Today is International Women's Day, a day to commemorate, celebrate and remember. To mark the day, we asked each other about our icons, the black women who give us hope and inspiration.
Ripeka Evans was part of Ngā Tamatoa, an activist group that operated during the 1970s to promote Māori rights, fight racial discrimination, and confront injustices perpetrated by the New Zealand government. She was involved in the protests against the South African rugby tour of NZ in 1981 and gave the call for protesters to invade the rugby pitch at Hamilton to stop the match from being played. She was a household name in NZ in the 1970s and 1980s and considered one of the leaders of her generation. She went on to join the Māori Economic Development Commission that worked on eradicating Māori poverty, was involved in setting up the Ministry of Women's Affairs and Māori TV which aimed to make Māori coverage equal to the proportion of Maori in the population (not yet succeeded) and worked to create the Waitangi Tribunal and treaty settlements. She says that "I saw that as following on from storming the barricades at Hamilton storming the barricades in the cabinet room. And it was brilliant." - Chitra
My black female hero is Surya Bonaly, one of very very few Black ice-skaters, I believe even the first, who like me is French. I have very little interest in ice skating but when I was little and there weren't any black people on TV in France, my mum and I started watching ice-skating competitions when we heard of Surya Bonaly, THE BLACK ice skater. She was criticized for using forbidden moves, a quadruple jump and a back flip which she remains the only one able to perform. When she appeared on the ice, the commentators spoke differently about her than about the other skaters. She had to prove herself more because she was different and even as a child I was aware of that, they wouldn't allow her to win no matter how good she was because she was not supposed to be there. but it turned out she was so incredible and unique that they had to give her medals. She was competing for France but the French were skeptical about praising her despite the fact that she was incredible and did things on ice that no one has ever seen even today. The French won several medals thanks to her but instead of praising her they criticized her aggressive technique and singularity, as if only White people were supposed to compete on the ice, and as if being "different", not the right color, not the usual figures meant being bad. As I said before I don't care that much about ice skating but when my mum and I watched the competitions we wanted to see an outstanding Black hero grab medals from the racist juries who didn't want to see her win and she never let us down. When she became vegetarian she gave me another reason to admire her. - Annette
I started reading Buchi Emecheta's books when I was a teenager, along with with Alice Walker and Toni Morrison her stories were amongst the few I could relate to. I was fortunate enough to hear her do a talk about 7 years ago and my admiration was sealed as she talked about her life story, how she came to live in London and how she survived. An inspirational woman without whose influence I would be a lesser person. - Samantha
My woman would be feminist writer and political activist, Ida B Wells (1862-1931). Born into slavery, at the age of 16 she became an orphan. To support herself and siblings she became a teacher at 16 pretending that she was in fact 18. She put herself through university and became a writer, editor of her own news publication and a political activist on racial injustice. Following the lynching of two friends, she became the first to conduct research on when, why and how lynching was applied as a 'law enforcement' tool. She wrote, "Our country's national crime is lynching. It is not the creature of an hour, the sudden outburst of uncontrolled fury, or the unspeakable brutality of an insane mob.'" She systematically went about making the world know this. Her life was threatened on numerous occasions and she became an internal exile within America but continued to tirelessly campaign. - Lola
Amy Jacques Garvey. Born in Jamaica, she moved to the USA in 1917 an' tief Marcus from his first wife. Nonetheless she did not derive her legitimacy from the status of her husband. She was a leading Pan-Africanist and Black Nationalist in her own right. She played influential roles in the movement as journalist, feminist and race activist. She became Secretary General of the UNIA, a post she held for over half a century proselytizing and propagating Garvey's philosophy of black consciousness, self-help and economic independence. From 1924 to 1927, she was the associate editor of the UNIA's newspaper, The Negro World, where she advanced her feminist/nationalist ideas with the inauguration of a new page entitled "Our Women and What They Think." The United Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) galvanised and energised Black people from Harlem, USA, to Capetown, South Africa. - Nadine
I heard of Homai Vyarawalla just over a month ago, through news articles reporting her passing away. It was both disappointing, and telling, that I hadn't heard of her earlier. Homai Vyarawalla is considered the first Indian woman photojournalist and is credited with capturing iconic images of/from Indian history, especially those of the last days of the Raj and the early days of Independence. What is even more significant for me, personally, is that Ms. Vyarawalla is a Parsi, a tiny ethnic community in India. Yet, in a culture where achievement is equated with economic prowess, our community tends to celebrate its 'captains of industry' over all else, so that Ms. Vyarawalla's history came as a surprise to most. In my mind, however, it is women like these - those that chart their own course without pomp or show, creating newer and broader avenues for those others to follow - who are truly inspirational. - Rashne
Who are your Black feminist icons? Add your thoughts in the comments below!