Woman Crush Wednesday

In recognition of Women’s History month, The North Star (@thenorthstarmedia) is excited to highlight women of color who are making an impact on the world by making history and their continued activism. Follow us on Instagram for our weekly #WCW feature.

MARCH 11 - 2019 Pageant Winners

The first women we’ve decided to highlight are the five Black women who dominated the pageant world last year.⁠

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

Franklin was crowned Miss America 2019 for advocating for the arts. In April 2019, Garris, who started a program to educate others on ways to respectfully speak to individuals with disabilities, was crowned Miss Teen USA. One month later, Kryst, a lawyer who works with incarcerated people, won the title of Miss USA. In December, Tunzi won the crown of Miss Universe. The 26-year-old is an activist trying to combat gender-based violence. Singh, who won Miss World in December, studied women’s studies at Florida State University from 2014 to 2019 and is an aspiring doctor. ⁠

MARCH 18 - Mari Copeny

This week’s star is Mari Copeny, who is best known as @LittleMissFlint!

Mari was just 8 years old when she wrote a letter to 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. And that’s why Mari is our Women Crush Wednesday. ⁠

MARCH 25 - Sara Mora

For our latest Woman Crush Wednesday installment, The North Star (@thenorthstarmedia) is proud to highlight immigration rights activist and co-president of the Women’s March Youth Empower action network, Sara Mora. ⁠

When Sara Mora 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. Sara Mora is a leader of her generation, on a movement for change. She is the American Dream 2.0.⁠

APRIL 1 - Zahara Green

This week’s inspiration is LGBTQ and criminal justice activist 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. ⁠

We applaud Zahara for her tireless work to improve the lives of LGBTQ people going through the criminal justice system and her selflessness when it comes to her community. ⁠

APRIL 8 - Shirley Raines

For this week’s Woman Crush Wednesday series, The North Star is proud to highlight beauty nonprofit founder 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 TNS, 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.⁠

We praise Shirley and her team for all of the work she has done to help the homeless in the past three years and during this crucial time.

APRIL 15 - Ilia Calderón

Every week, The North Star highlights amazing women of color who are breaking barriers and influencing us to be better humans. This week’s trailblazer is award-winning Afro-Colombian journalist 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.

We applaud Ilia for breaking down barriers for women of color in the journalism industry and fighting to have Black Hispanics’ voices heard.

APRIL 22 - Jamila T. Davis

Every week, The North Star highlights inspiring women of color who are using activism to help others. This week’s WCW is author and activist 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.

We praise Jamila for shedding a light on incarcerated women and for helping them achieve their dreams once they complete their sentences. Come back to @thenorthstarmedia every Wednesday for our Woman Crush Wednesday picks. ⁠

⁠#WCW #TheNorthStar #TNSWCW #BlackGirlMagic #inspiration #goals

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APRIL 29 - Alycia Kamil

Each week, The North Star highlights strong women of color who are breaking barriers and using their voices to help their communities. This week’s inspiration is community activist 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 TNS. “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.” ⁠

We salute Alycia her continued work for the people of Chicago and for inspiring young people around the country to give back to their communities. ⁠

Come back to @thenorthstarmedia every Wednesday for our new Woman Crush Wednesday picks.⁠

MAY 6 - Vanessa Nakate

Every Wednesday, The North Star (@thenorthstarmedia) spotlights inspiring women of color who are using activism to help others. This week, TNS is proud to highlight 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.⁠

We praise Vanessa for continuing to spread awareness for the ongoing climate issues in Africa and for encouraging other young people to speak out on how climate change is impacting communities of color.

Come back to @thenorthstarmedia every Wednesday for our Woman Crush Wednesday picks. ⁠

MAY 13 - Thenmozhi Soundararajan

Every week, The North Star highlights amazing women of color who are breaking barriers and are using their voices to aid their communities. This week, TNS is proudly spotlighting Dalit American artist and activist 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.”⁠

We salute Thenmozhi for her immensely brave fight to advocate for Dalit women and the end of oppressive systems around the world.⁠

Come back to @thenorthstarmedia every Wednesday for our new Woman Crush Wednesday picks. ⁠

MAY 20 - Jessica Zyrie

Every week, The North Star (@thenorthstarmedia) praises women of color who are using activism to help others. This week, TNS is proud to highlight Jessica Zyrie (@thejessicazyrie).⁠

Jessica Zyrie 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 she was 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 a previous 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.⁠

We applaud Jessica for continuing to fight for racial equality and for the rights of the LGBTQ+ community.

Come back to @thenorthstarmedia every Wednesday for our Woman Crush Wednesday picks. ⁠

MAY 27 - Mei-Ling Ho-Shing

Every week, The North Star highlights inspirational women of color who are using their voices to bring attention to important issues in their communities. This week, TNS is happy to spotlight anti-gun violence survivor-turned-activist 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. ⁠

We salute Mei-Ling for her commitment to end gun violence and her inspiring bravery after experiencing such a horrific event. ⁠

Come back to @thenorthstarmedia every Wednesday for our new Woman Crush Wednesday picks. ⁠

JUNE 3 - Isa Noyola

Every week, The North Star (@thenorthstarmedia) praises women of color who are using activism to help others. This week, TNS is proud to highlight translatina activist Isa Noyola.⁠

Isa, who was born in Houston, 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. 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. ⁠

We applaud Isa for continuing to end oppressive systems that criminalize LGBTQ+ communities of color.

Come back to @thenorthstarmedia every Wednesday for our Woman Crush Wednesday picks. ⁠

JUNE 10 - Brea Baker

Every week, The North Star highlights amazing women of color who inspire others to use their voices to bring about change to their communities. This week, TNS is excited to spotlight Black queer activist 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 campaign to #FreeMeekMill 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.

We salute Brea for her tireless pursuit for justice and equality for BIPOC.

Come back to @thenorthstarmedia every Wednesday for our new Woman Crush Wednesday picks.

JUNE 17 - LaDonna Brave Bull Allard

Every week, The North Star (@thenorthstarmedia) praises women of color who are using activism to help others. This week, TNS is proud to highlight tribal historian and activist 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 indigenous rights and environmental issues.⁠

We salute LaDonna for continuing to fight and educate others on indigenous rights.

Come back to @thenorthstarmedia every Wednesday for our Woman Crush Wednesday picks. ⁠