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Woman Thou Art Loosed

Paving the Way: 10 Inspiring Women in #BlackHistory

In honor of Black History Month, we celebrate the women who paved the way for us to lead and excel in ways we never imagined. Here, we honor the legacies of powerful Black women and celebrate inspiring women who are the epitome of our ancestor’s wildest dreams:

Photo Credit: Stephen Parker / Alamy Stock Photo

1. Maya Angelou

You can’t talk about great literary works without mentioning award-winning author, poet, and Civil Rights activist Maya Angelou. Her first book and famed autobiography, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” was the first nonfiction bestseller by an African American woman and was followed by several more autobiographies in which she told her story of resilience and strength. Angelou received numerous awards and much recognition for her impactful work that spans multiple mediums, including literature, theater, film, and television. In 1993, she was the first African American woman to recite a poem at a presidential inauguration; and in 2010, Barack Obama awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest U.S. civilian award.

“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.” — Maya Angelou

Photo Credit: Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard file photo

2. Amanda Gorman

A lot of us were introduced to Amanda Gorman as she so beautifully recited her poem, “The Hill We Climb,” at the inauguration of 46th U.S. President Joe Biden. At 22, she’s the youngest inaugural poet in history. Gorman made history again this year as the first poet ever to recite a poem at the Super Bowl. While her bold brilliance is a pleasant surprise to some, this young wordsmith and activist has regularly used her platform and poetry to advocate for racial equality, oppression, and feminism. Gorman is a cum laude graduate of Harvard University and the first National Youth Poet Laureate. A special edition of her inaugural poem will be published in March 2021. Her debut picture book, “Change Sings,” and the breakout poetry collection, “The Hill We Climb and Other Poems,” will be published in September 2021.

“For there is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it. If only we’re brave enough to be it.” — Amanda Gorman, @AmandaCGorman

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

3. Shirley Chisholm

Known her for her slogan, “Unbought and unbossed,” Shirley Chisholm is a pioneering African American politician with multiple firsts to her name. In 1968, she was the first African American woman elected to Congress; and in 1971, she was a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus and the National Women’s Political Caucus. Chisholm proved her courageous leadership by becoming the first African American to campaign for the Democratic Party presidential nomination in 1972. Although she did not win, she continued to make an impact by serving another 11 years in Congress.

“You don’t make progress by standing on the sidelines, whimpering and complaining. You make progress by implementing ideas.” — Shirley Chisholm

Photo Credit: Celeste Sloman/Redux

4. Kamala Harris

We’re proud to celebrate our 49th vice president of the United States, Kamala Harris! Breaking barriers as the first woman, and the first Black and South Asian American, in this role, Vice President Harris has always been a pioneer. In 2004, Harris became the first woman and first African American to hold the office of district attorney in San Francisco and made history again as attorney general of California in 2011. No stranger to paving the way, Harris became the first African American to represent California in the U.S. Senate in 2017.

“There will be people who say to you, ‘You are out of your lane.’ They are burdened by only having the capacity to see what has always been instead of what can be. But don’t you let that burden you.” — Kamala Harris, @Kamala Harris

Photo Credit: JC Olivera/Getty Images

5. Cicely Tyson

If we learned just one thing from Cicely Tyson, it was to live fully and do the best you can. Tyson was one of America’s most respected actresses and known for her portrayal of strong women across different mediums. Within her extraordinary career, Tyson received numerous awards and recognition for her roles in “Sounder,” “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman,” and “Roots.” In addition to being nominated for an Academy Award in 1973, and winning two Emmys in 1974, Tyson won a Tony Award for her performance in “The Trip to Bountiful” in 2013. This year, Tyson released her bestselling memoir, “Just As I Am,” and we’re forever inspired by her contributions to the arts and her legacy that will last a lifetime.

