Black History Month: Honoring And Celebrating 10 Influential Leaders

Black History Month: Honoring And Celebrating 10 Influential Leaders

The leaders we wish we were and how they contributed to the history of America.


February is a big month. Besides it being the month for Valentines and being the shortest in the amount of days, February is most recognized for Black History Month. During this time, it is important to remember important events and people who have contributed to African American history. Numerous African Americans have contributed to society, whether it be the arts, politics, or entertainment field, there is something to note. Here are a list of ten of some of the most influential leaders that should be honored for Black History Month:

1. Sojourner Truth

After escaping from her slave master in 1826, Sojourner Truth became free and become a famous abolitionist. In 1844 Sojourner joined a Massachusetts abolitionist organization called the Northampton Association Education and Industry. Sojourner was a speaker, and her most famous speech was "Ain't I a Woman" advocating on equality which she gave in Akron on 1851 at the Ohio Women's Rights Convention.

2. James Baldwin

American novelist James Baldwin tackles issues on race, class, and sex distinction in order to show people how unjust society is. James was born in Harlem on August 2nd, 1924. His text "Go Tell it on the Mountain' was his most infamous novel published in 1953.

3. Oprah Winfrey

"The Oprah Winfrey Show" was the highest rated television program and aired from 1986-2011. As a talk show host, she filmed her show in Chicago. Her life started rough when she was born into a family of poverty, but made it out to become the first African American multi-billionaire in North America. She is known as the most influential person in the world.

4. Harriet Tubman

Harriet managed to escape slavery from the south and was important in helping other African Americans escape from slavery through the Underground Railroad. With her bravery, she managed to rescue hundreds of slaves to freedom during the 1850's.

5. Barack Obama

America elected its first African American president in the 2008 election and he ended his term in 2016. One legacy Obama left is the affordable health care plan called Obama Care. Before his time in the White House, he served as a senator for Illinois from 2005-2008.

6. Chuck Berry

American singer Chuck Berry was known for his contribution in the rock and roll genre in the 1950's. Some of his famous songs include "Maybellene" and "Roll over Beethoven." Guitar solos and showmanships is what Berry is known for in his music.

7. Rosa Parks

After refusing to give up a seat for a white passenger in a bus in Montgomery in 1955, Rosa was put in jail. This incident known as the Montgomery bus boycott and let the world know how African Americans were not treated equally with the 'Jim Crow' laws.

8. Langston Hughes

Langston Hughes is best known as a leader in the Harlem Renaissance which was a period in the 1920's when African American culture was making its ways to the midwest and the north. His poetry and novels influenced the masses. His poem "The Negro Speaks of Rivers" became one of his most well known poems.

9. Maya Angelou

Civil rights activist and novelist Maya Angelou became famous through her seven autobiographies revealing her childhood and the struggles of being an African American. Her first autobiography titled 'Why The Caged Birds Sing' is the most famous and is read as a way to show African American's daily struggles.

10. Martin Luther King 

Martin Luther King became an influental Civil Rights leader by advocating for peace and love rather than violence. His famous speech titled 'I Have A Dream' continues to inspire many individuals which and was delivered in 1963 at the March of Washington.

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17 Signs You Grew Up Irish

Irish and proud!

With a name like Shannon Elizabeth Ryan many people right away sarcastically ask the question "you're not Irish are you?" I always laugh and jokingly say nope not at all. I'm extremely proud of my Irish heritage, but what does it mean to be Irish?

Here are 17 signs you grew up Irish:

1. You have a distinct Irish name: first or last

Shannon, Elizabeth, Michael, Patrick, Sean, James, Ryan, Riley, Mahony, Murphy. Extra points if your last name begins with O', Mac or Mc.

2. You have been called a "potato head" or towhead as a child

Shannon Ryan

"What a bunch or potato heads!" Meaning you were really Irish or really blonde or both.

3. You were raised Catholic

Shannon Ryan

Catholic school, mass every Sunday. Oh and you were most likely an alter server or in the choir and can say the mass forward and backwards.

4. You have a love for potatoes of any kind.

Also, you may have read this book about a potato as a child.

5. You've been told, "Oh, you're Irish, you can hold your drinks."


I mean it's in your blood, right?

6. Funeral, wedding, birthday you really can't tell the difference

Wedding? Get the whiskey. Oh, you said funeral?

... get the whiskey.

7. You know old Irish Songs and sing along with every note

"The Streets of New York," "Black Velvet Band," "Wild Rover," "Molly Malone," "Galway Girl," "Danny Boy," tell me ma all songs I remember being singing along with as a kid.

8. Your favorite holiday is St. Patrick's Day and you go all out

A day to show the world that there are only two types of people in the world: those who are Irish and those that wish they were.

9. You own a Celtic cross, Claddagh ring or any Irish knot jewelry and wear it often

You were most likely given that Celtic cross when you were born and got one for your First Holy Communion. The Claddagh was given by someone who loves you and Irish knots you can never go wrong with.

