12 Inspirational Reads for Black History Month

Black History Month is a special time in February dedicated to honoring the rich history, culture, and influences of Black Americans throughout our nation’s history. It is also a time to celebrate the voices that have and continue to pave pathways that inspire and create spaces for global change.

This Black History Month, The Women’s Foundation is excited to share twelve (12) of our staff’s favorite reads written by some of the most brilliant Black writers and thinkers.

Check them out below!

All About Love: New Visions – bell hooks

All About Love breaks down why love remains elusive for many of us. From our flawed understanding of what love is to our misguided expectations of romantic love, author bell hooks examines common barriers to love and explains the steps individuals need to take for society to become more loving and nurturing.

Finding Me – Viola Davis

Finding Me is EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony Awards) winning actress Viola Davis’ story, in her own words, and spans her incredible, inspiring life, from her coming-of-age in Rhode Island to her present day. It is a deep reflection, a promise, and a love letter of sorts to herself. 

Homegoing – Yaa Gyasi

Homegoing is a story of race, history, ancestry, love, and time that traces the descendants of two sisters torn apart in eighteenth-century Ghana and their descendants through eight generations: from the Gold Coast to the plantations of Mississippi, from the American Civil War to Jazz Age Harlem. The novel shows how the memory of captivity has been inscribed on the soul of our nation.

How the Word is Passed – Clint Smith

How the Word is Passed examines the legacy of slavery in America and how both history and memory continue to shape our everyday lives.

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption – Bryan Stevenson

Just Mercy is a powerful true story about Bryan Stevenson, a young lawyer who founded the Equal Justice Initiative—a legal practice dedicated to defending those most desperate and in need: the poor, the wrongly condemned, and women and children trapped in the farthest reaches of our criminal justice system. It is a story about the potential for mercy to redeem us and a call to fix our broken justice system.

The Love Songs of W.E.B. DuBois – Honorée Fanonne Jeffers

The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois is the 2021 debut novel by American poet Honorée Fanonne Jeffers. It explores the history of a Black family in the American South, from the time before the American civil war and slavery, through the Civil Rights Movement, to the present.

The Purpose of Power: How We Come Together When We Fall Apart – Alicia Garza

In The Purpose of Power, Co-Founder of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, Alicia Garza, combines immense wisdom with political courage to inspire a new generation of activists, dreamers, and leaders. It’s a story of galvanizing people to create change and an insight into grassroots organizing to deliver basic needs – affordable housing, workplace protections, and access to good education – to those locked out of the economy by racism.

Seven Days in June – Tia Williams

With its keen observations of creative life in America today, as well as the joys and complications of being a mother and a daughter, Tia Williams’ Seven Days in June is a hilarious and romantic story of two writers discovering their second chance at love. 

The Warmth of Other Suns – Isabel Wilkerson

The Warmth of Other Suns sheds new light on the story of the Great Migration—the movement of Black Americans out of the Southern United States to the Midwest, Northeast, and West from approximately 1915 to 1970—through the stories of three individuals: Ida Mae Brandon Gladney, George Swanson Starling, and Robert Pershing Foster. It shows just how dramatically American culture has been changed, and continues to be changed, because of it.

Well-Read Black Girl: Finding Our Stories, Discovering Ourselves – Glory Edim

Well-Read Black Girl: Finding Our Stories, Discovering Ourselves is a collection of inspiring essays by Black women on the importance of recognizing themselves in literature. Each contribution to the anthology is thoughtful and thorough and creates both a time capsule and an artifact of memories in literature. 

When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matters Memoir – Patrisse Khan-Cullors and asha bandele

When They Call You a Terrorist is a reflection on humanity. It is an empowering account of survival, strength, and resilience and a call to action to change the culture that declares innocent Black life expendable.

You Are Your Best Thing: Vulnerability, Shame Resilience and the Black Experience – Tarana Burke and Dr. Brené Brown

This anthology brings together a dynamic group of Black writers, organizers, artists, academics, and cultural figures to discuss the topics that Burke and Brown have dedicated their lives to understanding and teaching – vulnerability and shame resilience. It is a space to recognize and process the trauma of white supremacy, a space to be vulnerable and affirm the fullness of Black life and Black possibility, and a space that gives Black humanity breathing room.

