20 Black Women You Should Be Following Right Now

Ava DuVernay at the New York Film Festival premiere of her Netflix documentary “13th.” (Marion Curtis/Netflix)

In her book I’m Every Woman: Remixed Tales of Marriage, Motherhood and Work, Lonnae O’Neal wrote, “It’s not that I think black women have all the answers — only that we have struggled with the questions longer.” These words are as prescient and applicable to our present situation under the Despot-in-Chief as they are to the work-family life (im)balance O’Neal was writing about over a decade ago.

Since our foremothers were forced onto these shores, we’ve struggled with questions about freedom and survival, justice and equity, truth and lies. Long before we took to the streets and corporate boardrooms and courtrooms and classrooms and concert stages, the struggle lived in our bodies and in our children’s bodies, on auction blocks and in cold shanties.

No, we don’t have all the answers. But we’ve been living and loving and creating and fighting and figuring out how to make a way out of no way longer than anybody.

So listen up.

Here are 20 Black women activists, artists, scholars and all-around bad-asses who are showing up and showing out, speaking truth to power.

1. Tressie McMillan Cottom

Tressie McMillan Cottom


sociologist, professor, author

In her own words: “I’m Not Your Racial Confessor”


2. Ava Duvernay

Ava Duvernay



In her own words: “McConnell didn’t silence [Sen. Elizabeth Warren]. He amplified her. Giving more power to Mrs. King’s letter on Sessions. And more fire to our fight. #Onward.”


3. Eve Ewing

Eve Ewing


scholar, writer, educator, artist

In her own words: “‘But if we delete people we don’t agree with, where do we draw the line?’ Um, somewhere around the ‘white supremacist propaganda’ region.”


4. Alicia Garza

Alicia Garza


co-creator, #BlackLivesMatter

In her own words: “Our cynicism will not build a movement. Collaboration will.”


5. Roxane Gay



In her own words: “I love reading things that make me feel the same way I feel when listening to Beyoncé — slayed.”


6. Vanessa German

Vanessa German

photo credit: Heather Mull


visual and performance artist

In her own words: “Sandra Bland. Sandra. Sandra was my mother’s name. Sandra Bland i remember you with heartbreak & resistance.”


7. Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah

Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah



In her own words: On fearlessness and black art


8. Danai Gurira

Danai Gurira


actress, playwright

In her own words: “Women! We are at a moment when we prove that we were built for such a time as this. Don’t just march. Run!”


9. Tamara Winfrey Harris

Tamara Winfrey Harris


author, social commentator

In her own words: “Some of Us are Brave: The Failure of White Feminism”


10. Sherrilyn Ifill

Sherrilyn Ifill


president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund

In her own words: “Democracy alert: the President suggests the judicial branch is illegitimate if it doesn’t agree with him.”


11. Mariame Kaba

Mariame Kaba

organizer, educator, curator, writer

In her own words: “Yes, Trump Is President. We Can’t Compromise in the Fight Against Criminalization.”


12. Mia McKenzie

Mia McKenzie


author, Black Girl Dangerous creator

In her own words: “Real solidarity doesn’t require an audience or a pat on the back.”


13. Janelle Monae

Janelle Monae


actress, singer

In her own words: “I still can’t believe there were people who really thought it was a great idea not to vote and then a great idea to vote for this bully.”


14. Bree Newsome

Bree Newsome


filmmaker, musician, speaker, activist

In her own words: “Being students of history will help us not be fools in the present.”


15. Lynn Nottage

Lynn Nottage



In her own words: “Too many emotions occupying the same crowded space. Sometimes that take the shape of tears, sometimes a clenched fist #resist”


16. Brittany T. Oliver

Brittany T. Oliver


civil rights activist, educator, consultant, non-profit leader

In her own words: “What’s Next After All the Marches? Organize.”


17. Monica Roberts

Monica Roberts


blogger, civil rights advocate

In her own words: “POTUS 44 was the best ever on trans issues and inclusion of us in his administration. POTUS 45 is on track to be the worst ever.”


18. Yara Shahidi

Yara Shahidi

actress, activist


In her own words: “As somebody who’s half Iranian, I have family that I want to know can come here and be safe.”


19. Vilissa Thompson

Vilissa Thompson


writer, disability rights consultant and advocate

In her own words: “You will not erase the involvement of black disabled women in my movement. Not on my watch.”


20. Crissle West

Crissle West

photo credit: Kid Fury


writer, pop culture commentator

In her own words: “Hard to imagine the state of public education in this country getting shittier but…”


by Deesha Philyaw
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