A blog post by our friends at Communities In Schools.
Everyone is familiar with the lives and stories of Black History icons like Frederick Douglas and Harriet Tubman. But what modern Black trailblazers are inspiring today’s young people of color? This year for Black History Month, Communities In Schools asked young men from a variety of high schools in Atlanta, GA, and young women from a middle school in Washington, D.C., to sit for a portrait and talk about a modern Black history-maker they admire.
Barack Obama inspires Jetarious Savage. “Obama inspires me because he is the voice of Black males. Knowing he made it lets me know I can,” he said.
Kenya Carter is inspired by Thelma Golden. “She is the director and chief curator of The Studio Museum in Harlem. In 2016 she won the Audrey Irmas Award for Curatorial Excellence, and she’s also had her own TedTalk!”
“Nelson Mandela really inspires me and motivates me to keep moving forward. His work and his story encourage me,” Iseir George told us.
Callista is inspired by Recy Taylor. “She’s not only an inspiration to African American women, but she is also inspires all women to speak up if you ever assaulted.”
“Frank Brown inspires me because he informs me that there is more to life than just thinking short term. He also inspires me because he gave me a chance to be great. He told me to stretch myself and never get comfortable—because if you get comfortable, you haven’t done enough,” Michael says of the Communities In Schools leader of Atlanta CEO.
“Neil Degrasse Tyson is organic in the way he inspires and entertains his audience,” said Gabriel.
Thurgood Marshall inspires De’Marion. “He is the reason African Americans can attend any school in the country. He is the reason we can be anything we choose to be.”
The wide array of fields through which these remarkable people trailblazed highlight the importance of racial diversity and representation. Every February the conversation around diversity reignites on the national stage, where racial representation onscreen tends to dominate the conversation. But young people of color need to see themselves in every arena. After all, students cannot be what they cannot see.
Communities In Schools (CIS), a national non-profit in 25 states and D.C., works in schools to surround at-risk students with the resources and support they need to succeed in school and achieve in life. We share a foundational goal with Because of Them We Can: to empower young people to realize their full potential.