Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., whose birthday on January 15 and national remembrance January 17 are approaching, was a contagious visionary who escaped many brushes with violence during his nonviolent mission for racial equality in America. Before he was assassinated in Memphis on April 4, 1968, he had already planted a dream more contagious than his death could ever kill: equality among all men personified by man’s service to man.
Or, in this case, woman’s service.
Many have served as standard bearers of the cause, but a new group is emerging whose gifts make them among the most relevant. They have two things in common: they, too, are visionaries and they are women of color (WOC). Here we applaud only a few as limited space permits, in no necessary order. Many others are not listed. We highlight these young Black women, in some cases, for their relative obscurity and always for their respective focus on inspiring service to others and equality for all, as Dr. King taught us.
- Amanda Gorman, 22, youngest inaugural poet in U.S. history, recited her composition, “The Hill We Climb,” at President Joe Biden’s inauguration January 20, 2021, exactly two weeks after the Capitol was breached.
“And, yes, we are far from polished, far from pristine,– AG
but that doesn’t mean we are striving to form a union
that is perfect. We are striving to forge our union
with purpose. To compose a country committed to all
cultures, colors, characters and conditions of man.”
- Bozoma Saint John, 44, Netflix chief marketing officer and first Black C-suite executive at the company. She’s worked for Uber, Apple and PepsiCo, where she engaged in deal-making with Beyonce, Kanye West, Nicki Minaj and the late Michael Jackson. With that blockbuster influence, she is most outspoken about diversity at every level in the workplace, repeatedly calling on companies to go beyond lip service:
“I want to see more corporations put their money where their mouths– BSJ
are,” she said on CNBC’s “Closing Bell” in June. “Of course
talk is cheap. Money isn’t cheap. Money goes to fuel action. So I
want more corporations to put their money where their mouth is.”
- Dr. Kizzmekia S. Corbett, 35, lead scientist on the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine team. When Dr. Anthony Fauci announced FDA approval of the Moderna vaccine for emergency use at a December 2020 event, he said of Corbett:
“The first thing you might want to say to my African– Fauci
American brothers and sisters is that the vaccine
that you’re going to be taking was developed by an
African American woman. And that is just a fact.”
- Rashida Jones, 39, MSNBC president and first Black executive to run a major television news network. “Her promotion is bigger than our industry, it’s the kind of story Black and Brown children everywhere need to see, so they can know what’s possible,” said Dorothy Tucker, president of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ).
“Journalism is such a complicated industry. If you really want– RJ
to be a next-level journalist who’s coloring the history of our
world, that’s the only reason you should be on this path.”
- Dana Canedy, 55, first Black person to head a major publishing imprint as senior vice president and publisher of Simon & Schuster. Before that she headed up Pulitzer Prizes and before that she was a reporter for the New York Times. As a Times reporter, she won a Pulitzer herself for her year-long examination of everyday race relations—“How Race is Lived in America.”
“When I left my childhood home seeking to write– DC
about the country and the world, I had no idea that
some of my most meaningful work would involve
reporting on race and class. And yet, they are
subjects that keep emerging as a powerful theme.”
Dr. King’s legacy is enduring because race and class keep emerging as powerful themes. At a zeitgeist moment he captured a nation’s attention over racial injustice in segregated America 100 years after the Civil War. Look how far we’ve come, and how far we haven’t come. May he rest in power as his truth marches on.