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33 Inspiring Women We Crushed on This Year

Maria Perez
Jan 2, 2021 - 12:00

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Throughout 2020, The North Star has highlighted women of color who have made an impact in their communities through activism. Their continued activism has helped and inspired many. 

Here are all of the Women Crush Wednesdays The North Star has spotlighted this year:

1.Tiana Day (@tiana.day): Tiana made headlines this year after leading thousands of peaceful protesters across The Golden State Bridge in San Francisco following the death of George Floyd, a Black man who was killed by police in May. The 18-year-old activist told The New York Times that she thought only a handful of people would show up to the protest and was moved when at least 50,000 people showed up.⁠

“I’ve never led a protest before. But this movement lit a fire in me,” the teen activist told The Times. ⁠Since then, Tiana has organized multiple marches, including the “March for Justice,” and led demonstrators all the way to the California State Capitol on July 4. 

The Black Lives Matter activist also launched a non-profit organization called Youth Advocates for Change, which focuses on “creating space to normalize the acceptance of youth voices and inspire local action inclusive of intersectional social justice issues,” according to its website.⁠

2. Dr. Shola Mos-Shogbamimu: Shola is a New York lawyer who has worked as a political and women’s rights activist in the U.K. A lover of academics, Shola has earned numerous degrees from institutions throughout England, including her first degree LLB Hons from Buckingham University when she was just 19 years old. She also achieved an MBA from the University of Cambridge, a doctorate in law from Birkbeck, University of London and other degrees. ⁠⁠

As an activist, Shola has taught intersectional feminism to female refugees and asylum seekers, as well as co-organized women’s marches and social campaigns. She is a frequent public speaker and political commentator who doesn’t shy away from delving into government policies from a gender and diversity inclusion perspective. ⁠

Shola is active on social media, where she routinely speaks up for marginalized communities and speaks out against bad actors in American and British politics. She’s also not shy about criticizing and outing politicians who don’t live up to their promise of public service. ⁠

Among all the amazing things Shola has done, she founded the Women in Leadership publication, which she edits. She’s also an Equality Commissioner on the Commission for Gender-Equal Economy and a member of the steering committee of the Women’s Equality Party. ⁠

3. Tanya Compas (@tanyacompas): Tanya is a 27-year-old youth worker in the UK and has become an important voice in the LGBTQ+ community. In 2019, Tanya hosted the first ever Queer Black Christmas for young queer Black people who may have a strained relationship with their families. A fundraiser for the event raised over $9,000 (or £7,522).⁠

⁠“I grew up not knowing that Black people could be queer, and believed that being LGBTQ+ was a ‘white people thing,’” she told British Vogue. “I don’t want other young people to think the same. Whether you are part of the community or not, we should all know that LGBTQ+ people exist outside of the realm of whiteness, and we should all learn how to advocate for, support and love young QPOC loudly, through the good times and the bad.”⁠

This year, Tanya launched The Exist Loudly Fund, which will raise money for online workshops and provide Black queer youth with “a space for joy, space for community, space to find chosen family and a space to explore their identity,” according to her Instagram post.⁠

4. Tara Rodríguez Besosa:

⁠Tara studied architecture at Pratt Institute and ran a gallery in Brooklyn before heading back to Puerto Rico, where she soon began tackling the island’s farming problem. She founded El Departamento de la Comida (“the department of food”) and began selling local and sustainable vegetables. ⁠

El Departamento de la Comida became a restaurant serving vegetarian meals made of locally harvested produce. When the restaurant was hit hard by Hurricane Maria, Tara launched El Fondo de Resiliencia de Puerto Rico (Resilience Fund) and teamed up with the Queer Kitchen Brigade to send canned food, seeds and farming tools back to the island. ⁠

Through a dedicated 24 months-long action campaign, Tara has distributed seeds to local farmers, built rainwater collection systems, donated tools, cooked meals and more. The campaign aims to impact 200 sustainable food projects while focusing on five areas: renewable energy, rainwater collection, reforestation, seeds and soil, and community wellbeing. Tara’s mission was to make Puerto Rico more food sovereign.⁠

