by Joy Fennell · 13 Jul 2020 · 4 min read
When Forbes Magazine released its list of America's 100 Most Innovative leaders in September, it included only one female without even a photo. The resulting firestorm mostly centered around a lack of gender equality. A cursory look at the list also showed a lack of racial diversity.
Growing up, I hated how I looked. My mother is Irish, Polish, German, and Dutch, while my Dad emigrated from Nigeria. I was a biracial girl living in a majority Caucasian town. Not only was I surrounded by people who looked different than me, but I also rarely felt represented in the media. This lack of community during my adolescence gave me little to no self-esteem, self-worth, or self-confidence, which led me to want to change everything about myself: my hair, the accent I picked up from my African family, and even my skin color.
Working with thought leaders on shaping their speaking platform is an incredible privilege. And one of my speakers, Elizabeth Molina, is a model on a mission. Known as "your beauty mentor" in the influencer space, she is redefining the modern superhero in all of us, by asking the "why" around beauty. She speaks about how beauty needs to go beyond the superficial, in the world, in ourselves and ultimately for our children.
I've had a lot of time to think and process my perspective on the Black Lives Matter movement and the world finally waking up to the injustice that has caused many Black lives to be lost within the shadows of white supremacy. I'm still not sure who really cares about Black lives, but I've decided that doesn't matter any more. What's happening is a beautiful thing, though there's been a lot of pain and suffering to our community, the world can no longer pretend that they don't see what's going on. Our plight is gaining international attention. It's no longer just our problem.
There's never been a better time to stop and think about how we can do better and be better as a people, as a society, and as collective members of this beautiful planet we inhabit together. Why? Because the need for social and environmental sustainability has never been more urgent, including members in the beauty community.
The girl I saw had a bright, beautiful face and big expressive eyes. She was standing outside the school gates, clinging to the fence with her fingers laced through the wires and peering in longingly. I knew that this young girl, who I later learned is named Srelin, was not being brought into the school to be enrolled, and I wondered if she ever would be. It was a moment of reflection as I realized that the world would never see the boundless potential she possessed if she was barred from education. I knew in that moment that providing girls like Srelin the tools for self-empowerment was the way that her community, indeed our world, could change for the better.
A Black, 14-year old, female, middle school student is tackled to the ground and handcuffed by a resource officer because she wanted to go to the school's health office. A white teacher assigns a slave trade enactment as a class project, assigning Black students to the role of being slaves. A teacher insults Black students and their parents in front of the entire class, causing Black students to tell their parents to not come to the school. These instances of anti-Black racism are happening in schools across America today. Over the summer, the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmad Aubrey, and others have shined a light on longstanding anti-Black racism in the US and, more specifically, in education.