Who Did Home Care Fall On? Girls of Color Held Their Communities Together During the COVID-19 Crisis

One year ago, I posted the question, “Who does home care fall on?” I warned that COVID-19’s abrupt impact on home dynamics was falling disproportionately on girls, and particularly, girls of color in vulnerable communities. 

Now, after one year in the shadow of a virus, the data is in: the pandemic has had a devastating toll on women. Some experts have referred to this as the “Care Economy,” “Pink pandemic” and  “She-cession” because women have borne the brunt of the crisis by nearly every measure. The gender inequities that existed prior to the pandemic have worsened. 

Crittenton Services of Greater Washington Girls

Our teens were not immune to the impacts of the virus either. 

We recently conducted a needs and impact assessment with the more than 400 teens that we serve in the District and Montgomery County. Not only are they still struggling in the unequal balance of schoolwork and home, but it’s also causing them to question their futures. 

Caregiving responsibilities are one of the biggest stressors on girls. Nearly 40% of the girls we surveyed reported difficulties managing their time with schoolwork. They have to navigate being students, children, siblings and caretakers in crowded home environments. The stress and competing needs led to 42% reporting that they are not sleeping at night because of worry and anxiety, and 55% being concerned about their futures.

Important progress is being made towards recovery, however, returning to normal would be a grave mistake. Now is the time to chart a new and equitable path for girls. To do so, we must look holistically and be brutally honest about their new normal and what they need to succeed.

For example, we recently partnered with NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland, to testify and successfully pass HB 00401 Educational Equity for Pregnant, Expectant, and Parenting Students, in the Maryland House. Among other provisions, the bill requires schools designate private lactation spaces that are not bathrooms or closests, determine an amended attendance policy for parents, and assist and advise in identifying safe, affordable, and reliable child care services–all of which contribute to educational success of teens. 

Future plans, programs, and policies for girls must center new caregiving responsibilities, include scaled up investment in care infrastructure, and address the trauma that they’ve experienced so that young girls can fully participate in recovery. Furthermore, we must invest in and listen to groups, organizations, and leaders that specialize in culturally competent care, especially those that work directly with Black, Indigenous, and communities of color. 

Like many of us, girls have risen to the occasion, despite the hardships, because their friends, families, and communities required them to. It’s on us to make sure that they don’t slip through the cracks. 

Siobhan Davenport is President and CEO of Crittenton Services of Greater Washington and has more than 16 years of experience working with youth that face structural barriers. With her leadership, CSGW launched its Declare Equity Initiative, focused on the inequities that girls of color face in schools through D.C. Metropolitan Area.

Keeping it 100: Reflecting on Five Years of Advocacy & the Push for Black Women’s Equality

In the fall of 2014, I walked into a jam-packed room with 75 other eager women. We had all shown up expressing an interest in forming a new chapter of an organization committed to ensuring Black women and girls live in a world where socioeconomic inequity does not exist. A bold endeavor, but long overdue.

What I did not know is that seven months later, I’d be elected the chartering president of this group of ambitious women, and five years later, serving in my third consecutive term, embarking upon our fifth-year anniversary during the most profound modern day social justice and still civil rights era.

That organization turned out to be the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, Inc., which was founded in 1981 by an impressive cadre of New York “good trouble”-making women. They recognized that while much had been gained relative to the advancement of Black women, much more was needed to still be done.  They seized the opportunity to organize, advocate, and elevate awareness of the perpetual systemic barriers impacting Black women and girls across the country.  Fast forward nearly forty years later, and despite my being asked more than once if an organization like this is even still necessary, the answer is a resounding, yes!

Even on the heels of the announcement of Kamala Harris’ Vice President nomination and acceptance, in the thick of Census 2020, the 100th Anniversary of women securing the right to vote, and facing the most important election of our times, one thing that I know for sure, is that there is still work to do.

Over the past five years of my days in office as president leading a startup organization, ran solely by passionate, head strong women volunteers – in a crowded local and national landscape of socially driven organizations, taking on exasperating  sociopolitical and socioeconomic issues – has undoubtedly pushed and pulled me in ways I could never imagine. Most of all, it has given me a renewed appreciation and respect for the power of self, collaboration, authenticity, and patience, ensuring that my actions and our chapter’s actions model our mission and enable us to keep it 100. You never know when the groundwork you are doing today will need to be activated tomorrow.