10. Two words: "soda" and "bread"

Some don't know that the cross made on the top of bread is to keep the devil away and protect the house.

11. You have a HUGE family and the parties and reunions that go along with it are just as big

My family is enormous and this is only half of it and I still don't know everyone.

12. There is no such thing as tanning

Unless you ware one of the blessed ones who do tan I'm extremely jealous. For the rest of us, we have two options pale or red there is no in-between.

13. You may not have the cleanest mouth or quietest voice

But you would never dare say a bad word in front of someone older than you. As for an indoor voice, it's non-existent.

14. You can successfully pull off an “Irish Exit" and then have to explain to your friends the next day what exactly that is when they ask where you went

Basically means you leave the party without anyone knowing.

15. At one point in your life, you've said, “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph" if something went wrong

I heard this a lot growing up and I catch myself saying it every now and again.

16. The only college football team you root for is Notre Dame

I mean is there any other, Let's Go Fighting Irish!

17. Lastly, you are extremely proud of your Irish heritage

We are Irish. We are taught to be strong, have faith in God and learn how to party and have fun. Erin Go Bragh!

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Lighter Skin Doesn't Automatically Make You More Beautiful, Colorism Is A Real Issue

No matter how dark or how light you are, there's absolutely nothing wrong with it.


South Asian communities are keen on the image of beauty having relation to being "fair and lovely." Eurocentric beauty standards and traditions have often led to a vast statistic of young brown teenage girls to feel insecure about the melanin they were born with. I've never unraveled this concept of relating paler skin with more beauty. Growing up, I've had the "privilege" of living beneath a light colored complexion, as relatives, family friends, and even strangers, have often glorified the color of my skin. I was introduced to a concept called "light-skinned privilege."

A dark-skinned girl would write about the adversity she faced as she tackles a society that shames her skin and worships European beauty features. She'd recount how she overcame this shallow mentality by learning to love and accept her dark skin. To provide an interesting twist, I am writing from the perspective on the other end of the spectrum, as a "light-skinned" brown girl, to acknowledge the fact that my skin gives me privilege in a society that has been internalizing colorist values for generations on end, and why this toxic mentality is harming brown communities.

In a metaphorical and comprehensible sense, it may be simple to compare "light skin privilege" to "white privilege," or colorism to racism. Both are systematic preferences for individuals who are of a superior trait, color, or race, giving those people societal advantages in regards to their possession of the ideal physical attractiveness standards. Colored men and women are systematically oppressed by colorist or racist means; sometimes, unfortunately, by both at the same time. But colorism, compared to racism, is an anomalous social issue that occurs every day, something I've recognized since I was nine years old.

It was nearly 100 degrees. The concrete of my backyard burned the soles of my feet and the air was laced with intensified humidity. But still, it's summer. No one stays in their house; folks practically lived in the outdoors. We cooked, conversed, slept, and ate right on our own property. The people of my culture spend every day living in the ambiance under the sun, so why is colorism such a normality?

It's because my people want to embrace their sun, but are pressured to hide in the shade. My nine-year-old charismatic self completely ignored this. I played freeze tag, rode my bike, and played games under the sun all day, until one day, my mom said to me:

"Melissa why you run in the sun all day? Your skin will turn black!"

She expects me to spend more time in the shade than in the sun. If I am in the sun, I must be fully clothed, even in 100-degree weather. Wearing a tank top and shorts while being in the sun is utterly scorned upon. It is dangerous, detrimental to my well-being, not because of the fact that I'm exposed to an excessive amount of harmful UV rays that can potentially cause skin cancer, but because my skin tone will become darker, and my "beauty will fade."

To avoid any misinterpretation of all this, I'm not whining about how "difficult" it is to have light skin. I'm not saying that those with light skin can be oppressed just as much as people with dark skin. Because they can't be. It's not the same. In reference to my racism analogy previously mentioned, saying people with light skin can also be oppressed in colorist communities is like saying white people can be oppressed in colored communities. This is completely false. The concept applies both ways; the same way minorities cannot systematically oppress white people is comparable to dark-skinned people not having the privilege and power in society to discriminate light skin people.

When a girl is shamed for her dark complexion, encouraged to bleach her skin, buys foundation a few shades lighter, invests in the popular "Fair & Lovely" skin cream, idolizes magazine cover models who are only of light skin complexion, learns that men in colorist communities prefer light-skinned women over dark skin, this is known as real, systematic oppression. This is a problem that is highly underrated.

However, there are no creams used to make a person of lighter complexion darker. No one is pressuring me to stay in the sun so I can be darker. What my mother had said to me was not systematically oppressive at all. It was said in a tone of admiration and caution, not a tone of distaste and discrimination.

I've read works addressing social injustices such as racism and police brutality, sexism, and homophobia, but can barely recall one that touched upon colorism. Today, I've used my "light skin privilege" as a platform to speak out against colorism and to raise awareness on the problematic cultural notions instilled in the minds of young girls in colored societies.

In other words, love your skin! Love the color of it, please. No matter how dark or how light you are. There's absolutely nothing wrong with it.

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