Influential Women of Color

“Woman” was the test, but not every woman seemed to qualify. Black women, of course, were virtually invisible within the protracted campaign for woman suffrage. As for white working-class women, the suffrage leaders were probably impressed at first by the organizing efforts and militancy of their working-class sisters. But as it turned out, the working women themselves did not enthusiastically embrace the cause of woman suffrage.” - Angela Davis

By: Daniella Saldana, Staff Writer, The Memo

With so many influential people – good and bad -- in the world today, we mustn’t forget about those special women who have fought long and hard to advance so many others. Here's a list of influential women of color who have changed the game (and who continue to change the game) for all of us. Here’s hoping their stories guide your brain waves to the awesomeness these brilliant women are radiating.

I’m no longer accepting the things I cannot change...I’m changing the things I cannot accept.
— Angela Davis

Angela Davis,Political Activist & Author. The first woman on our list, Angela Yvonne Davis, may be an influencer for all the women that came after her. She is a political activist, heavily involved in the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. She is a proponent for gender equity, prison reforms, and the oppressed, and is known for literary works like, “Women, Race, and Class” (I encourage you to check it out) and “Are Prisons Obsolete.” Davis’ work, like many other women on our list, has created ripples that touch so many others -- man/woman/black/white/young/old.

Sometimes you see how humanity can rise above any kind of cultural ills and hate that a person’s capacity to love and communicate and forgive can be bigger than anything else.
— Viola Davis
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Viola Davis, Actress & Producer. Viola Davis is a powerhouse, appearing in hits like How to Get Away with Murder, Doubt, The Help, and the recent revival of the play, Fences. She is currently the only woman of color to be nominated for three Academy Awards, and is the only actor of color to win the Triple Crown of Acting. While Davis had a difficult upbringing (she’s described her childhood as having “lived in abject poverty and dysfunction,” and living in “rat-infested and condemned apartments”) she didn’t let her start be an obstacle for what she wanted to go after in life. In addition to acting, Davis is known for her involvement as the Ambassador for Hunger Is, an organization that raises awareness and funds to help prevent childhood hunger across America.

You know, it’s tough. I enjoy being able to critique myself when I’m finished fencing, whether I win or lose. I like that I can, you know, pick apart that particular bout. I know how I scored touches, how I lost touches or points. You know, it’s really easy to, you know, lose and be able to fix your mistakes, whereas on a team, you know, I guess whether you win or lose can be in the hands of someone else, and I’ve never felt comfortable with that.
— Ibtihaj Muhammad

Ibtihaj (ib-ti-haaj) Muhammad, Member of the United States Fencing Team. Ibtihaj Muhammad is a Jersey girl (like the author), who occasionally plays sabre fencing, and graduated from Duke with dual degrees in African American studies and International Studies, AND competed and won a bronze medal in the Olympics. Muhammad is currently ranked No. 3 on the United States fencing team. No big deal. Also, in 2016 at the Rio Olympics, she won her first bronze medal proudly wearing her hijab, becoming the first U.S Athlete to do so. Remember her name, she is one to continue to go down in the history books.

I want to leave something behind that we can say, ‘Because of this time that this person spent here, this thing has changed.’ And my hope is that that’s going to be in the area of childhood obesity.
— Michelle Obama

Michelle Obama, Lawyer & Former First Lady of the United States. Oh Michelle, please come back to us. You have done so much great work to positively impact America’s children. Michelle Obama is an advocate for healthy eating and being more active. Through her “Let’s Move” campaign, she helped school children make healthier food and exercise choices, and even created a program to provide free/reduced meals to more than 21 million low-income children. She is also the only First Lady in U.S. history to hold two Ivy League degrees -- a B.A. from Princeton University & a J.D. from Harvard University. She has been recognized as TIME’s 100 Most Influential People. Her achievements as a lawyer assisting low-income families, her accomplishments as FLOTUS, and her amazing family (we miss you all!) place her firmly on our list.

The people in the United States are some of the most generous people in the world. We saw it in Haiti. We saw it with Katrina. When devastation strikes, American people want to step up.
— Ertharin Cousin

Ertharin Cousin, 12th Executive Director for United Nations’ World Food Program. Cousin has 25+ years of wisdom on leadership regarding nonprofit organizations. From 2012-2017, she guided the World Food Program to meet reachable goals, creating long-term solutions for hunger in underdeveloped nations. How kickass is that? Cousin has done miraculous work for the world, and that's why she's on our list.

If you can keep playing tennis when somebody is shooting a gun down the street, that’s concentration.
— Serena Williams

Serena Williams, Olympic Tennis Athlete. If you ever lack the motivation to make it to the gym, just remember that Serena Williams won the Grand Slam while pregnant. I guarantee that is all the motivation you will ever need. She was ranked the number one tennis player by the Women’s Tennis Association for the 8th time in her career. Williams is an outstanding individual (if that was not obvious), and a symbol of HARD work and pushing yourself to your utmost potential. She’s won 72 career single titles, is a 4 time Olympic gold medalist, and has won more than $84 million in career prize money (more than any other female athlete). Along with her many amazing accomplishments, Serena established the Serena Williams Fund, to help youth affected by violent crimes and underprivileged children across the globe. How could such an iconic symbol NOT be on our list?