On August 29th of 2015, we – the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, Inc. Metropolitan Washington, DC Chapter vowed to be the last chapter to charter in the District (there were two chapters before us), and throughout these five years, we’ve truly been able to lean in on our sisterhood to activate ourselves in order to support Black women and girls on a myriad of issues. From our Sisternomics Empowerment Grant Program, in which we’ve awarded over $25,000 to nine Black women owned businesses, to advising on legislation to establish or expand a perinatal health worker training program, to designing and implementing our signature mentoring program, Exceptionally Me, to securing partnerships and support from global brands such as Lyft, Wells Fargo, JP Morgan Chase and Anita B.org –  to take our mission, our lessons learned, and our collaborative commitment to elevating women, seriously.

And as we celebrate what I consider to be a milestone anniversary, I couldn’t be more excited to launch our inaugural #Shes100 Equity Awards. #Shes100 honors a group of phenomenal Black women who are making a major impact in Washington, DC in the areas of Health, Economic Empowerment, Education, Advocacy, and Corporate Social Responsibility. Our celebration of these women is in fact a celebration of NCBWDC.

Our work is not elevated by what we do alone but it is through the actions and impact of those who model our mission and push our issues and our community forward. From Congress Heights to the heights of Congress, and from classrooms to boardrooms, these women keep it 100!

  • Adjoa B. Asamoah, a chartering member, political powerhouse, and impact strategist
  • Gloria Nauden, a chartering member, and Vice President of Marketing and Communications for City First Bank of DC
  • Aza Nedhari, Executive Director of Mamatoto Village, a perinatal health organization
  • Kristie Edwards, Principal at Randall Highlands Elementary School
  • Monica Mitchell, Vice President of Corporate Philanthropy and Community Development for Wells Fargo Bank

We respect their grind. We value their authenticity. We love their commitment. We recognize their ability to leverage and build. They are the executors of NCBWDC’s priorities and an extension of our mission. When I reflect upon the accomplishments of our inaugural honorees, coupled with what our nimble chapter has accomplished in five short years, I get excited knowing how much more we can and will achieve when we each commit to stepping up,  and keeping it 100.  And if we are going to make any continued advancements for Black women and girls, it’s through efforts like these in which we must act. My charge for how ways in which we can each be 100 is by doing and recognizing the following:

  1. Be authentic: To thy self be true. Know the issues. Know why you serve and own your narrative.
  2. Build up, not tear down: The fight and yes, it is a fight to advance and protect rights for Black women and girls, will require the participation of many. We need to ensure that we are not only supporting one another but leaving no one behind or on the sidelines.
  3. Stay the course: In a world of quick flips and fixes, instantaneous answers and placating exchanges, coupled with centuries of disenfranchisement, it’s only natural to want to see results NOW. However, advocacy and systems change work is hard and multi-layered. It takes time and consistency.

In the past, our voices were used to propel movements, but those movements did not amplify us. Today, we are leading our own movements and using our own platforms to amplify our voices, our views and our value.  This moment is a movement, and this movement is a moment; do not let it pass you by.  The time is NOW to keep it 100. I hope you will join us!


Ayris T. Scales is the president of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women Inc., Metro DC Chapter. She is a tri-sector leader who has dedicated her career to working at the intersectionality of policy, philanthropy and partnerships to empower the rights of marginalized people and communities.  You can see how she likes to keep it 100 by following her @heiressflow or @NCBWDC. 

Black Women – We Deserve Better

I watched a Black woman get thrown into a dumpster on Tuesday.

I was minding my business on Twitter when I saw the video. There she was talking when a group of boys in the District physically picked her up and threw her in a nearby dumpster. Their laughter grew loud as she lay in the trash, crying and paralyzed with embarrassment.

In that moment, I saw myself in her and all I could feel was disappointment.

It’s a feeling a lot of Black women have learned to carve out space for at an early age. We’re born into the sad reality that no one is going to protect or care for us. Similar to trash, society discards us and our problems to avoid yet another uncomfortable conversation at the intersection of gender, race and class. It happens every time a Black girl is adultified, overpoliced, denied an opportunity, and when we attempt to report a crime or assault and are asked, “Are you sure this really happened to you?”  Sometimes we are talked out of it because, “You know how the police treats Black boys and men.”

