Phenomenal Women – Coretta Scott-King

Most well known for being the wife of Dr. Martin Luther King Junior, Scott-King was always an activist and a civil rights campaigner, but the spotlight shifted to her talents and achievements after the tragic death of her husband.  Not only did she become a widow and single mother to four children but she also picked up the mantle to fight racial segregation and oppression that her husband had left.

Some of her notable achievements included founding the King Center, campaigning successfully to have a day of commemoration for her husband as a public US holiday and finally winning the Gandhi Peace Prize in 2004.

Up until her sad passing in 2006, she remained a vocal advocate for change and lent her voice to many campaigns including anti-apartheid demonstrations and LGBT+ campaigns.  Her speeches were almost as legendary as her husbands, and one of our favourite quotes by her is:

“Women, if the soul of the nation is to be saved, I believe that you must become its soul.”

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Phenomenal Women – Laverne Cox

Netflix show “Orange is the New Black” is a firm favourite with everyone at WoK HQ it should come as no surprise that Laverne Cox has made it onto our list.  An outspoke LGBT activist with an emphasis on the T and a talented actress she has racked up an impressive number of firsts including being:

  • The first openly and African-American trans* person to be nominated for an Emmy for a Primetime show
  • The first openly trans* person to grace the cover of Time magazine
  • The first openly trans* person to be on the cover of any Cosmopolitan magazine

Born in Alabama known for its civil rights history Laverne was often teased for being too effeminate a comparison made more apparent because she also has an identical twin brother.  By age 11 she had recognised that she didn’t feel like a boy “should” and as she got older she made the decision to transition and in so doing became the outspoken and proud African-American and trans* activist and pioneer.  In her own words:

“I am a person of color, working class, born to a single mother, but I stand before you tonight an artist, an actress and a sister and a daughter, and I believe that it is important to name the multiple parts of my identity because I am not just one thing, and neither are you”

Phenomenal Women – Tarana Burke

Although you may not have heard of Tarana Burke her call to action is one that has been unavoidable in recent months.  Tarana Burke founded the #MeToo movement which has been the catalyst for revelations, recriminations, and retributions for years of systemic sexual abuse and harassment highlighted by recent high profile cases from within the entertainment industry.

Tarana was born in the Bronx, New York and is a tireless advocate and activist for human and civil rights.  As founder of the Me Too Movement, she has had and will continue to have an impact on victims of assault and abuse.

Here at WoK HQ, we talk about what more we can do to help women and girls to speak out against their attackers and abusers and get everyone to understand that they have a responsibility when it comes to abuse. For us there should be no bystanders, we should all stand in solidarity with those people who are brave enough to tell their story and utter the words “Me Too.”

Phenomenal Women – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Women’s History Month would be incomplete without mention of our latest phenomenal woman.  Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was born in Nigeria and is a successful and award-winning poet and author and outspoken advocate for feminism.  Her stories have had the impact of highlighting different cultures and bringing together men and women to understand multiple cultures as well as the concept of feminism.

Her popular article and book “We should all be feminists” is a call to action for everyone to embrace the concept of feminism and to accept that men and women together can achieve equality for all. As she said:

Some people ask: “Why the word feminist? Why not just say you are a believer in human rights or something like that?” Because that would be dishonest. Feminism is, of course, part of human rights in general—but to choose to use the vague expression human rights is to deny the specific and particular problem of gender. It would be a way of pretending that it was not women who have, for centuries, been excluded. It would be a way of denying that the problem of gender targets women.”

 

Phenomenal Women – Diana, Princess of Wales

Today’s profile is may be a controversial choice, but we felt that it was important to look at the awesomeness of women from a range of angles.  The reason that we chose Princess Diana isn’t because she was a princess, but rather she was a symbol of womanhood that so many of us can relate to.  Her well documented failed marriage to Prince Charles and lurid headlines about her subsequent relationships struck a chord with us here because anyone who knows the pain of heartbreak can only imagine having to manage that pain in the public eye.

Being a mother to the future King of England was no mean task and then being ripped away from her children when they were so young is something that any mother can tell you is her worst nightmare.

But in addition to her sons, the true legacy she left behind was her compassion evidenced through her extensive charitable work.  A passionate advocate for AIDs charities long before it was acceptable to even talk about HIV and AIDS and long before legislation was enacted to provide protection from anyone afflicted with this disease she provided comfort and much-needed media attention to the human beings behind the stigma.  Her international charity work was also world-renowned, and it is for these reasons that we recognise her as a phenomenal woman.  Heres a piece of advice from the woman herself:

“Carry out a random act of kindness, with no expectation of reward, safe in the knowledge that one day someone might do the same for you.”

 

Phenomenal Women – Tegla Loroupe

 You may or may not have heard the name Tegla Loroupe.  When we heard about her at WoK HQ, we knew that’s he had to be featured as one of our phenomenal women.  Tegla was born in Kenya in 1973 and is the proud holder of multiple world records with one of her most notable achievements being that she was the first African woman to win the New York Marathon.  An outstanding athlete and fearsome foe in marathons and long distance races she is also a dedicated humanitarian worker advocating for peace through her humanitarian foundation.

On the eve of International Women’s Day it seemed fitting to recognise her due to her international peacekeeping and humanitarian work as well as for her resilience.  Little known facts about her include that she learned to run distances when making her journey to school every day across a distance most of us couldn’t comprehend and then later due to her slight frame she struggled to be permitted to compete as a professional athlete but persisted.

The lesson we think she can teach us all is persistence, resilience, ambition, and humility.  Her actions demonstrate a leader who flourishes through service to others.

Phenomenal Women – Pink

Now for one of my personal favourites, the singer, and songwriter Pink.  Pink or real name Alecia Moore is well known for her outspoken female anthems and for her clear stance on issues such as self-love, self-confidence, and female empowerment.  But in addition to being all of those things and one of my favourite singers it is her role as a mother that has stood out in recent years as we have watched her send powerful messages of hope and inspiration to young girls everywhere through her relationship with her daughter.  One of my favourite moments was when she dedicated her VMA award to her daughter in a moving and emotional speech.

In the speech, she recounted a conversation that she had with her daughter that I want everyone woman and girl to read and that I want every member of Women of Kaieteur to read.  It went like this:

 “‘Do you see me growing my hair?’ She said, ‘No, mama.’ I said, ‘Do you see me changing my body?’ ‘No, mama.’ ‘Do you see me changing the way I present myself to the world?’ ‘No, mama.’ ‘Do you see me selling out arenas all over the world?’ ‘Yes, Mama.’ ‘OK! So, baby girl. We don’t change. We take the gravel and the shell, and we make a pearl. And we help other people to change so they can see more kinds of beauty.’