While 28 out of 365 days will never be enough time to celebrate an entire diaspora of people, we’re making the best of it by giving them their flowers now. This Black History Month, we’ll be highlighting Black innovators, artists and community heroes that have and are currently opening doors and empowering the community. Each week, we’ll release a hand-picked list for you to get into, with custom artwork by graphic artist, Evan [LAST NAME].
This week, we’re celebrating community leaders and social justice heroes.
GOOD KID MAD CITY
Good Kids Mad City is a South-Side of Chicago based youth group that’s led by Black and Brown youth with the goal of addressing gun violence in their communities. They have created a healing space for young people who have been impacted by trauma and work towards filling the lack of resources that is too often seen from intercity youth. Good Kids Mad City holds weekly meetings to brainstorm how they can further put their efforts into action and plan events like open mic nights, back-to-school bonfires, and sports events. Many of the members have lost friends and family to gun violence, and wish to create a space where everyone is understood, and they’re all coming together in a fight for a better future.
Good Kids Mad City focuses their efforts on systemic gun violence, combatting it by “research[ing] -- and lobby[ing] for -- more equitable legislation has already made an impression on some Illinois lawmakers. State Representative LaShawn Ford, whose district covers a large swath of the West Side and nearby southwest suburbs, met with the group when members traveled to the state capitol in May to advocate for the expungement of non-violent marijuana offenses.” This is a very special group of youth who are using their voices for meaningful change.
Visit gkmcenglewood.com and follow them on Instagram: @gkmc18
Tamar is a Black Jewish mother who lives in Chicago with her two teenagers. She was inspired to found the organization, MOTHERS AGAINST SENSELESS KILLINGS FOUNDATION (M.A.S.K.), after a mother in her neighborhood was shot and killed trying to break up a fight in 2014. The day after the incident, she sat where it happened on the corner of 75th and South Stewart Avenue in Englewood with the thought that the first step in helping the neighborhood would be a constant presence. Other community members and parents joined her sitting on that corner, and soon after, MASK was born. Their primary focus is violence prevention, helping people with housing, and food insecurity. They want “eyes on the streets, interrupt violence and crime, and teach children to grow up as friends rather than enemies.” MASK prepares 200 meals a day, runs events, and aids community members in finding educational and professional opportunities. Tamar and her work has been featured in a documentary, “They Ain't Ready For Me.”
Visit ontheblock.org and follow her on Instagram: @avinmmama
Sola is a New York native, born and raised in Brooklyn with a fascination for history. He often digs through archives to post to his twitter photographs, video footage, and stories of the day-to-day lives of New York City’s Black inhabitants. He says he has always loved history classes and was drawn to the stories his father would tell him about immigrating to the city from Nigeria in the ‘80s. When he went to college he found CUNY resources and often visited Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem to learn more. He even flips through pages of EBay searches to collect old highschool yearbooks. His goal is to educate people through the tool of social media and tell stories that were never told. Sola told the New York Times in an interview, that although he is currently a strategic planning intern for the New York City Housing Authority he, “wants to become a history professor. He also wants to curate a museum exhibit and use his knowledge of history to act as a consultant on movies, particularly period pieces.”
Visit his Twitter: @DrinkSolaPop
Black Archives is a multimedia platform that brings a spotlight to Black experience through photographs, video clips, stories. It was founded in 205, by Renata Cherlise, with a mission to: “give a voice to those stories under-told while providing authentic representation and inspiration to transformative growth of Black people everywhere.” Black Archives is a carefully curated Instagram page, as well as a digital editorial that is pay-what-you-can, and intended to provide accessibility to Black past, present, and future. They have created a community, and often get submissions of photographs and stories from their followers and readers.
Visit blackarchives.co and follow them on Instagram: @blackarchives.co
Maya is a 20 year old, Georgia based, environmental activist, digital animator, entrepreneur, and CEO of her eco-friendly fashion company. She started her business when she was eight years old, and gave a TED talk in San Francisco about how to be responsible for the Earth and for your customers when running a business. She spoke of her hand-made clothing brand, “Maya’s Ideas,” as well as a non-profit, “Maya’s Ideas for the Planet,”where she aids in helping with “environmental justice, climate justice, and diversity and equity in STEM and tech in creative careers, among other community centered social good efforts.” She still focuses on creating and growing her fashion brand, which continues to be handmade from organic, vintage, and recycled materials. Maya wants to be a voice for people of color in a space where their voices are not traditionally heard. Follow her and her work on Instagram: @mayasideas
Well Read Black Girl is an online book club and writing group for women of color to come together, discuss, and share. Glory Edim founded the club in 2015 as a way to provide black women writers and readers with a space to connect, read, share, and grow. Their mission is to, “introduce a cohort of diverse writers to future generations – contemporary authors who are non-binary, queer, trans, and disabled. To address inequalities and improve communities through reading and reflecting on the works of Black women.” Each month there are book club meetings and twitter chars (#WRBGChat). As their community grew in numbers, in 2017, they were able to host an in-person book festival where they have authors speak and community members come together. The community is based on coming together and sharing with one another while uplifting the narratives of black women.
Visit wellreadblackgirl.com and follow them on Instagram: @wellreadblackgirl
Elisha founded the Black Joy Parade in 2015 to revive, quite literally, Black joy. It is a yearly event that takes place in Oakland, California as a way to provide “the Black community and allies a live experience that celebrates our influence on cultures past, present, and future.” The focus is on black boldness, creative expression, economic empowerment, and unwavering optimism. Black Joy Parade has community initiatives where they feature members of their community that are doing good, as well as artists that are doing social justice work, and a yearly “Best in Flow” award to “individuals, groups, and organizations for bringing the most jo to the streets to share and inspire others to fo the same.”
Visit blackjoyparade.com and follow them on Instagram: @blackjoyparade
Black Girl in Om is a space that was created by Lauren Nash in 2014 for black women to be able to “breath easy.” Her initial inspiration of making the group was to close the wellness gap and address the lack of diversity within the wellness industry. Black Girl in Om has created a space where black women can feel seen, heard, and liberated, and their mission is to support black women on their journey to become whole. They offer free meditations and a weekly podcast that shares transparent conversations about healing, words of affirmation, and a unique community that has come together. They often give out resources and have created a community where women of color uplift one another. Black Girl in Om shares self care practices, as well as spiritual healing, specifically from intergenerational trauma, and meditations.
Visit blackgirlinom.com and follow them on Instagram: @blackgirlinom
Janet Mock is a television host, author, producer, and trans rights activist. In 2019, Janet won Harvard’s Artist of the Year award after making history for being the first trans person to sign a production pact with a major studio. She signed with Netflix and is the producer of the Netflix series, HOLLYWOOD and MONSTER. She is also the executive producer of FX drama series POSE. Janet is a New York Times bestselling author for her two memories, Redefining Realness and Surpassing Certainty where she speaks on her journey as a trans woman. She is also a founder of the group, #GirlsLikeUs, a social media movement that’s goal is to empower and connect trans women.
Follow her and her work on Instagram: @janetmock
PORSCHE NICOLE KELLY
Porsche is an Oakland native, who is a poet, rapper, and motivational speaker. The author of 2 Kinds of Fire, a debut poetry collection that spans “unhealthy relationships to depression and loss of purpose to restore faith and overcoming.” Kelly posts videos of spoken poetry; recent topics include getting out the word about the importance of the Census in helping marginalized communities and “an ode to the Black man.”
Follow her and her work on Instagram: @thepoeticactivist