We’re continuing to celebrate Black history month by focusing on the present: We’re highlighting a few of the TueNighters doing interesting and even revolutionary things. Help us keep the spotlight bright and add women that you want everyone to know about in the comments.
LaFrae Sci knows that Black girls rock! She’s the Co-Executive Director of Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls — a music and mentoring program for girls, women, trans and gender-nonconforming kids and adults. She also created Willie Mae Future Sounds, online and in-person programming that blends Afrofuturism, STEAM, music technology, and social justice. She’s also a composer and electronic musician who performs under the moniker, Frae-Frae: Daughter of Drexciya.
“What I have learned being over 50 is how to make courage and gratitude my default settings instead of fear.” — LaFrae Sci
A 20-year comedy veteran, Joanna Briley founded the Black Women in Comedy Festival in 2018 to feature comedians who are very talented but constantly overlooked in the business. And it’s been a success — shows have sold out and featured comics have been approached for Just for Laughs auditions (a very big deal!). The festival usually happens in February, but COVID-19 concerns have pushed the date to Juneteenth weekend this year, promising a “herlarious five days of sisterhood, self-care, and solutions to the funny side of the comedy business.”
“Laughing makes me feel so good. I made people laugh at my Mom’s recent funeral service. It was rewarding.” — Joanna Briley
In 2012, Kathryn Finney founded digitalundivided, a nonprofit that works to advance economic growth for Black and Latinx women entrepreneurs in innovation and tech. Her company launched a biennial study, called ProjectDiane, that compiles data — like funding and location — and tracks the number of Black and Latinx-owned or led businesses.
“We all want to live a creative life that we control. We want to know that our time on this earth mattered, even if it’s to just one person. It’s an honor to know that the work you’ve done has changed people’s lives for the better, but there’s also a great deal of responsibility that comes with this honor.” — Kathryn Finney
A film and television executive, Tracey Baker-Simmons is a pioneer of reality television — she was the creative executive producer of the Bravo reality series Being Bobby Brown, which just celebrated its 15-year anniversary, among many others. Now she’s scheduled to release her “Making Reality TV” Master Course early this year.
“Turning 50 made me realize that legacy is important, and I do need to focus on the body of work that I leave behind that bears my name. So, in this new season of my life, I find it quite refreshing to say ‘no, that doesn’t interest me’ and only accept work that challenges and fulfills me as a creative. Most importantly, I have grown to learn to be comfortable in my own skin and that is my superpower.” — Tracey Baker-Simmons
After working in the Clinton White House, Brenda Anders Pring decided to go to medical school. At 34. Now a pediatrician in Boston, Dr. Anders Pring provides care to kids, teaches at Harvard, and advocates for better child health policy at the local and national level. In the eight years between starting med school and finishing her residency, she also had two kids.
“I love my hectic life — and the fact that I no longer have to explain to other people why I might not be available to help them with something.” — Brenda Anders Pring
Philly-bred writer Ayana Byrd has a lot of celebrating to do in 2021: Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America, the book she co-authored with Lori L. Tharps, turns 20 this month. The book looks at the history, politics, and business of Black hair, going back to the dark days of slavery. She also edited the book of essays Naked: Black Women Bare All About Their Skin, Hair, Hips, Lips, and Other Parts, featuring work from Iyanla Vanzant and Jill Scott among others. A new mom, Ayana is fully embracing her 40s.
“I entered my 40s with zero expectations. Maybe that’s why it has been my best decade by far. Richer friendships, a deeper belief in myself — it’s not like I’m any less afraid to do some things, but I’m much more willing to dive into the fear and try anyway.” — Ayana Byrd
Shantay you stay! Marie Denee is working it as the “Editor in Chic” at The Curvy Fashionista. Beautiful and fabulous as hell, she’s made it her mission to show women that they can be “curvy, confident, and chic.” Yes, we can! And damn if there isn’t a bevy of fine women all over that website!
“The only limitations that I have are the ones that I impose on myself. For the past few years, I have been reconciling past baggage, realizing my own missteps, and taking those lessons to help me walk my most confident steps.” — Marie Denee
Aliya S. King is a journalist, New York Times bestselling author, and a podcast producer (Good Talk, Writing Practice). Her latest book, Keep Your Head Up (Denene Millner Books/ Simon & Schuster), is being released this year. Sober for nearly a decade, Aliya says she been “in full remission from Bipolar 2 for four years.” She’s also a mom two of who loves to wear caftans (un-ironically), giving you full-on Mrs. Roper.
“I was told, growing up, that Black girls could not wear red lipstick, ever. Today, I have at least 20 shades of red. And am always looking for a new one.” — Aliya S. King
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