“And if you’re growing food in your backyard, you’re included,” Tara told Vogue. “If you sell at farmers’ markets, you’re included. If we want to create autonomy in Puerto Rico, it will have to be in different ways. We have to do urban agriculture; we have to do school farms, community farms, backyard gardens.” ⁠

5. Anya Dillard (@iamajdillard): The 17-year-old activist is known for her compassion and generosity. When she was only 5-years-old, Anya started an annual holiday gift-giving charity at Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center in Brooklyn, New York, providing toys and clothes to children at the hospital.⁠

When she was in high school, Anya participated in protests demanding justice for the victims of the Parkland, Florida, school shooting. In June, Anya and a group of students from West Orange, New Jersey, organized a Black Lives Matter protest following the death of George Floyd, who was killed in police custody in May. The protest drew thousands of people and garnered attention from local officials.⁠

“It wasn’t until the protests that I really felt connected to each and every Black kid in my school. That’s changed how I, as a person of color, move through my own community,” Anya wrote for Elle magazine. “It helped me realize I am so much more connected to all of these people now because I recognize that we can all fall victim to the same system.”⁠

Anya is also the founder of The Next Gen Come Up, an online magazine that spreads awareness about social and political issues that are affecting the younger generation. 

6. Cindy Villaseñor (@cerowastecindy): Cindy, who is also known as Cero Waste Cindy on social media, is a first-generation Mexican American who has a passion for low waste living and helps the younger generations develop compassion and care for the environment. 

When she took a college environmental science course in 2013, she went on her first camping trip and saw firsthand the damage of climate change in places like Owens Lake in California and Lake Mead in Las Vegas. ⁠

She now advocates for low waste gardening and enjoys teaching kids how to better take care of Mother Earth. ⁠

7. Jasilyn Charger (@jasilyncharger): Jasilyn knew from a young age that she wanted to continue to protect the land her ancestors fought for. For over six years, she has been battling pipelines and advocating for Native American and LGBTQ rights. ⁠

When Jasilyn was 21-years-old, she started the International Indigenous Youth Council, an organization that empowers Indigenous youth to become leaders in their communities. Now, at 23 years old, Jasilyn is also the co-founder of the 7th Defenders, a grassroots organization that helps disadvantaged youth living on the Cheyenne River Reservation.⁠

8. Valencia D. Clay (@valencia_valencia): Valencia is a public school educator whose creative and empowering teaching methods have caught the attention of social media. The Harlem native has taught in public schools for over a decade, both in Baltimore and New York City. ⁠

“I think the most rewarding part about being an educator is that your work is very reciprocal,” she told NBCBLK. “So, as I teach my students, I’m continuously learning. As they grow, I grow and this is on a daily basis.” ⁠

⁠Apart from teaching, Valencia is the co-founder of The Flourishing Blossoms Society for Girls Inc., which provides young girls with mentorship and service-learning opportunities to help develop their self-confidence and cultural mindfulness. The organization, which has chapters in Harlem and Baltimore, partners with colleges and universities to pair collegiate women with young girls in a mentorship program. ⁠

In 2019, Valencia became a National Geographic Education Fellow. Fellows are given a platform to develop and lead an impact-driven project. Valencia is also the author of “Soundless Cries Don’t Lead to Healing: A Critical Thinking Guide to Cultural Consciousness.”

9. Karen Ramos (@naturechola): Karen, an Oaxaqueña ÑuuSavi/Scu-iia indigenous woman, is the daughter of two migrant farmworkers. While growing up in the Central Coast in the Santa Maria Valley, she really enjoyed camping and being outdoors with her family. ⁠

In her self description, Karen wrote that she came “face to face with a community who mirrored and reflected her insecurities and trauma of discrimination as she herself experienced when she was younger.” Her experience inspired her to start the non-profit Get Out Stay Out/Vamos Afuera, which invites Indigenous Migrant youth to play and discover themselves in nature to increase diversity in the outdoor industry.⁠

Karen also speaks out on social and environmental issues on Instagram. She has recently used her platform to bring awareness to the Black Lives Matter movement following the death of George Floyd. ⁠

10. Asha Kay B (@ashakayb): Asha is the founder of the non-profit, The Dinner Table Documentary, which partners with schools and community organizations to provide college and career readiness workshops to girls and women of color. ⁠

