The 2019 Woke 100: And So Many More Black Women to Honor


Debbie says:

Essence Magazine has published it’s “2019 Woke 100” list of black women “women who exemplify the true meaning of being change agents and power players.”

I started by trying to see how many of the names were familiar to me. If you do the same, you’ll find household names that almost everyone knows (Michelle Obama! Simone Biles!). You may also find people whose paths you’ve crossed (I found a couple), people whose work you know, people whose work you want to know. Two women I’d never heard of who particularly struck me are Shirley Raines, who does “makeovers, haircuts and manicures to the homeless community of L.A.’s skid row—all while mothering six kids, holding down a full-time job and cooking for 400 to 600 people each week” and Jodie Patterson, who not only came to terms with her 3-year-old’s gender change but writes and speaks about what she’s learned.

Two things about this list are especially notable:

First, its range. Along with the activists, politicians, athletes and entertainers whom you might expect to find here, there are scientists, attorneys, and corporate VPs. And much more.  Trans women, and people of mixed race/ethnicity, are represented.

Second, how many woke black women doing great work are not on it. Granted that the online list only goes to 94 of 100, I can easily name more than 6 people I would consider including. The authors don’t say anything about how the list was put together (or how the order was chosen); that really doesn’t matter, because everyone on it has a biography that makes it clear she deserves to be on it. I’m just pleased to see that a list of 100 isn’t remotely big enough to cover the territory.

Make no mistake: some of this may be a flowering of black women, but most of it is a better lens. This is the third annual Woke 100 list from Essence (and some of the names I was thinking of show up in the previous two years). Here are the 2017 and 2018 lists. We live in a world where much of the power structure wants to silence and disappear black women, and yet we have to celebrate this opposite trend: naming, claiming, showcasing, and honoring.