up and Read in 2019 after learning about her home state of North Carolina’s low rate of literacy for children of color. Her solution? Providing unfettered access to books, especially books with people of color as the main character. The cute pack horses she rides to drop off the books at schools, churches and libraries sure keep kids interested in literature as well.
Abriana Johnson is the author of the Cowgirl Camryn books — featured in Saddle Up and Read’s horseback library. Cowgirl Camryn is a Black protagonist who faces barnyard challenges alongside her friends Alpie the alpaca, Lola the mini donkey and Encore the mini pony.
Gooch recently teamed up with Johnson to launch the Black Equestrian Network and the Young Black Equestrians podcast to honor their love of horses and the childhoods they both spent riding in North Carolina.
“Black cowboys, cowgirls and Black farmers have almost been erased from history,” said Gooch. The American story is so much better when we can all see ourselves in it.
Johnson and Gooch join a long history of using horsepower — literally — to deliver books to underserved communities. In 1913, a young woman in Kentucky named May Stafford saw that rural communities needed more books — and began delivering books via horseback. During the Great Depression, the Works Progress Administration picked up Stafford’s idea and started the Pack Horse Library in 1934. “Book Women” carried not only books, but messages, letters, and news of the outside world to those living in the Appalachians. They even helped create a 1930’s version of Pinterest — worn out books were repurposed into scrapbooks in which recipes and quilt patterns were shared.
When the WPA ended, the Pack Horse Library closed — but by 1946, motorized bookmobiles were on the move. No matter what challenges and changes readers face, they just keep getting back on the horse!
You probably recognize 22-year-old poet Amanda Gorman from her outstanding spoken word at President Joe Biden’s inauguration this January. But did you know that the first-ever youth poet laureate turned to history for inspiration crafting her powerful poem?
Gorman said she studied words from Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass and Martin Luther King, Jr., to craft a poem that called on our country to unite during these challenging and divided times.
Gorman has defied challenging odds as the first-ever youth poet laureate. She follows in the footsteps of notable Black women poets like Maya Angelou and Elizabeth Alexander, who also shared their verse at past inaugurations, and Phillis Wheatley, who published a book of her poetry at age 20 in 1773.
“If we’re to live up to our own time, then victory won’t lie in the blade, but in all the bridges we’ve made,” reads Amanda’s inaugural poem. “That is the promise to glade, the hill we climb, if only we dare. It’s because being American is more than a pride we inherit. It’s the past we step into and how to repair it.”