One of the programs run by The Dinner Table, Beyond The Table, is an in and after-school program that helps kids develop their leadership, public speaking and goal-setting skills. Asha’s organization has already provided events and workshops to more than 400 girls in the Brooklyn area. ⁠

Along with running The Dinner Table Documentary, Asha is the CEO of Passion Fruit Vineyard Productions LLC. She also did a year-long fellowship with the IFP/Made in NY Fellowship for her debut film series, “A Time Before Kale.” Her film series inspired her collaboration with Nike’s NikeByYou and Cultivator to create a limited edition Nike Air Max React 270. ⁠

⁠Asha was honored by the Obama Administration’s White House Council for Women and Girls in 2016 as a “Nominated Change Maker” at the United State of Women Summit. ⁠

11. Jordan Marie Brings Three White Horses Daniel (@nativein_la): Jordan is from the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe in South Dakota. A fourth-generation runner, Jordan runs to raise awareness for missing and murdered indigenous women (MMIW). In 2016, she organized an event to run 2,000 miles in Washington, D.C. to raise awareness of what was happening in Standing Rock, to oppose the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAP) and to collect signatures for petitions to give to then-President Barack Obama.⁠

Since then, Jordan has run for organizations like Running Strong for American Indian Youth and Wings of America to raise money for programs that support Native youth. In 2019, she dedicated her runner’s bib to the MMIW during the Boston Marathon, as well as painted a hand over her mouth and letters on her legs and arms to honor them. “I felt this symbol and meaning was honoring those stolen,” she wrote in a post for Global Sports Matter.

⁠Recently, Jordan has run and spoken up for the Black Lives Matter movement to bring awareness to Black Americans who have died from police brutality. ⁠

⁠12. Katherine Lorenzo (@Kati_Amarlin on Twitter)⁠: Katherine is an unapologetic Afro-Latina who has advocated and organized for Nevada’s communities of color since she was in high school. She has worked with several organizations, including Mi Familia Vota and Organizing for Action. ⁠⁠

As part of her work with LCV’s Chispa program in Nevada, Katherine worked with underrepresented communities to move forward on climate and clean energy solutions. Katherine has pushed for the Latinx community to have genuine conversations about colorism and elevate Latinxs of all colors to positions of power. ⁠

⁠“Owning my Afro-Latinidad has made me feel less alone, too. Yes, I work to give a voice to the Latino communities I organize in Nevada, but also to help other Afro-Latinos demand a place within the fight for a healthier environment,” Katherine said, according to Latinos Outdoors. “This space should belong to all of us. We have work to do.” ⁠

Katherine now works as a senior program associate for the Energy Foundation’s Las Vegas office. The foundation works to promote non-partisan policy solutions to advance renewable energy and energy efficiency.⁠

13. Kheris Rogers (@Kherispoppin): The 13-year-old fashion designer made headlines in 2017 when she and her sister launched their clothing line and anti-bullying movement Flexin’ In My Complexion. The sisters were inspired to create the line after Kheris was bullied for her skin complexion in the first grade, when she first learned about the term colorism.⁠

⁠”I was like, ‘wow, why am I dark, why don’t I become lighter?’ I wanted to stay in the bathtub one time so I could get lighter,” Kheris told Teen Vogue. “When I told my mom about it, she started making me feel more comfortable in myself, saying affirmations in the mirror every day that I’m beautiful [and] it doesn’t matter what other people think of you — only what you think of yourself.”⁠⁠

As of last year, Kheris and her sister have sold over 10,000 t-shirts. Since their website launch, their clothing line has caught the attention of celebrities like Lena Waithe, Lupita Nyong’o and Beyoncé. ⁠

⁠Kheris has also spoken out in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and called for justice for Black Americans who have died from police brutality. In an op-ed on Today, she talked about what she has learned since she started Flexin’ My Complexion and how everyone could make a difference if they took the time to educate themselves on other cultures and history.⁠

⁠“What would happen if we all practiced inclusion and not exclusion? What if we all believed that loving one’s self is not affirmed on the domination of someone else? What if we were taught those lessons in school? Maybe children would be more understanding and tolerant. Maybe those children would grow up to be more understanding and tolerant adults. I could see it changing the world. Couldn’t you? #blacklivesmatter,” she wrote. ⁠