“I think when you begin to think of yourself as having achieved something, then there’s nothing left for you to work towards. I want to believe that there is a mountain so high that I will spend my entire life striving to reach the top of it.”­ — Cicely Tyson

Photo Credit: Twitter.com/TheAcademy

6. Regina King

As one of the most versatile actresses in Hollywood, Regina King has executed powerful performances on the big and small screen. Her performance in ABC’s “American Crime” earned her first two Emmys, which she followed up with Emmy wins for Netflix’s “Seven Seconds” and HBO’s “Watchmen.” King also won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in “If Beale Street Could Talk.” Taking on a new role, King transitioned into directing shows such as NBC’s “This Is Us” and HBO’s “Insecure.” This year, King made her feature directorial debut with “One Night in Miami,” a fictional account of a night in 1964 when four icons of sports, music, and activism gather for a big moment in boxing history. Whether she’s acting or directing, King uses her platform to shed light on societal issues.

“If you have the opportunity for your art to meet activism, you shouldn’t pass that up when it comes your way.” — Regina King, @IAmReginaKing

Photo Credit: Paras Griffin—WireImage/Getty Images

7. Shonda Rhimes

Shonda Rhimes is an award-winning writer, showrunner, producer, and director who has created her own lane and dominated the television industry. Rhimes is the first African American woman to create and executive produce a top network series with “Grey’s Anatomy,” a drama centered around young doctors in a Seattle hospital. Rhimes is also the creator of the hit show “Scandal” and, in 2005, she founded Shondaland, her own production company that produces shows such as “How To Get Away With Murder.” In 2015, she released her first book, “The Year of Yes: How To Dance It Out, Stand in the Sun and Be Your Own Person.” Most recently, Rhimes debuted her first scripted show for Netflix, “Bridgerton,” a multiracial romance that proved to be an immediate hit with more than 63 million households streaming.

“The goal is that everyone should get to turn on the TV and see someone who looks like them and loves like them. And just as important, everyone should turn on the TV and see someone who doesn’t look like them and love like them.” — Shonda Rhimes, @ShondaRhimes

Photo Credit: Christopher Patey/Contour by Getty Images

8. Issa Rae

It’s almost impossible to observe the rise of Issa Rae and not be inspired. Issa Rae first caught our attention with her YouTube series, “The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl,” and her accompanying memoir, which became a New York Times bestseller in 2015. With her HBO series, “Insecure,” Rae became one of the first Black women to create and star in her own TV series. The acclaimed show has received multiple Emmy and Golden Globe nominations and is gearing up for its fifth and final season this year. In 2018, Rae made her big-screen debut in “The Hate U Give,” and last year starred in Netflix’s “The Lovebirds.” Additionally, she owns Color Creative, a production and distribution company dedicated to creating more visibility and opportunities for women and minority writers.

“I thrive on obstacles. If I’m told that it can’t be told, then I push harder.” — Issa Rae, @IssaRae

Photo Credit: Michael Ochs Archive/Getty Images

9. Madam C.J. Walker

Sarah Breedlove, also known as Madam C.J. Walker, is one of the first African American women to become a self-made millionaire. Walker specialized in a beauty product line for African American women that helped their hair grow and healed scalp issues. Outside of her successful business, Walker was a political activist. According to Timeline, Walker played a key role in Black internationalist movements and joined forces with various Black activists to end racism, colonialism, and imperialism.

“I got my start by giving myself a start.” — Madam C.J. Walker

Photo Credit: Jason McCoy

10. Monique Rodriguez

After leaving her career as a registered nurse, Monique Rodriguez used her background in science and her passion for healthy hair to create a natural hair care line that has shaken up the natural hair industry. Rodriguez founded Mielle Organics in 2014. The company has grown from one product to more than 25 results-driven solutions, making it one of the fastest-growing natural hair companies in the U.S. In addition to promoting hair growth, Rodriguez is dedicated to inspiring women in business and entrepreneurship and shares invaluable lessons from her journey on her podcast, “The Secret Sauce To Success Podcast.”

