For Refinery29’s celebration of Black History Month we put together a list of Black men and women you ought to know. Their legacy in civil rights, feminism, and LGBTQ equality lives on today.
Bayard Rustin — A leading Black figure in the civil rights movement and advisor to Martin Luther King, he was the architect of the 1963 March on Washington and was heavily involved in the first Freedom Rides. He was also gay and a registered communist who went to jail for his sexual orientation. Although widely heralded, he was attacked even by fellow activists for his faith in nonviolence, unapologetic queerness, and attention to income equality. President Obama honored Rustin posthumously with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013.
Combaheee River Collective — A seminal Black lesbian feminist group active from 1974-1980. Although officially short lived, its influence has been major. The group is best known for writing the Combaheee River Collective Statement, an important document in promoting the idea that social change must be intersectional — and that Black women’s needs were not being met by mainstream white feminism and therefore must strike out on their own. Members of the collective included Audre Lorde and…Chirlane McCray, now First Lady of New York City and author of the landmark essay “I Am a Lesbian,” published in Essence in 1979.
John Carlos, Tommie Smith, and Peter Norman — The winners of the 1968 Mexico City Olympics 200 Meter Sprint. In one of the proudest and most political moments of sports history, John Carlos and Tommie Smith raised their leather-gloved fists in the Black Power salute. They wore black socks without shoes to represent black poverty and a scarf and necklace to symbolize “those individuals that were lynched, or killed and that no-one said a prayer for, that were hung and tarred. It was for those thrown off the side of the boats in the middle passage.”
We also include in our list Peter Norman, the white Australian silver medalist from that ceremony, to commemorate his solidarity with the two Black athletes. White people are more than indebted to black history, and Norman is an excellent example of a white ally. Although he didn’t perform the black power salute, he publicly supported the duo without regard to personal safety or retribution. Norman was penalized for his alliance with Carlos and Smith and was never again allowed to compete in any Olympics despite repeatedly qualifying. Largely forgotten and barred from major sporting events, he became a gym teacher and worked at a butcher shop. At his funeral in 2006, John Carlos and Tommie Smith were his pallbearers.
The Friendship Nine — This group of nine Black students from Friendship Junior College willingly went to jail without bail in 1961 after staging a sit-in at McCrory’s lunch counter in Rock Hill, South Carolina. They pioneered the civil rights strategy “Jail, No Bail,” which placed the financial burden for racist incarceration back on the state. They’re appreciated today for their bravery and strategic ingenuity. In 2015 their conviction was finally overturned and prosecutor Kevin Brackett personally apologized to the eight living members of the group.
Barbara Jordan — A lawyer and politician, Barbara Jordan was the first Black woman elected to the Texas Senate after Reconstruction, the first southern Black woman to be elected as a US Senator, and the first Black woman to deliver a keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention. Her keynote address is widely considered the greatest of all time, aided by her charismatic and eloquent public speaking skills. She is also remembered as one of the leaders of the impeachment of Richard Nixon. We chose the above quote to illustrate her unique punchy sense of humor.
Pauli Murray — This civil rights activist, feminist, and poet was a hugely successful lawyer who is also recognized as the first Black female Episcopal priest. Like many figures on this list, Murray was acutely aware of the complex relationship between race and gender, and referred to sexism as “Jane Crow,” comparing midcentury treatment of women to that of African Americans in the South. Although she graduated from Howard University first in her class, she was barred from enrolling as a postgraduate at Harvard because she was a woman. Instead, in 1965 she became the first African American to receive a JSD from Yale Law. Once armed with a law degree she became a formidable force in advancing feminist and civil rights. She is a cofounder of the National Organization for Women (NOW). She also identified as having an “inverted sex instinct,” which she used instead of “homosexual” to describe her complicated gender identity and lifelong attraction to women.
“Donald Trump is the literal opposite of Fred Rogers.”
I posted that earlier to my facebook feed, and I’ll be honest… When I did it I was kind of hoping it would encourage my friend who studied the life of Fred Rogers extensively to chime in because I knew he would have something pertinent to say. I was not wrong.
“Fred Rogers had such a huge problem with both Regan (who he programmed his show against) and Bush Jr. (The latter of which is much more complicated as they had a relationship that tested Fred’s boundaries.) that I can’t say “I can’t imagine how Fred would react” I know how Fred would react based on his interactions with the lesser evils of Reagan and Bush:
1. Had he not been retired, he would have themed weeks specifically against what Trump was putting in the news cycle. When Trump mocked a disabled reporter he’d have a week on disability and inclusion, when Trump promoted sexual assault, he’d program a week on respect and physical boundaries, when he bad mouthed women he’d have strong women on for a week. Fred would have travelled to do a week on Mexico and he would have moved in an Islamic neighbor.