14. LaSaia Wade (@lasaia_wade): LaSaia, who grew up in Chicago’s South Side, is the founder of the Tennessee Trans Journey Project and director of Brave Space Alliance in Chicago. For years, LaSaia has used her voice to advocate and organize for Black, Indigenous, trans and gender nonconforming people. She has been honored at the Chicago LGBTQA Black History Recognitions ceremony and is the first trans woman in the history of Illinois to be honored during women’s history month.⁠

⁠Brave Space Alliance, which has three full-time employees and more than 3,000 volunteers, was established after a 2017 transgender rights protest in downtown Chicago. The organization is the first Black-led, trans-led LGBTQ center. It provides resources, programming and services to the LGBTQ community. In March, the organization mobilized to provide 200 bags of food a week to Chicagoans in need to address COVID-related food insecurity.⁠

⁠In May, Brave Space Alliance once again rallied as protests erupted against the murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis Police. The center provides aid to protesters and acts as a drop-off and pickup point for food, first aid supplies and water bottles for demonstrators.⁠

⁠“I cannot forget that BSA was born out of a march, and the people at BSA are Black and Brown people,” Wade recently told The Chicago Tribune. “Even though we’re fighting for our liberation, at the same time, we are so appreciative of people putting their bodies and their lives on the line for our bodies.”⁠

15. LaDonna Brave Bull Allard (@ladonnabrave1): LaDonna is a Lakota historian and member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in North Dakota. She is from the Cannon Ball District of Standing Rock and grew up in Fort Yates, North Dakota. She majored in history and graduated from the University of North Dakota.⁠

⁠In April 2016, LaDonna founded the Sacred Stone Camp, which was the first camp of resistance against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). The pipeline runs under the Missouri River and is just north of her family’s land.⁠

⁠In an interview with Jezebel, LaDonna said the fight against the pipeline was also personal. “My one son is buried on top of the hill,” she told the publication. “Nobody’s going to put a pipeline next to my son’s grave.”⁠

⁠In November 2016, LaDonna and hundreds of other activists were attacked by law enforcement with tear gas, water hoses, rubber bullets and percussion grenades while protesting the DAPL. “They were attacked with water cannons,” she told The Guardian. “It is 23 degrees [-5 °C] out there with mace, rubber bullets, pepper spray, etc. They are being trapped and attacked. Pray for my people.”⁠

⁠The following year, LaDonna was honored with the William Sloane Coffin, Jr. Peacemaker Award at the 60th Anniversary Gala of the Peace Action. Although the camps have closed, LaDonna has gone back to educating others about indigenous rights and environmental issues.⁠

16. Brea Baker: Brea, a Yale University graduate, has been advocating for equality for years. As the President of Yale’s Chapter of the NAACP, Brea focused on juvenile justice, police brutality and mandatory memorandums of understanding at her university.

In 2017, she served as the youngest national organizer for the Women’s March. That same year, Brea and the other Women’s March organizers were recognized as Glamour Women of the Year for their work. The women were applauded for their sacrifice to the movement and to make sure “intersectionality was a feature” of the march and “not a bug,” Glamour wrote.

2017 was a big year for Brea. Apart from the Women’s March, she co-founded the G.I.F.T.E.D. Community Outreach Program on Long Island, NY that tackled community advocacy. She didn’t stop there. Since then, Brea has participated in a number of causes, including the #FreeMeekMill campaign and the 2018 student walkouts against gun violence.

Brea has been fiercely vocal in the fight against police brutality and rampant systemic racism in our country. She has taken to the streets to protest alongside millions of Americans following the horrific deaths of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd and countless others. The community activist continues to organize alongside organizations like NY Justice League, We Inspire Justice and COMMUNITYx.