“Leaving a strong legacy is so important for me, especially because I’m raising two African American young girls. I want them to know despite what society says about African Americans and women, they can excel, push the limits, and break the mold.” — Monique Rodriguez, @ExquisiteMo

Living in a time where everyone’s highlight reel is on display, it’s hard when you feel like you don’t have enough, or even that you are not enough. Those feelings can activate our desires to want more or achieve more to the point where we can never be satisfied with what we already have. Let’s change that this year and dive into the keys for cultivating a heart of contentment:

1. Be grateful.

Gratitude is an active choice to focus on what we have instead of homing in on what we don’t. When we find ourselves in the constant pursuit of “more” or when we’re frustrated about our circumstances, let’s take a moment to acknowledge what we’re grateful for. To help foster an attitude of gratitude, write down 10 things you are grateful for. It might seem extensive, but by coming up with 10 reasons you’re grateful, you focus on appreciating the little things. Another way to create an atmosphere of gratefulness is to start your day with a gratitude walk. During your gratitude walk, say out loud (or think about) what you’re grateful for. You can even name things that haven’t happened yet to prepare yourself to have the right heart posture when they come.

2. Remember, comparison steals your joy.

On social media, everyone has a great life. Perfectly curated feeds paired with beautiful aesthetics can make you feel like you’re not doing something right. But we urge you: Don’t get caught up in that. Oftentimes, we hear people say, “You don’t know what they went through to get that,” which is true; but more importantly, what’s for you is for you. God is so amazing that He has given each of us our own gifts, talents, and purposes. He didn’t forget about you. When comparison gets the best of you, remember there’s only one you. No one can be “you” better than you can, and no one can take away what God has promised you. It simply can’t happen. Understanding that what’s meant for you will not pass you by eases your emotions. When we become so focused on what someone else has or what they’re doing, we start to desire things we don’t even want. It’s OK to admire someone’s accomplishments or the great things happening in their lives, but don’t allow that to make you feel like you’re behind or that you’re not doing enough.

3. Ask for God’s perspective.

God is all-knowing. When we ask Him for His perspective on things that confuse or frustrate us, His view gives us so much clarity. In our humanness, we tend to be emotional about things that God already has a solution for — but we can’t see that from our distorted view of our circumstances. Sometimes our situations are magnified to us, but from God’s perspective, they’re incredibly small. Sometimes, God will instruct us to do something, but we feel like it’s too big for us. But if God called you to it, why wouldn’t he equip you for it? Make a habit of asking: “Lord, show me Your perspective of this situation. Give me Your perspective of myself.”

4. Don’t forget to pray.

Prayer shouldn’t be our last resort; it should be our first response. When we come to God with our cares, concerns, or burdens, there’s so much peace in being in His presence. We often pray for peace in the midst of turmoil, but peace is a byproduct of simply spending time with Him. Trust that He hears you, and when nothing seems to be happening, He’s moving.

Before you go, we want to leave you with scriptures to meditate on as you cultivate a heart of contentment:

Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (NIV)

Lean on this scripture when you don’t know what’s next. Instead of getting flustered about what’s going on around you, rest in knowing that God is in control.

Romans 8:28: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (NIV)

In every circumstance, remember: All things are working together for your good. You may not see it right now, but let this promise soothe your spirit in those challenging moments.

Galatians 6:9 “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (NIV)

This scripture pushes you to keep going! Keep believing, keep praying, and keep holding on to His promise. Your breakthrough is on the way.

To say we’re excited about the possibilities that 2021 may bring would be an understatement. By now, vision boards may have been thoughtfully crafted and S.M.A.R.T. goals have been set, but as we embark on a new journey, how have you positioned yourself for a purpose-driven year? When we say “purpose-driven,” Rick Warren, author of the New York Times bestseller, “The Purpose Driven Life: What On Earth Am I Here For?,” explains that “to be purpose-driven is to be driven by God’s purposes.”

