by Abaki Beck
We aren’t the first to say this and we surely won’t be the last - but Amandla Stenberg is an amazing activist and force on social media - and provides incredibly insightful commentary for someone just 17 years old. (You know someone’s going to be awesome if their name literally means “power” in Zulu.) Of course, I don’t want to focus too much on her age, because age should not define anyone, and passion for social justice is not relegated to a certain age or level of education. I was originally thinking of calling this post, “How to Properly Use Social Media: A Guide,” because Amandla is a straight up star on and off (and through?) the screen. We’re choosing to highlight her for our first Feminist Hero of 2016 because she is a powerful young voice giving us hope for the future (aka current) generation of social agitators. As she has said: "the revolutionary youth will change the world!"
As an actress, she is perhaps best known as Rue from The Hunger Games or as young Cataleya in Colombiana. What perhaps catapulted her to fame/cultural icon status, however, was her video “Don’t Cash Crop on my Corn Rows,” a critique of cultural misappropriation and exploitation of black women’s hairstyles. The video has nearly 2 million views on YouTube. She made the video along with her friend, Quinn Masterson, for their history class, and oof, does it deliver a great history lesson. The video asks the pertinent question: “What would America be like if we loved black people as much as we love black culture?” In the video, she notes that “Hip hop stems from a black struggle, it stems from jazz and blues, styles of music African-Americans created to retain humanity in the face of adversity...On a smaller scale but in a similar vein, braids and cornrows are not merely stylistic. They’re necessary to keep black hair neat.” Watch the full video here or below. In addition to this video, she uses all of her social media accounts to spread information about and support of social justice movements, particularly issues impacting black women.
Besides acting, Amandla is a creative force to be reckoned with. She plays the violin, guitar and piano, enabling her to perform at both the House of Blues and the Hard Rock Cafe in Los Angeles, and she currently makes folk music with Zander Hawley in the band Honeywater. Amandal also recently wrote a comic book with Stranger Comics’ Sebastian Jones called Niobe: She is Life (more here), serves as a youth ambassador for No Kid Hungry, a foundation that fights child hunger in America, and was named one of the best Feminists of 2015 by a Ms. Foundation online poll.
When I was in high school, though I was politically involved (hosting fundraisers, asking people to sign petitions for issues I cared about, attending protests, et cetera), I was not politically brave. Though I participated, I was shy and insecure and did not speak out as much as I would have liked. This strength came to me at a later age. I applaud Amandla for her bravery in speaking out in a world that so often works to silence women like her. At such a young age, she is already making a mark as a powerful artists and activist.
Below, we highlight some of her best posts from social media. Check them out, share, and please support, empower, and listen to young artist/activists like Amandla!