As 2014 comes to an end, I wanted to look back at the accomplishments of women of color who’ve been doing amazing work in the face of this really challenging and turbulent year. There would be no way to create a truly exhaustive list, so apologies in advance for all of the folks not included below. If you’re interested in perusing a much longer list, a post looking for suggestions on my Facebook page generated more than 50 possible women to recognize. Without further ado, 14 women of color who rocked 2014, in no particular order:
1. Civil rights attorney Vanita Gupta is having a big year. As deputy political director with the ACLU, she spearheaded the group’s efforts in Ferguson. In October, she was selected to join the Obama administration as the acting assistant attorney general of the new Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice. (She’ll face congressional approval before she can take the position on permanently.) Both roles are just the most recent steps in a career dedicated to eliminating excessive use of force by police departments, as well as prejudicial policing in communities of color.
2. You’re probably not surprised to see Janet Mock on a list like this–she is one of the most high-profile black trans women the U.S. This year started with the publication of her New York Times bestselling book, “Redefining Realness.” She’s continued her work in journalism as a contributing editor for Marie Clare, and she’ll start hosting her own weekly pop culture television show on MSNBC’s Shift network. Mock continues to elevate the issues facing the trans community with her hashtag #girlslikeus, and is bringing these issues to wider audiences all the time.
3, 4 & 5: Even if you don’t recognize the names of Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi, you’ve no doubt experienced the hashtag-turned-movement these three women* created: #BlackLivesMatter. While they came up with the hashtag in response to George Zimmerman’s acquittal, it gained worldwide momentum this year after the police killing of unarmed black teen Michael Brown. Thousands have used #BlackLivesMatter on- and off-line, the result of Garza’s, Cullors’ and Tometi’s organizing. (Garza lays out the origins of the movement over at Feminist Wire.) Outside of #BlackLivesMatter work, Garza is special projects director for National Domestic Workers Alliance; Tometi is the executive director of the Black Alliance for Just Immigration; and Cullors is an artist, organizer and the founder of Dignity and Power Now, a group “dedicated to protecting incarcerated people and their families” in Los Angeles.
Paulina Helm-Hernandez (Southernersonnewground.org)
6. As co-director of Southerners On New Ground (SONG), an LGBT organization at the forefront of queer organizing in the South, Paulina Helm-Hernandez has led incredible work this year. The group has organized to stop deportations through the Not1More campaign, worked to hold police and government accountable for discriminatory profiling in small Southern cities, and continued their annual “Gaycation” event which attracts many folks from across the region looking to build community.
7. Ai-jen Poo recieved lots of media attention this year because she received a so-called “genius grant” from the MacArthur Foundation. But Poo also made incredible strides in her work as executive director of the National Domestic Worker’s Alliance and co-director of the Caring Across Generations campaign: Poo has been part of a successful push to get the Department of Labor to extend basic protections for home-care workers, including minimum wage and overtime pay.
8. There’s no question that 13-year-old Mo’Ne Davis has had a great year. She pitched the first shut-out by a female player at the Little League World Series this past summer, and she boasts a 70-mph fastball. She even landed on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Her memoir is set to be published by HarperCollins in March of 2015. You can also join the 34,000 people following her on Twitter.
9. Bamby Salcedo is the founder and president of the Los Angeles-based TransLatin@ Coalition. As the high murder rate of trans women of color receives more media attention, Salcedo has played an important role in organizing and advocating for the community. This year the trans Latina activist was also recognized in a new film, “TransVisible: Bamby Salcedo’s Story.”
10. Cherisse A. Scott has been part of the reproductive justice movement for more than a decade. As the founder and CEO of SisterReach, the only reproductive justice organization in Tennessee, Scott recieved national attention this year for her work to defeat Amendment 1, a statewide anti-choice measure. SisterReach conducted phone banking and canvassing on two Memphis zip codes with high rates of poverty, sexually transmitted infections, low birth weight and maternal mortality. It also reached out to voters at historically black universities. The amendment passed, but Scott’s continues to argue for a political strategy that engages black communities.
11. Lucy Flores: While Texas gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis received much attention for telling her abortion story on the floor of the state legislature, she wasn’t the only politician to do so this year. As a Nevada state assemblywoman, Lucy Flores took a risk by telling the public she’d had an abortion becuase she wasn’t ready for a child. While she lost her bid for lieutenant governor of Nevada this fall, we’ll being seeing more of Flores, who many think has a bright future in the Democratic Party.
12. Veronica Arreola: A long-time Latina feminist writer and activist, Arreola started a year-long feminist selfie project with one hashtag: #365feministselfie. What began as a Flickr group formed in response to a Jezebel article calling selfies a “call for help,” the project has collected more than 1,700 photos and you can find the hashtag across social media. As the first year of radical self-love and representation comes to an end, the project is moving offline and organizing two feminist conferences next year.
13. An attorney, activist and advocate, Gina Clayton received three prestigious fellowships this year that have allowed her to start the Essie Justice Group, an organization centered on women with incarcerated loved ones. Essie brings these women together, providing them with healing, financial advice and advocacy. The first group is being piloted in the San Francisco Bay Area.
14. Wagatwe Sara Wanjuki became a prominent voice on campus sexual assault after starting the #survivorprivilege hashtag. A sexual assault survivor from Tufts University, Wanjuki created her hashtag in June in response to a Washington Post column that minimized campus rape. Since then, she has continued to speak out–in writing and during media appearances–on the national conversation about campus sexual assault. An example: her recent piece about the Rolling Stone/UVA controversy.
*Article updated to reflect the fact that only two of the women (Garza and Cullors) identify as queer, not all three as originally stated.