The disposal of Black women and girls has been clearly documented since the beginning of time. It continues today with ever-present and jaw-dropping statistics which are readily available and accessible to all. If it helps, you can reach for your Aunt Jemima syrup, and add a little more sweetness to this bitter reality, but it won’t change anything. As the civil unrest continues to unfold, society is finally addressing the systemic racist elephant in the room, yet the urgency around Black women and girls moves sadly at a snail’s pace.  

When 19-year-old activist Oluwatoyin Salau, tweeted about her sexual assault, no one did anything until she was found dead. She, who had so passionately defended and protected Black lives was left vulnerable and unprotected. Now she is another hashtag added to an ever-growing list. 

Breonna Taylor‘s murder still has not been answered for as her case continues to languish was so low on the list, we had to celebrate her 27th birthday, without her, to prove that her life was worth living.

In our own region, Black women, girls, trans and gender expansive individuals are last on the list for jobs, assistance, relief efforts and are currently experiencing the worst of the pandemic. We contribute the most to society and receive the least in return. To be honest, I am disappointed, but even more, I am hurt.

What if instead of last, we conjured a world where Black women and girls were put first? A world where chocolate girls with brown eyes and kinky hair got amber alert status, a world where Black women didn’t have to choose between their safety and their solidarity? A world where no one would ever think to throw a Black girl in a dumpster, because the repercussions would be swift and heavy.

I truly believe the outcome can change if we collectively do something. Where to start is simple: LOVE US OUT LOUD. Black women are fighting a long battle to dismantle a system we didn’t create and it’s backbreaking work we didn’t necessarily ask to do. We need allies to scream louder for us so that we can thrive and not just survive.

INVEST IN US. The media is finally telling our storIes, companies are reaching out to increase their diversity, people are saying buy Black, and actually doing it, but we need you for the long haul. Once the protestors go home, and things start to quiet down, you still need to be there.

At The Women’s Foundation, it’s part of our mission to center the lived experience of Black women and girls in our work but we can only succeed if you join us. Our Stand Together Fund, which tackles the issue of sexual and domestic violence, and elder and child care workers, is a new collective effort where we can all invest in more positive outcomes and a better, more just future.

To the Black women who are discarded, who are tired but don’t quit, the women who fight for the people who don’t protect them, and the ones who just need a hug while on the frontlines — YOU deserve better.

There is always more that we can do, but it is a collective effort  where we stand together and remind ourselves that Black women matter too.

Mercy Chikowore is a Black woman and Communications Manager for Washington Area Women’s Foundation, where she executes the organization’s communications and branding strategies.

Enough Is Still Enough.

I wrote this piece four years ago. It was a punch to the gut reading it today because nothing has changed, except for the names—1,000 names, in fact, of people who lost their lives simply for being Black.

To my staff, my colleagues, and my friends whose pain, grief and trauma is indescribable and unrelenting—I’m sorry. Your pain is not a pain inflicted solely by the events of last week. Your pain is compounded by centuries of oppression and injustice. Your pain is the fear that walking or jogging in your neighborhood, playing in a park, going to the grocery store, or even sleeping in your own bed will result in death solely because of the color of your skin.

As the staff of Washington Area Women’s Foundation individually struggle to process the events of this past week, we also collectively struggle with how we show up as a philanthropic organization at this moment. During a call today, a staff member shared that we all have a unique gift to offer and that we should use our gifts to make change.

So we asked ourselves, “What is the gift that Washington Area Women’s Foundation has to offer?”

Our gift is using our voice as a funder to push for change. To that end, we will stand in solidarity with women and girls of color in DC and across the Washington metro region. We will center women and girls of color and follow their lead in identifying community needs. We will invest in the power of women and girls of color. We will push philanthropy to use an intersectional lens. We will work to disrupt sexist and racist systems. And we will acknowledge our mistakes and commit to doing better.

As a white woman, mother, friend, and leader, my gift is also using my voice. Silence is not an option. But words alone are not enough. To my white colleagues and friends, I implore you to speak up and take action. Our discomfort with saying or doing the wrong thing is inflicting even greater pain. If you don’t know where to start, here are some excellent resources.

There is no gender justice without racial justice. We have to take a stand against racism today. 

As I said four years ago:

“At what point do we say enough is enough? At what point are we willing to look deep within ourselves and face our own prejudices and biases head on and call them out for what they are? At what point do we collectively decide that the racialized structures we inhabit have to go? If not now, when?”

In solidarity,

Jennifer Lockwood-Shabat
President & CEO