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#BlackYouthMatter: Vol IV
This is my fourth and final installment for Black History Month, highlighting the Black youth in the world who have made things happen or are carving their own paths. As dismissive as we are of people younger than us, we owe them the world. Future generations deserve to be in a better place so that teenagers don’t have to face barking dogs and angry mobs. Our children should not have to be handcuffed at age 6 for having a temper tantrum in school. Our boys should not have to have “the talk” about how to stay alive if a cop draws a gun on them. Regardless of the obstacles put in their way, I’m certain the kids will be all right.
Mo’ne Ikea Davis is an American former Little League Baseball pitcher from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She was one of two girls who played in the 2014 Little League World Series and was the first girl to earn a win and to pitch a shutout in Little League World Series history, the sixth to get a hit, and the first African-American girl to play in the Little League World Series. She was also the first Little League baseball player to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated as a Little League player. At age 13, Davis threw a 70 miles per hour (110 km/h) fastball, while the average velocity in her age class was 63 miles per hour (101 km/h) to 73 miles per hour (117 km/h) range. She also threw a curve ball that gave “opposing hitters fits”.
Minnesota Native Isra Hirsi is a 17-year-old environmental activist. She co-founded the group US Climate Strike. Her first foray into public action was in middle school in the Black Lives Matter Movement, when she organized for justice for Jamar Clark, who was murdered on the ground by Minneapolis police. Hirsi and her US Climate Strike co-founders co-wrote the article “Adults Won’t Take climate Change Serioulsy, So We, the Youth, Are Forced to Strike”. She personally won a Brower Youth Award for her activism and was placed on BET’s Future 40 list.
11 year old original Renegade #Jalaiah Harmon from Atlanta is the first black child to get original credit for inventing a dance WITHOUT a white kid with a backpack or a game developer stealing it and pretending it’s theirs. #Renegade #BlackHistoryMonth #BlackYouthMatter
Zuriel Elise Oduwole is a Los Angeles native, filmmaker, and journalist who uses her platform to advocate for education and rights, especially for girls. In 2013, her work garnered her the esteem of being the youngest person profiled in Forbes Magazine, at Age 11. The next year, at age 12, Oduwole became the world’s youngest filmmaker to have a self-produced and self-edited a feature documentary, A Promising Africa. Her film was screened in two movie chains, and then went on to show in Ghana, England, South Africa, and Japan. By the end of her 12th birthday, she had made 4 films and met 14 heads of state around the world, not to mention numerous television appearances on international news channels like CNN and CNBC. Oduwole was also listed in the New African Magazine‘s list of “100 Most Influential People” in 2013. In 2019, Oduwole produced two more documentaries, one about Goree Island of Senegal, and another about Nelson Mandela, the latter of which garnered her a humanitarian award from the Nelson Mandela Foundation in Johannesburg.
At ages 11 and 12 respectively, Kheris Rogers (@KherisPoppin) and Egypt Ufele are the youngest designers to have been featured at New York Fashion Week. Rogers was inspired to make a brand in response to the incessant racist and colorist bullying she got at school due her mahogany skin. She started with t-shirts that had the phrase “#FlexinInMyComplexion”. She now has a full casual fashion line, was invited to #NYFW in 2017, and collaborated with the publishers of Lupita Nyong’o and Vashti Harrison’s Sulwe to mak an exclusive line of shirts. Ufele was inspired by bullying but this time it was for her size. After receiving steroid treatments for a critical asthma condition at a young age, her weight was affected. Ufele created the Chubiiline fashion brand, where she uses bright colors and West African inspired patterns to make and design clothes for people of all sizes. Ufele has been featured on all major real news networks, and her clothes were featured on the #NYFW runway in 2018.
William Kamkwamba may not be a name you recognize immediately, but you like recognize the meme about the African boy who built windmills from gum trees to power his village. The meme is true, but inadequate to describe his journey, though. Kamkwamba was born into poverty in WImbe, Malawi. When a famine struck his region, he could no longer go to school because of the cost of tuition. He still would go to the library and read, especially books on electronics and mechanics. At the age of 14, Kamkwamba built a 12-meter tall windmill using bicycle parts and gum trees to power his family’s electrical appliances. One windmill turned into three. He then built a solar powered pump that would give clean water to his whole village. Word of his ingenuity spread via the blogosphere, which eventually led to an invitation to a Maker Faire in Ghana, and venture capitalists in Tanzania offering to pay for his education. He wrote his story in the autobiography The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, which was turned into a film for Netflix.
One more thing
The Emmett Till Antilynching Bill is expected to pass through the Senate with little resistance and be signed by the president. This bill comes nearly 65 years after the murder of its namesake. Emmett Till was born in Chicago in 1941. He was visiting relatives in Money, Mississippi August 1955, when he went with his friends to a grocery store. While there, he had spoken to Carolyn Bryant, the store’s wife. According to some, 14 year old TIll had whistled at her and made physical advances at Bryant, a 21 year old woman. Bryant’s husband Roy got his brother J.W. Milan, and they abducted TIll from his great-uncle’s house where he was staying and beat him beyond recognition, shot him in the head, and sunk his body in the Tallahatchee River. The body was recovered, and Till’s mother demanded an open casket funeral, so that everyone could see what Bryant and his crew did to her son. That picture was featured on the cover of Jet Magazine and sparked an uproar in the nation. In September 1955, Bryant and Milam were found not guilty of TIll’s death by an all-white jury, though in an interview the following year, they admitted to it publicly. The trial’s courthouse was packed to capacity, with the sheriff of the county greeting the BLack attendees with a, “Hello, Niggers!” The defense did everything from depict Till as a craven lecher to question whether he was dead at all. Years later, historical markers would be placed to memorialize Till’s life in the county where he died. They would be regularly vandalized with “KKK” sprayed on them or with gunshot. This vandalism has occurred up to last year. Now, years later, Carolyn Bryant admitted that she grotesquely exaggerated her encounter with Till, and that he never whistled or grabbed at her. So all of the people who caused Emmett Till’s death got to live their lives after having cut short his at 14.
“The kids will be all right”
About Chris Thompson
(he/his/him) Chris Thompson is an engineer, writer, comedian, and activist who made Rochester, New York his home in 2008. In addition to his role as Contributor for 540Blog , he currently writes the Chronicles of Nonsense segment for the Almost Tuesday show on WAYO-FM 104.3, and regularly posts and writes on his own on Instagram and Twitter at @ChronsOfNon.Additionally , Chris is a Food Writer for Rochester City Newspaper. His blog is www.chroniclesofnonesense.com
About 29 Days of Little Known Facts About (Black) American History
29 Days of Little Known Facts About (Black) American History is an annual blog campaign curated by 540WMain that has a mission to promote and share little known facts about Black Americans everyday throughout the month of February. Now in it 3rd year the campaign highlights the life and work of past and present day Black Americans that are overlooked or underrepresented in our conversations about American history.
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