As we continue to set goals for the new year and reflect on what happened in 2022, Martin Luther King Jr. Day comes around the corner and reminds us to keep in mind a major goal to work toward: the end of racial injustice.
When quarantine was under way in 2020, not only were we facing a health crisis but also a climax in social injustice. The death of George Floyd on May 25, 2020, struck myself and many other Americans to the core. A series of protests from around the world were sparked, and at a time of a still ongoing pandemic, people took to the streets to make a statement.
Moments before his death, Floyd’s statement “I can’t breathe” represented the feelings of millions who have been suffocated by hundreds of years of institutionalized racism.
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So, in the past three years, who has continued the work?
In honor of the work of Martin Luther King Jr., I researched voices of women of color across the country that have continued a similar line of work. By living as examples in positions of leadership, the world has faced change for the better.
One Black voice that has been a trailblazer is the current Vice President Kamala Harris. Harris is the first Black person, and first woman US vice president in history. Politics can be controversial, but if we can put any political controversies aside, Harris stands as a role model for millions of people of color around the world as someone who can rise into a place of leadership within America despite adversity. Oftentimes, seeing someone who looks like you with the career of your dreams makes it easier to envision yourself in that position. With Harris, people of color and women are able to envision themselves in a career that may not have been legally possible for them hundreds of years ago.
There are also many Black artists and influencers today that live a life where others can look up to them.
SZA’s new album “SOS” has shattered previously held records for Black artists, and women artists mainly within the R&B genre of music. Some achievements SZA has made with this album include breaking the record for largest streaming week for an R&B album and the third largest stream week of 2022, racking up 404.6 million on-demand streams and she has also been the No.1 listened to artist on Billboard for five weeks straight. By holding these records she is leading the way for millions of Black artists across the world, living as an example for people of color, especially women of color.
In the acting world, people of color face barriers because of the racism that is still prominent today. However, Micheala Jaé Rodriguez is one actor who has defied history.
In 2021 Micheala Jaé Rodriguez, or MJ, was the first transgender woman to be nominated for an Emmy for her role in TV show “Pose.” In 2022 she was the first transgender woman to win a Golden Globes award for that same role. Rodriguez is someone that Black people in the LGBTQ community can look to as an example of living proudly for who they are.
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At one point the phrase “Black Lives Matter” was everywhere on social media, and yet, now when I go to Instagram or TikTok, there’s little mention of it. It’s as though the fight for justice morphed into a trend. However, because the trend lasted so long, millions of people were impacted by the peaceful protests and gained needed knowledge about what they can do to help the fight for justice.
So, as we reflect on the work that Martin Luther King Jr. did during his time, we can further understand his mission and take it into our own hands. Women of color continue to live out their lives in ways that weren’t possible without the work of past barrier breakers. By doing this they redefine what it means to be a person of color within America, and continue to help generations of the future. Educating oneself and speaking out against racial injustice are just two things we can all do to make this world a safer space for people of all ethnic backgrounds.
Carolyn Marshall is a sophomore at Indiana University majoring in media studies with a focus in TV, film, and digital production minoring in English.