It’s all too common for the work of Black women to be overlooked. But Black women continue to impact their communities in ways large and small. But this Black Women’s History Month, which occurs in April, I wanted to highlight Black women fueling change in Baltimore.
These women are changing the way Black women engage in politics and entrepreneurship. They’re also supporting Black women’s entrepreneurial aspirations, or working overtime to ensure Black people have access to high-quality Black legal counsel.
Understanding that no list can include all the dynamic people who influence our communities, I name these leaders while holding space for the countless others who we cannot name. I hope you see them, and honor them in your own unique way. One of the ways you can do that is by mentioning their name in rooms they may not have access to, or donating to the organizations they lead.
Either way, make room and space to celebrate those who uplift our community today and every day.
Nykidra Robinson was featured in 2022 as one of 25 Black Marylanders to watch. And once you learn more about her, you’ll understand why. Robinson founded and runs Black Girls Vote. She launched the organization on November 30, 2015. Shirley Chisholm was born on Nov. 30, and Robinson hopes her organization will channel Chisholm’s spirit and further her legacy. In 1968, Chisholm became the first Black woman to be elected to Congress. Through Black Girls Vote, Robinson is on a mission to demystify the political process and provide an onramp for involvement for Black girls and youth.
Black Girls Vote is invested in ensuring that Black women and girls are empowered to advance education equity, economic development, quality health care and other issues that improve outcomes for Black women and girls. The organization focuses on issues that impact Black women – health equity, entrepreneurship, student loans – in a fun and vibrant way. Robinson says that “Black women and girls shouldn’t be afraid to ask questions and engage in the political process.” She wants the communities she serves to understand that “politics isn’t a dirty word and engagement in the process is necessary.” Black Girls Vote has launched local chapters on college campuses in Maryland and beyond. She added, “Young people were heavily involved in the civil rights movement and today, we’re creating a movement of young people and pouring back into them.” Nykidra Robinson’s work has been funded, in part, by OSI-Baltimore. Learn more here or here.
Nakeia Drummond founded and runs the Women’s Entrepreneur Leadership Lab, (The WELL). When Black women launch businesses, many find themselves exhilarated by the prospect of envisioning and then fulfilling their dreams. But soon after launching, or even in the early incubation stages, many find themselves, isolated, struggling to raise capital, and needing support. Drummond embarked on a listening session, organizing and facilitating round table conversations with Black women entrepreneurs over a period of eighteen months. She found that while Black women are among the fastest demographic to launch businesses, many struggle with raising sufficient capital to maintain the business. Others find that they are blazing a trail, clearing brushes and thorns along the way. The WELL’s mission is to imagine, build, and sustain the futures we want for ourselves and our communities. We are a synergistic community where every member grows her businesses, creates wealth, and leads at the level of her dreams. Nakeia Drummond’s work has been funded, in part, by OSI-Baltimore Learn more here.
Shawna Murray-Browne is the principal consultant at Kindred Wellness. Murray-Browne is a licensed clinical social worker and an award-winning community healer, national speaker, and liberation-focused mind-body medicine practitioner. She shows changemakers how to heal themselves so they can serve others. She also guides leading non-profit, philanthropic and human service organizations in nourishing a culture of racial equity, healing and impact. She holds space for Black women and girls to heal present-day and historical trauma, honoring culture and teaching mind-body medicine. She enjoys connecting with organizations that are ready to tackle tough topics about race, on a journey to be anti-oppressive and liberation-focused. Learn more here.
Kisha A. Brown
Kisha A. Brown is an attorney and entrepreneur on a mission to connect persons needing legal counsel with Black lawyers. As was noted in an NBC News feature on her company, Brown has found that “Black clients feel they receive heightened support and more favorable results from Black lawyers than with non-Black legal aid.” Her company, Justis Connection, offers high-quality referrals to lawyers and persons needing legal representation. She also helps position Black lawyers as thought leaders and experts, allowing attorneys to focus on the task at hand, rather than client prospecting. Brown told me, “From the minute I started law school, I received requests for lawyer referrals. I would go through my phone and email and try to make the connections. I realized that Black lawyers were unknowingly leaving our community vulnerable to a system that marginalizes and oppresses us. Black attorneys need Black people to support their practice and Black people need attorneys who are culturally competent. Aside from this fact, all of us need a lawyer in our inner circle. It doesn’t matter what your resources are; we all need counsel. As Black people, we are navigating the world and our lives very differently from others.” Justis Connection has been featured by Washington’s ABC 7 for and Scripps News Service. Learn more here.
Nicole Hanson-Mundell is an expert on criminal justice policy and re-entry in Maryland. She is the executive director of Out for Justice. Out for Justice is a returning citizen, member-led nonprofit organization working to reform local and statewide reentry policies. The mission of Out for Justice is to engage, educate and empower those with criminal records to lead policy reform in Maryland. Nicole’s unique advocacy approach is to “stay close to the ground”, articulating the needs of marginalized people in policy spaces which garnered her a seat as the only impacted Black woman on Governor Hogan’s Gang Task Force. She believes that the services and activities provided by Out for Justice are an efficient way for her to connect the policy work with grassroots, service-oriented efforts. Her passion for reentry work comes from her own life experience, which she harnesses as a tool to advocate for effective and practical legislation that positively impacts the community that she serves. Nicole Hanson-Mundell’s work has been funded, in part, by OSI-Baltimore. Learn more here and here.
Kieta Iriate Amin and Nazaahah Amin
Kieta Iriate Amin and Nazaahah Amin envision a world where Black and Brown girls & women are empowered, self-sufficient, mindful, and supportive of each other. They knew their dream would not happen without intention, and since 2017, they have invested their hearts, souls, business acumen and wisdom into creating safe and supportive spaces for Black and Brown girls and women through BMore Empowered. Kieta focuses on the backend operations, ensuring their dream is not only inspiring but sustainable. Nazaahah implements wellness in everything she does, being careful to ensure women and girls understand the power of yoga, reiki, sister circles and other practices that allow us to rid the body of unhealthy stressors. Kieta shared “We cannot separate business from wellness and we want the girls to trust themselves, know how to manage stressors and begin a process of self-discovery.”
Their signature summer camp brings 30 girls aged 9 to 17 into community with each other, while offering an opportunity to learn from Black women business owners. Their Business Women’s Cohort, similarly provides visioning and mentoring opportunities for women business owners and aspiring business owners. By instilling values of self-discovery, sisterhood and community, BMore Empowered hopes to inspire a level of confidence in girls and women that will serve them over the course of their lives. The organization received the Black Girls Freedom Fund grant from the Rockefeller Foundation in recognition of their efforts to support the community.
Jennifer R. Farmer is the author of “First and Only: A Black Woman’s Guide to Thriving at Work and in Life,” and a social justice public relations leader.
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