This Black History Month we pause to recognize Black women as recent and historic key players in the U.S. political process. We celebrate the election of the first Black and South Asian woman to Vice President of the United States, Kamala Harris. We also celebrate the commitment and systematic organizing spearheaded, most notably by Stacey Abrams through her organization Fair Fight, but also by the many Black women and Black queer organizers, whose labor and determination to protect the democratic process energized Black communities and those beyond to vote and vote wisely.

These Black women – those elected leaders at the federal, state and local levels and those organizing voters – stand on the shoulders of Congress member Shirley Chisholm, the first Black candidate to seek nomination for President of the United States by a major political party, and Fannie Lou Hamer, a SNCC organizer and co-founder of Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. Chisholm and Hamer, in turn, stood alongside or on the shoulders of the Combahee River Collective, Rosa Parks, Mary McLeod Bethune, Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, and others too many to name whose actions were for the better good.

This Black History Month we salute Black women elected officials and organizers, speakers of truth to power, who understand the needs and dreams of Black people and those who have been systematically neglected and discriminated against. We salute them for recognizing that all people benefit when those most oppressed by their race, ethnicity, color of their skin, gender, sexual identity, country of origin, and socioeconomic status, receive justice.

This year’s inauguration gave many of us hope that the future will be brighter but not easy, but that a world inclusive of more Black female leadership will surely benefit us all. The Black women we celebrate serve as models of what can be achieved through collective action rooted in true equity, and the recent elections were a clarion reminder of the need for their broad participation. What hope we have for the future is amplified by Vice President Harris’ voice when she said she may be the first Black woman in her position but will not be the last.

Amanda Gorman’s powerful words and presentation during the 2021 Inauguration will continue to ring loud in our hearts and minds. We see in her that young women are our present and future; we find strength in her words, “for there is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it. If only we’re brave enough to be it.”