17. Isa Noyola: Isa, who was born in Texas and grew up in California, began to identify as a feminist after she was chastised for pretending to be Wonder Woman. She grew up in the evangelical Pentecostal church, which her pastor parents ran in the San Francisco Bay area for more than 25 years. In an interview with NBC News in 2016, she said after she was told she could never be like Wonder Woman, she “would have to fight to exist and be who I truly felt like inside.”⁠

In 2015, Isa and 70 other LGBTQ+ immigrants and allies formed a human chain to block the entrance of the Santa Ana Police Department to protest the detention and deportation of undocumented immigrants, KABC-TV reported. The group also called on the department to end their contract with ICE, which imprisons LGBTQ+ people in abusive conditions. Isa and five other demonstrators were arrested after the protest was deemed unlawful by police.⁠

That same year, Isa became the Transgender Law Center’s Director of Programs. The national organization changes law and policy so that all people, no matter their gender identity, can live safely and be their true authentic selves. Isa also launched Mijente in 2015, a digital and grassroots hub for Latinx and Chicanx organizing to increase participation in movements for racial, economic and gender justice.⁠

Isa became a board member of the Women’s March in 2019. In an interview with HelloGiggles, Isa said she never participated in the Women’s March and had concerns becoming a board member because of the criticism they received about not being inclusive enough. Instead of being part of the criticism, Isa joined the board to become part of the solution. ⁠

18. Mei-Ling Ho-Shing (@meilinghoshing): Mei-Ling was vocal about issues affecting people of color long before she lived through what no young person should ever experience: a massive shooting at her school. On Valentine’s Day in 2018, a gunman entered Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The gunman killed 17 people and injured another 17.⁠ 

Like many of her classmates, Mei-Ling turned her trauma into activism. Mei-Ling began speaking out about the effect the school shooting had on her community. The 17-year-old also used her voice to highlight just how the community’s response to the shooting—including armed guards at her school—would affect students of color. ⁠

During the first March for Our Lives rally, Mei-Ling made it a priority to make it known that she was not only fighting against school shootings but gun violence in general. “I need to bring it up because for decades, African Americans, Latinos have been fighting gun violence,” she told WUSA 9. “It’s not just Parkland.” ⁠

Nearly three months after the Parkland shooting, Mei-Ling and her classmate, Tyah-Amoy Roberts participated in the United State of Women summit in Los Angeles to speak out against gun violence. There, Mei-Ling decried the normalization of gun violence and said she doesn’t want future generations to think it’s normal for them to get shot at. ⁠

19. Jessica Zyrie (@thejessicazyrie): Jessica is a Black transgender model who uses her platform to advocate for LGBTQ+ rights and racial equality. Born in New Jersey, she moved to San Antonio, Texas, and began to transition during her senior year of high school in 2010. By 2016, Jessica began advocating and coming out publicly about her story.⁠

Jessica graduated with honors from Texas A&M University in Corpus Christi with her psychology degree. While in college, she became interested in modeling and began networking. She told a local Texas magazine that she was able to find her true self through modeling.⁠

Modeling isn’t Jessica’s only passion. She has traveled throughout Texas and worked with organizations like Equality Texas and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to advocate for racial equality and for the LGBTQ+ community. In an interview with The North Star, she spoke out against the death of 26-year-old Chynal Lindsey, a Black transgender woman who was killed last June in Dallas Texas.

“I really think it’s time for all of these organizations who are supportive of the LGBTQ community and organizations that care about the Black community to be speaking up on this,” Jessica said.⁠

She continues to educate communities about preventative measures like Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) and wants to end the stigma regarding HIV/AIDS.⁠

20. Thenmozhi Soundararajan (@dalitdiva): Thenmozhi, also known as Dalit Diva, is a transmedia artist and activist who uses various platforms to share the stories and messages of the #Dalitwomenfight movement and other causes, such as the eradication of the caste system in India. Thenmozhi not only uses her platform to highlight issues in India, but is also a vocal advocate for social justice issues in the U.S. ⁠

In 2015, Thenmozhi became part of the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation’s inaugural class of Artist as Activist fellows. She used the foundation money on various projects, including a documentary and an art exhibit, to highlight the #Dalitwomenfight movement. The movement gave survivors of sexual violence and their supporters a space to confront their aggressors, comfort each other and hold rallies to call public leaders to action. ⁠

Two years later, after participating in the Women’s March in Washington D.C., Thenmozhi wrote a moving piece that explained why she proudly marched on behalf of Dalit women, Muslim women and immigrant women, as well as all other women experiencing sexual violence. “I believe women can make and sustain change, with understanding, with intersectionality, with sensitivity and with love,” she wrote. “And that time is now.”⁠

21. Vanessa Nakate (@vanessanakate1): The 23-year-old Ugandan climate justice activist has been spreading awareness on climate change in Uganda since 2018. After learning about how climate change is affecting the unusually high temperatures in Africa, Vanessa made it her mission to spread awareness for young people to understand the effects of climate change. She staged her first strike outside of Uganda’s Parliament in 2019. 

