During a 2014 lecture at Southern Illinois University, Angela Davis addressed the crowd that had gathered to hear her speak in honor of Black History Month. “You have to act as if it were possible to radically transform the world,” she said, “and you have to do it all the time.”
Davis’s words are an urgent reminder that while collective outrage in response to injustice is a necessary vehicle for change, to truly dismantle systemic racism and transform our world requires sustained, long term action. Another quote of Davis’s explains the nature of the action we must take: “In a racist society it is not enough to be non-racist, we must be anti-racist,” she notes.
Today, generations of inspiring BIPOC activists are putting these words into practice, leading the fight for justice and anti-racism around the calendar, as part of their everyday work. Many of them are working to dismantle racism via their particular industries of expertise, emphasizing that no issue or cause can be adequately discussed without including racism as part of the conversation. This week, we’re highlighting five inspiring activists. Each of them is teaching the world about the importance of intersectional anti-racist action, whether that’s via fashion, food, music, or environmental justice:
Aja Barber - writer, fashion consultant, and sustainability expert
If you’re passionate about sustainable, slow fashion, you should be following Aja Barber. A UK-based writer, stylist, and consultant, Aja focuses on the intersection of sustainability, ethics, race, and fashion. Her writing highlights the oppressive effects of fast fashion on developing nations, and emphasizes that it is our responsibility as consumers to know the source of the clothing we buy. Aja notes that it is not enough to know who makes our garments—we must also ensure that those craftsmen are being paid fair wages and are provided with safe working conditions. Aja’s work also probes the lack of inclusivity in the fashion industry, and strives to educate consumers on how to hold brands responsible for exploitation, fast fashion, and exclusivity accountable. Find her on Instagram and Patreon.
EbonyJanice Moore - womanist, scholar, activist, author, artist, healer
EbonyJanice Moore is a womanist activist and scholar, whose organizing work focuses on Black women’s access to ease, joy, education, and leadership, and centers Black women’s body ownership as a justice issue. She is the founder of Black Girl Mixtape, a platform created to center and amplify Black women’s voices as an authority to be celebrated, and the author of Dream Yourself Free, a guide for Black women to dream themselves a new life of peace, autonomy, and self-expression. Follow EbonyJanice on Instagram for sharp and wise conversations about mental health accessibility, Black women’s wellness as a justice issue, and Hip Hop as a liberation theology. You can follow EbonyJanice on her Instagram or on her website.
Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson - marine biologist, policy expert, strategist
Marine biologist Ayana Johnson has given several fascinating interviews on Instagram Live over the past weeks, educating followers on the intersection between climate and racial justice. On her page and in her writing, Ayana explains the many ways in which conservation is inextricably tied to the fight against racism. One example: communities of color are most disastrously affected by pollution, loss of coastal ecosystems, storms strengthened by climate change, and sea-level rise. Ayana’s work led her to found Ocean Collectiv, a consulting firm for conservation solutions grounded in social justice. You can follow her multifaceted work on Instagram and learn more on her website.
Janaya Future Khan - storyteller, activist, futurist, and amateur boxer
Janaya Future Khan is the co-founder of Black Lives Matter Canada and BLM’s current International Ambassador—we’ve been watching their weekly Sunday Sermons, which have covered topics such as white privilege, solidarity, and how to organize our communities. As an activist dedicated to demanding social transformation through community organizing, Future’s sermons often focus on how to turn personal power into community action for political change. You can tune in on Sundays and follow Future’s other calls to action on their Instagram and learn more on their website.
Krystal Mack - interdisciplinary artist, chef, and food decolonization activist
An interdisciplinary culinary artist from Baltimore, Krystal Mack produces innovative work aimed at decolonizing food and exploring the ways in which food can be used as a tool for social change. During quarantine, Krystal raised money for victims of domestic abuse through her release of How to Take Care, a free collaborative e-guide featuring 100 pages of rituals, recipes, and reflections from members of the art and culinary community. You can follow her work on Instagram and her website as well as support it by subscribing to her Patreon.
(top feature image is by artist Julie Mehretu)