I know this for a fact because these are the actions he took with Regan both with his “conflict weeks” and his traveling to Russia for remotes during the Cold War.
2. Fred would have attended events Trump invited him to but he would do so on his terms. He would participate in these events as well as long as it was on his terms. Because Fred would rather speak truth into those spaces then avoid them. But Fred would not accuse, he would just bear truth, refuse to be seen as supporting an evil and exit.
This is what he did to respond to the love the Bush family had for him and his work. He even offered prayer at one of their fundraisers: but it was a challenging prayer, one insisting that those in power and privilege use that for the least of these and especially children. After delivering that prayer Fred exited the building and sat outside like a kid after soccer practice waiting for his ride, spurning the thousands of dollars a plate dinner not even gladhanding with the bushes after.
When asked why he said he had reached the limit of what he could do before becoming an accuser. He wanted to challenge but never accuse as accusation was what Fred associated with the devil.
3. Fred would accept invitations to news programs when those programs allowed him to educate parents on countering the negative things coming from the president for their children. He knew those things affected children so he wanted to spread tools on helping them reject war, violence, hatred, oppression and racism.
He did this during any presidents term if it didn’t prevent him from meeting an obligation to children (he once turned down a spot on Nightline to talk about violence and children, one of his main causes, because he had a visit to an elementary school that same morning and knew he wouldn’t be mentally present for it if he was planning for Nightline in the afternoon.)
So we need to be like Fred. Getting in between children and any normalization of Trumps ways or words. Fred would have been diligently working on how to handle Trump in the land of make believe. Just like when King Friday started building nuclear bombs with money he promised to schools. Yeah Fred wasn’t subtle.” - Rev. Kevin Ireland
I’m not gonna lie- I had complex feelings about spending the weekend dancing whilst watching tensions w North Korea mount. I find It’s a tightrope between being vigilantly observant of everything going on in the world and also having enough space and time to appreciate God’s good earth the way it was intended to be appreciated. On my way home I found myself compelled to visit an old favorite place of mine at the rim of the world highway where I took a moment to sit down by the sequoia grove and write a little song. I just wanted to share this in hopes that one individual’s hope and prayer for peace might contribute to the possibility of it in the long run. Hope everyone has a nice day, with love from California
The witch that goes all out and does intense ritual work and magick everyday, is a witch.
The witch whom only does magick in emergencies or once in a blue moon, is a witch.
The witch who quietly whispers their spells and uses only their mind to manipulate energy, is a witch
A witch who knows everything there is to know on a witchcraft topic but never does spell work or magick themselves, is a witch.
A witch who knows nothing about witchcraft and hasn’t done magick yet but wants to, is a witch
The witch that does witchcraft everyday without knowing it, is a witch…Or just a person if they don’t desire the title. (And that’s ok!)
The witch who curses when wronged, is a witch
The witch who doesn’t believe in cursing, is a witch
The witch who follows a religious path, is a witch
The witch who follows no religion, is a witch
The witch that worships Gods, is a witch
The witch whom worships no one, is a witch
A witch that follows a group or coven, is a witch
A witch whom is solitary, is a witch
The witch that follows a specific way of witchcraft, is a witch
A witch that just does whatever they feel like and has no specific craft, is a witch
A witch that can’t do certain witchcraft because of a disability, is a witch
A witch who is old and wise with years of age on her skin, is a witch
A witch who is young and naive about the world and her craft, is a witch
A person with a penis whom calls themselves a witch instead of wizard, is a witch
A witch that loves sex and celebrates the creation of life through sex, is a witch
A witch whom isn’t sexual and values life without the creation process, is a witch
A witch that is broke and can’t afford to buy witchy thing for their craft, is a witch
A witch on a more negative or forceful path, is a witch
A witch on a passive or positive path, is a witch
The witch that wears all black and whom everyone already suspects is a witch, is a witch
So is the one wearing pink and flower crowns, they are also a witch
A witch, is a witch, is a witch.
Blood, age, color, background, knowledge, gender, or skill level means nothing.
You cannot define witchcraft or a witch. One person’s ‘imagination’ is another persons magick. One person’s ‘prayer’ is another persons invoking ritual. A person wishing upon a shooting star or making a wish on a dandelion is one persons hope and wishful thinking and another persons will to make something happen.
Though you’re feeling down show kindness to all keep peace in your heart and faith in your prayers smile, take one small step, then take one more remember someone loves you and somebody cares even while this day may be filled with darkness these moments are never as bleak as they seem and when tomorrow’s sun invites you to awaken you’ll see yesterday was only an empty bad dream