Since her first strike, Vanessa has participated in nearly 60 climate change protests. She also founded The Rise Up Movement, which encourages Africans to speak up about climate issues.⁠

⁠Vanessa first went viral after she was cropped out of a picture with fellow climate activists Greta Thunberg, Loukina Tille, Luisa Neubauer and Isabelle Axelsson by the Associated Press while she was attending the 2020 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland earlier this year. Many people were outraged over the cropped photo, including Vanessa. 

“You didn’t just erase a photo. You erased a continent. But I am stronger than ever,” Vanessa tweeted following the incident. It was then that Vanessa recognized the lack of diversity in the climate change movement and that the media needs to pay attention to the activists who are talking about climate issues in Africa.⁠

22. Alycia Kamil (@alycia.km): At just 19 years old, Alycia has already left her mark in her Chicago community. The young activist, who is part of the youth-led anti-gun violence group GoodKids MadCity, jumped to put in place a plan to help her community when the coronavirus pandemic made its way across the nation. Kamil pitched an idea to her fellow young activists to coordinate food shopping deliveries for low-income people affected by the virus.⁠

Alycia got straight to work and created two Google forms for people in need of help and those who were willing to lend a helping hand. While the group initially aimed to raise enough money to give about 30 families basic groceries, they instead raised more than $7,000. This was enough to buy groceries for families in need and create an emergency fund for freelancers and others hard-hit by the economic downturn. ⁠

“I hope that with everything that I do and everything that I organize, I really hope that it pushes people to want to do initiatives similar or even the same thing,” Alycia told The North Star. “I just really hope that when people see all these young activists and young Black women and young organizers of color that they take the initiative to start something up.” ⁠

23. Jamila T. Davis (@jamilatdavis):When she was only 25-years-old, Jamila was sentenced to nearly 12 years in federal prison for bank fraud. While she was serving time, Jamila wrote the three-book series titled Voices of Consequences Enrichment Series,” which is a self-help curriculum to help incarcerated women recapture their dreams. 

Jamila also produced the book series “The High Price I Had to Pay to tell the stories of incarcerated women who experienced injustices while serving time in prison. The series was so successful, it led to the creation of the advocacy group WomenOverIncarcerated (WOI), which provides resources for formerly incarcerated women to help them successfully transition back into society. ⁠

Before she was released from prison in 2017, Jamila obtained several college degrees, including her Associates in Psychology, Bachelors in Christian Education and Masters in African American Ministry. 

After completing her prison sentence, she published the urban fiction book “Pink Panther Clique” with Aisha Hall and Sunshine Smith-Williams, who were both incarcerated with Jamila. The book brought attention to the lengthy prison sentences many women are serving for non-violent crimes. Today, Jamila continues to advocate for women behind bars and to deter at-risk youth from crime. ⁠

24. Ilia Calderón (@iliacalderon): Born in Colombia, Ilia worked tirelessly as a journalist and became the first Black woman to host the country’s national news program NotiCentro 1 CM&. In the early 2000s, Ilia made the leap to Telemundo, where she hosted the “Noticiero Telemundo” on the weekends. By 2007, Ilia had joined Univision to work as the co-anchor of the popular “Primer Impacto” news show. ⁠

Ilia gained viral fame in early 2017 when she interviewed Ku Klux Klan grand wizard Chris Baker. She was subjected to disgusting insults, including being called the N-word, and other racist, degrading language. Ilia bravely stood her ground and told the white supremacist that her skin color doesn’t define her. ⁠

In 2017, Ilia made history when she became the first Afro Latina to anchor an evening newscast for a major broadcast network in the United States. Ilia replaced fellow superstar journalist Maria Elena Salinas as the co-anchor of Univision’s “Noticiero Univision” along with Jorge Ramos. Earlier this year, Ilia joined CNN’s Jake Tapper and Dana Bash to co-host the 11th Democratic Presidential Debate. ⁠

25. Shirley Raines (@beauty2thestreetz): Following the loss of her son nearly 20 years ago, Shirley’s friend suggested she should feed the homeless living on Skid Row with her and a group of people. While giving out food and other supplies, Raines began receiving compliments on her nails and hair. 

