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Essence Magazine’s Woke 100 for 2018

April 24, 2018, 3:15 PM UTC

For the second year in a row, Essence has compiled it’s “Woke 100” list, a celebration of the black women change-agents who are working to create a more equitable world.

It is a beautifully inclusive list (and perfect for event organizers looking to round out their binders of potential panelists and keynoters) and recognizes women in the arts, activism, education, technology, health and wellness, entrepreneurialism, politics and in corporate life.

It’s also an extraordinarily affirming snapshot of the work black women are doing to break down barriers for others. Just scanning it gave me a boost. (And some good ideas.)

Many are already pretty famous –Kerry Washington, actor and co-founder of TimesUp graces the cover, and is joined by other bold-faced names like Lena Waithe, Gabrielle Union, and Rihanna; other headline makers include Anita Hill, former ESPN anchor and current Undefeated journalist Jemele Hill, and author Janet Mock. And there are nineteen – count ‘em! – woke mayors, running cities from Atlanta, GA to Colmar Manor, Maryland to Flint, Michigan.

But it’s the people who typically don’t show up on a red carpet or corporate speaking circuit that really give this list its unique edge.

Women like Chicago-based techie Tiffany Mikell, who gets a nod as co-founder of Apollition, a web-based app that allows users to round up their credit card purchases to donate spare change to black detainees awaiting bail. Or Hadiyah Mujhid, the founder and CEO of, an entrepreneurial empowerment organization that’s teaching HCBU students the basics of start-up investing. There’s also Eunice Liriano, a vice president and founding partner at Bridge Philanthropic Consulting, the nation’s largest full-service African American owned fundraising firm. Their diverse array of clients include Jazz at Lincoln Center, Firelight Media, and The Jesse Owens Foundation.

Two extraordinary corporate women have made the cut as well. Valeisha Butterfield Jones, the recently named global head of women and black community engagement at Google, was acknowledged for her work spearheading Howard West—a 12-week coding program, launched in 2017 for upper-class students majoring in computer science at Howard University.

And Tanya Lombard, head of multi-cultural engagement and strategic alliances for AT&T was acknowledged for her stellar work on various boards, particularly, the National Action Network and The National Coalition on Black Civic Participation.

Thanks to all of you, I made the list last year, and I’m still talking about it. (See what I just did there?) Enjoy the excellence and make a plan to nominate yourself or the black women you admire for 2019. It’s good to dream ahead.

On Point

Golf club apologizes for calling the police on black women membersA golf club co-owner and his father called the police on a group of black women club members, accusing them of playing too slowly and refusing requests to leave the course. There’s a lot of golf-related detail in the story so you can easily check your pre-conceived notions of what might have gone wrong in this case. But here are a couple of details: The women are all experienced golfers and part of a group called “Sisters in the Fairway,” who have played all over the world. One of the women had confirmed their compliance with the golf pro at the first sign of trouble and had even taken a video of the foursome behind them, relaxing on a “beer break,” to make her case that they were not bothering anyone. The police declined to charge them.AP News

Uber's new diversity report
Uber’s latest diversity report is out, and the numbers haven’t changed much. There's been a slight uptick in women overall – with a nice bump of 4.3% in tech leadership roles - while numbers for black, Latinx, Native Hawaiian or Native employees have remained largely flat. (Or dropped slightly, in the case of some categories of black employees.) For the first time, the company asked employees to identify their orientation, one-third of employees responded and 15% identified themselves as LGBTQ. The work is just starting, in some ways. "On a practical level, it’s important to not just redesign a system or a process, but to give employees real developmental opportunities that will help them expand their skill sets to promote inclusivity," says Bo Young Lee, the company's new and first CDIO.

The firing of a Muslim-American FBI agent raises questions
Said Barodi was a highly rated FBI analyst who had begun working for the bureau while still in college because he wanted to repay the U.S. for granting him citizenship. While the Moroccan-born Muslim had worked without incident for a decade, he had become increasingly concerned about what he called the targeting and harassment of Muslim agents and analysts. He’d even corresponded with then-director James Comey about it. He was fired in 2017 for “unprofessional conduct,” a charge which he successfully appealed, only to be fired again before reinstatement. “We are a target,” Barodi tells ProPublica. “We are either suspects or snitches, that's our station in society. We’re not allowed to be patriotic or serve our country. All that stuff about family and we're a big family, blah, blah. No, I was not family. I was the enemy within.”

School discrimination provisions are being rolled back
The Obama administration took on an enormous task by crunching the numbers on the disparate treatment of students of color - black students are almost four times as likely to receive an out-of-school suspension and twice as likely to be arrested as their white peers, they found. The practices associated racial discrimination in school discipline began in the 1970s, and the previous administration opened investigations into the disparities in school districts across the country. The new administration has signaled that they will reverse Obama-era guidelines on “disparate impact,” and plans to give local districts more autonomy. Advocates are bracing for the worst. “For the kids who are being ticketed, arrested, suspended or expelled — who are predominantly black — it tells them that they don’t belong in our public schools, which is a travesty,” says one expert.

The Woke Leader

The black travel business expands to professional retreats
Far from being a myth, the black travel market is some $48 billion, according to research, and it’s only going to grow. Now, a relatively new offshoot is making strides: The professional retreat, geared to executive folks of color who want to decompress while doing a bit of networking or skills development on the side. While the current options don’t specifically have race-based forums, those conversations tend to happen organically. And, of course, black women have embraced these retreats in droves. Namaste, sisters.

Churches are taking a pledge to stop calling the police
Small, local churches, particularly in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods, have long struggled to deal with the needs of the homeless or mentally ill. But many of these churches have decided that they can no longer rely on the police when dealing with the erratic and violent behaviors of the people they attempt to serve. Police reform is not an option, either. “Can this actually be reformed, when it was actually created for the unjust distribution of resources or to police black and brown bodies?” says one Oakland church-volunteer. The movement is being organized by Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ), a nationwide organization that encourages white participation in racial justice, and is called “divesting” from policing. Churches that take the pledge are training members on de-escalation and self-defense. “It’s a big ask to invite us, as white folks, to think differently about what safety means,” says one. “Who do we rely on?”
Washington Post

Where can we be black?
This is the question posed by Jamil Smith, who is speaking to the spate of news – the horror of Brennan Walker’s near death experience while asking directions, to the splendor of Beyonce dominating the traditionally-white Coachella festival. Unfortunately, the question has no expiration date. Increasingly, it seems, fewer spaces are open and safe for people of color, and the sheer delight of watching Beyonce or Kendrick Lamar burst unapologetically into a previously white space, (Coachella, the Pulitzers) isn’t enough. “When white fear creates black dangerousness out of whole cloth, it isn't difficult to see how that can result in more frequent racial profiling and police violence,” he writes. What is the likelihood that the Philadelphia store manager considered herself a Beyonce or Kendrick fan? “Black culture is devoured as readily as our people are rejected.”
Rolling Stone



I think I can inspire a lot of young women to be themselves and that is half the battle. Just be yourself, it's the easiest thing to be. Black girls, we just on another level.