Irrespective of time, space, age or locale, Black women in the African Diaspora are actively advocating for and discussing the varying needs and issues that affect their respective communities. Both historical or contemporary figures, the women on this list serve as excellent examples of the extensive work that is being done to expand the Pan-African paradigm of the Black voice.
1. Lélia Gonzalez — Brazil
A founding member of the Black Women’s Collective, N’zinga, and afro-bloco/cultural activist group, Olodum, Gonzalez served in Brazilian universities for over thirty years until her untimely death in 1944, at the age of 59. Her revolutionary work is revered by many contemporary Afro-Brazilian women activists, who look to Gonzalez as a trailblazer for Black racial and gender equity in Brazil.
2. Wangari Maathai — Kenya
An advocate for women’s rights and democracy in Kenya, Maathai became the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate in 2004. Having authored four books — The Green Belt Movement; Unbowed: A Memoir; The Challenge for Africa; and Replenishing the Earth — Maathai was also the first woman in East and Central Africa to earn a doctorate.
3. Noerine Kaleeba — Uganda
In 1997, founded the AIDS Support Organization Uganda (TASO Uganda), which serves as the prototype for challenging the stereotypes and discrimination of those with the disease as well as restoring hope and dignity of people and families with HIV/AIDS in Uganda. Serving as TASO’s first executive director for eight years, TASO has not only matriculated into a household name in Uganda, but is also recognized as pillar of the global health equity community.
4. Angeline Jackson — Jamaica
In response to such insensitivity and discrimination, Jackson created and is the director of Quality of Citizenship Jamaica (QCJ), the only-registered non-profit for lesbian and gay women. Founded in 2013, Quality of Citizenship Jamaica fosters the enhancement of healthcare for lesbian and bisexual women in Jamaica, as well as increases LGBTQ participation and brings awareness to Jamaican constituents about health, HIV, and human rights.
In April of this year, President Obama during his visit to Jamaica commended Jackson for her efforts and referenced her as a global activist for LGBTQ rights.
5. Francia Marquez-Mina — Colombia
This is only one example of the numerous threats that Afro-Colombian community leader, Francia Marquez-Mina has faced for her undying advocacy for her people. An active community leader in the Yolombo municipality of Buenos Aires, she is known for her denouncement of the mining in indigenous communities as well as the extreme effects of the war that has displaced many Colombians. Defying paramilitary threats by illegal armed groups that aim to threaten, kill and rape Colombia’s rural Black and indigenous people, Mina has mobilized a group of women to stand up to these groups and defend their lands.
Mina, who is the President of the Community Council of the city, recently released letter to the media, painting a vivid picture of the devastating plight that Afro, indigenous, and peasant communities are facing in Colombia.
6. Faith Bandler — Australia
Political activist and writer, Faith Bandler served as a profound campaigner for the rights and equality for the Aboriginal people in Australia. Born to a Scottish and Indian mother and a father who was kidnapped from an island to work in the cane fields in Australia, Bandler was an influential activist who created organizations to advance the rights of the indigenous people, including the Aboriginal Australian Fellowship and the Federal Council for the Advancement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.
Bandler was also a key figure in the 1960s campaign to grant equality and citizenship to the Aboriginal people. After a decade of staunch activism and speaking at over hundreds of churches, forums and functions, the Australian government acquiesced to Bandler’s campaign and granted citizenship in a 1967 referendum.
Bandler also established the Women’s Electoral Lobby, the Australian South Sea Islanders National Council and the Australian Republican Movement.
7. Claudia Jones — London
After being deported to London in 1948, she became an activist for Black rights and equality; as many West Indians faced extreme prejudices in London due to post-war migration. In response to the racism, Jones founded the West Indian Gazette in 1958, which was Britain’s first Black newspaper. Known as the “mother of Notting Hill”, Jones created the Notting Hill Carnival, which was a West Indian event created in response to the 1958 riots; in which vigilantes attacked members of the Black community. The event was crafted to initiate amicable relationships between the communities in London and in January 1959, the first carnival was held.
8. Minna Salami — Nigeria
Using feminist activism to discuss varying issues in African culture, including pop culture, decolonization, and pan-African news, she is listed by Elle Magazine Malaysia as one of the “12 women changing the world” and Applause Africa listed her as one of the “40 African change-makers under 40.” A contributor to various news outlets such as The Guardian, Al Jazeera, Huffington Post and the Observer, she is a regular guest speaker at conferences, discussing themes that range from dismantling patriarchy and communications as a tool for social change in Africa.
9. Jessica Horn — Uganda
A founding member of the FRIDA, the Young Feminist Fund, and lead author of the Bridge Cutting Edge Pack on Gender and Social Movements, she is also an adviser to oldest international women’s fund, Mama Cash and to Urgent Action Fund-Africa, which is a feminist and women’s human rights pan-African fund registered in Nairobi, Kenya.
10. Yaa Asantewaa — Ghana
Born in 1840, Yaa Asantewaa was the queen mother of the Edweso tribe of the Ashanti people, in what is now modern-day Ghana. A member of an independent federation of Ashanti families, she was the principal leader of the Ashanti rebellion against British colonialism in 1900. Known as The Golden Stool or the Yaa Asantewaa War, the Queen Mother rallied women of the land together to fight after some of the males of the tribe entertained the idea of giving the Golden Stool -- which was the symbol of the Ashanti throne and kingdom -- to the British.
Defying orders, Asantewaa led an army of 5,000 against the British but would later be captured and exiled to Seychelles. A successful politician, human rights activist, intellectual and leader, Queen Mother Yaa Asantewaa was also a promoter of female emancipation and gender equality during her reign.
Photo: bbc.co.uk / migreat.co.uk
Jaimee A. Swift is a graduate of Howard University and Temple University, with a Master of Arts in Political Science and a Bachelor of Arts in Communications, respectively. A writer and truth-seeker at heart, Swift is contributing writer at For Harriet. You can follow her on Twitter @jaimeeswift.