There are so many resources regarding purpose available, but the only way we can be driven by God’s purposes is to directly consult with Him first. Before we map out our goals for the year and activate our ambition, we have to receive guidance from The One who directs our paths.

The Word tells us, “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33, NIV). Those things you’d like to accomplish this year: a new career, flourishing business, a prosperous ministry — He wants you to have them! However, when we’re solely led by our desires, we tend to end up disappointed and drained. True freedom, joy, abundance, and peace comes from doing things God’s way. To be positioned for a purpose-driven life, we’ll need to walk through three fundamental steps. Let’s dig a little further into what that looks like.

1. Read God’s Word.
If you want to hear from God, start with reading His Word. The Word is living and it’s one of the ways God communicates with us. Develop a daily habit of spending at least 15 minutes reading the Bible. You’ll notice that not only do you have more clarity, but you’ll also have peace knowing that God has a plan for you — and it’s to gift you His best. In addition to hearing His voice through scripture, the Bible is a powerful weapon for spiritual warfare, equipping you with wisdom to conquer strongholds that attempt to destroy what God has called you to do. When you come across obstacles, having the Word in your heart gives you a firm foundation to stand on.

2. Strengthen your Prayer Life.
How is your prayer life? Oftentimes, when we’re looking for direction, we tend to turn to books, podcasts, and more recently, growing social platforms like Clubhouse. The perspective of experts can be helpful, but more importantly, we have access to an all-knowing God. Proverbs 21:30 reminds us that, “There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan that can succeed against the Lord” (NIV). We don’t need to seek external sources concerning what we should do when God holds the plan for our lives.

Treat your prayer time as your opportunity to have a meeting with God. It’s your time to ask Him, “What would you like me to focus on in this season?” “How can I best serve you?” Whatever questions concerning the next steps on your journey, bring them to Him in prayer. When your prayers are rooted in faith, God is faithful to answer them. A key component of this step is also taking the time to listen to His still, small voice. In Priscilla Shirer’s book “Discerning the Voice of God: How To Recognize When God Is Speaking”, she explains, “If we’re always impatient, filling in the silent margins during prayer, in our decision making, and in every other aspect of life, we leave little space for God’s powerful direction to resonate in our already crowded schedules and hearts.”

After you have prayed, sit in expectation to hear from Him. Be sure to keep a journal nearby to take note of what God reveals to you during your quiet time. Lastly, don’t be discouraged when the answer doesn’t come right away. Before God manifests what you’re praying for, He has to prepare you. You don’t have to worry about falling behind schedule because His timing is perfect.

3. Go on a Fast/Spiritual Detox.
Fasting prepares our hearts to hear God’s voice and really puts things into perspective. When you set aside the things that you desire, as well as the noise of this world, you’re able to solely focus on God and can hear Him speak more clearly. This is an opportunity to humble ourselves, repent, pray, worship, and seek the Word of God. Talk about divine rejuvenation and restoration! A great resource on how to effectively fast is John Eckhardt’s book, “Fasting for Breakthrough & Deliverance” which provides techniques to enhance your seasons of prayer and fasting. Fast as the Lord leads you and prepare yourself physically for fasts that last longer than a couple of days. If you have concerns about your physical ability to fast, consult your physician before fasting.

4. Stay Rooted in Faith.
When you ask God for direction, do you believe that He’s going to answer your prayers? We may not realize it, but sometimes, when we go to God for help, we don’t believe He’s going to come through for us. Doing things God’s way doesn’t always feel comfortable, and sometimes, it won’t make sense, but continue to stand firm in your faith. If you’re asking God for clarity in 2021, you have to believe it’s on the way. In those times of uncertainty, remember His promise in Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. To give you hope and a future.”

As we gear up to have our most prosperous, abundant, and joy-filled year yet, we must remember to consult with God first on all things. Ladies, if you know it’s your time to be purpose-driven, let’s get in position with The One who directs our paths!

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