In an interview with The North Star, Shirley said it was then that she realized then that homeless people should have more than just the basic necessities — they should be able to get their hair done too. For more than three years, Shirley’s nonprofit organization Beauty 2 The Streetz continues to feed people who are homeless, as well as offer showers, hair coloring, wigs and make-up. ⁠

Since the COVID-19 pandemic has hit the nation, Shirley and her team still go out to Skid Row every weekend and provide hand sanitizer, vitamin c packets and food to people who are homeless. Although the state of California has mandated that everyone should stay at home and practice social distancing, Shirley knew she couldn’t abandon those who need help. 

“What kind of organization would we be if we just all locked ourselves in our houses and left them alone to fend for themselves during this time?” she told TNS.

26. Zahara Green (@thezaharagreen): At the age of 23, Zahara, who is a transgender woman, began her prison sentence at a Georgia prison after being convicted of shoplifting. Despite her noted gender identity, Zahara was placed in the general population at Rogers State Prison, which houses men, on July 2012. Her prison term included humiliation at the hands of guards, failed protection by the Georgia prison system and sexual assault by a fellow inmate while in protective custody. ⁠

Following her harrowing experience, Zahara fought back in the form of a lawsuit. She sued the state of Georgia for its treatment of transgender and other LGBTQ inmates. The Justice Department also opened an investigation against the state’s Department of Corrections.⁠

Zahara used her experience to found TRANScending Barriers, a trans-led group that aims to empower the transgender and gender non-conforming community in Georgia. She is also the board president of Black & Pink Inc, a prison abolitionist organization that supports incarcerated people who are LGBTQ and HIV-positive, and the deputy director of Witness to Mass Incarceration, which works to eliminate sexual abuse in confinement. ⁠

27. Sara Mora (@misssaramora): When Sara was only a toddler, she left Costa Rica with her parents for the United States, where she was raised. By the time she had turned 17, she started to gain recognition for her work as an immigration rights activist after interviewing the president of Costa Rica about his stance on foreign immigration policies. 

Now in her twenties, Sara is boldly stepping out as an undocumented dreamer with hopes of helping migrant families and refugees around the world. ⁠

Sara styles herself as an “Undocumented Activist” and is fighting to change the inequality in the U.S. immigration system. Part influencer, part organizer, Sara is a media mastermind — and it shows. From producing “This Is Our Testimony,” a digital campaign that encourages undocumented citizens to share their personal testimonies, to growing her rich social influence as @misssaramora, to her work with coordinating communities of young people, Sara proves that her power is in her ability to empower. 

28. Mari Copeny (@LittleMissFlint): Mari was just 8 years old when she wrote a letter to then-President Barack Obama to bring attention to the water crisis in Flint, Michigan. The young activist’s letter prompted the president to visit her hometown and meet her in person. Mari also organized water bottle drives and advocated for her town’s crisis.⁠

In the years that followed, Mari continued to shine a light on the ongoing water crisis across the U.S. and has also brought attention to other worthy causes. Mari also knows the power of her own voice and how important it is to motivate other girls to speak up.

29. Nia Franklin, Kaliegh Garris, Cheslie Kryst, Zozibini Tunzi and Toni-Ann Singh: 

Nia (Miss America); Kaliegh (Miss Teen USA); Cheslie (Miss USA); Zozibini (Miss Universe); and Toni-Ann (Miss World) made history last year by becoming the first Black women to hold crowns in all major beauty competitions.⁠

Nia was crowned Miss America 2019 for advocating for the arts, The New York Times reported. In April 2019, Kaliegh who started a program to educate others on ways to respectfully speak to individuals with disabilities, was crowned Miss Teen USA. 

One month later, Cheslie, a lawyer who works with incarcerated people, won the title of Miss USA. In December, Zozibini won the crown of Miss Universe, BBC reported. The 26-year-old is an activist trying to combat gender-based violence. Toni-Ann, who won Miss World in December, studied women’s studies at Florida State University from 2014 to 2019 and is an aspiring doctor, Teen Vogue reported. ⁠

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