“Sí, Se Puede, Yes We Can” Women Civil Rights Leaders Throughout History

By Nicole Mariano, age:12, Amin Adem, age 13, Madison Smith, age 11, Simone Oduola, age 11, Mary Ryan, Age 11, Chloe Corneal age 11 years old, Nylu Bridges Bernshtayn, age 13, Nicolle Berroa age 12

Dolores Huerta, the Force Behind the United Farm Workers Union

Dolores Huerta photo by Gage Skidmore

By Nicole Mariano      Age:12

Dolores Huerta is a civil rights activist, a mother of 11, and a labor leader. Dolores was outraged by the poverty and dreadful conditions of the farm workers in the United States, so she dedicated her life to help fight for better workers’ rights. With Cesar Chavez, she co-founded the United Farm Workers union. In the late 1960s, they organized a national strike and a boycott of grape producers to negotiate better working conditions for migrant farm workers, including reducing the use of harmful pesticides and initiating unemployment and healthcare benefits. At the boycott’s height, it’s estimated that 17 million people stopped buying grapes. On May 30, 2012, Dolores was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama. At the award ceremony, Obama acknowledged that he stole Dolores Huerta’s slogan, Sí, se puede,” Yes, we can,” to inspire people during his presidential campaign.

Angela Davis the Freedom Fighter

Angela Davis photo by Columbia GSAPP

By Amin Adem, age 13

Angela Davis is a civil rights activist, academic and author known for her work around issues of race, class, gender and prisons. She was born on January 26, 1944, in Birmingham, Alabama. Growing up in Alabama, she experienced racial prejudice and discrimination. Davis was raised by her parents in a neighborhood that suffered such frequent bombings by the Ku Klux Klan, it was nicknamed “Dynamite Hill.” As a child, she didn’t get to do all the stuff that she wanted to do, like go to the amusement park, because during that time racial segregation laws didn’t allow it. She had to go to a Black/colored library, which was not the same quality as the library for Whites. Later, as a teenager, Davis organized interracial study groups, which were broken up by the police.

Angela Davis has always been determined to dismantle injustice and racism in all their forms. She was active in the Black Panther Party and became an icon of the 1970s Black Liberation Movement. She is also a leading advocate for prison abolition, a position informed by her own experience as a political prisoner in the 1970s.

Emma González and Her Personal Fight for Gun Control

Emma González, photo: Wikicommons

By Chloe Corneal  age 11 years old

Emma González is an 19-year-old Cuban-American activist. She was a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, when, on February 14, 2018, a student shot and killed 17 students and staff. Since then, Emma has been pushing for gun control in the United States so that students can feel safe again in schools. “We are tired of practicing school shooter drills and feeling scared of something we should never have to think about,” Emma said.

Emma is credited with founding the #MarchForOurLives movement and co-founding Never Again MSD, a gun control advocacy group created by the survivors of the shooting at her school.

The #MarchForOurLives organized one of the largest youth-led protests in history, demonstrating that even young people can change the world. They are advocating to end gun violence and elect politicians who will enact stricter gun control laws.

The Revolutionary Grace Lee Boggs

Grace Lee Boggs photo by Kyle McDonald

By Nicolle Berroa age 12

Grace Lee Boggs was a Chinese-American author, social activist and revolutionary philosopher, born in Providence, Rhode Island, in 1915. She fought for labor and civil rights, feminism, Black Power, Asian Americans and the environment. Her role in the civil rights movement challenged how people think about their own activism, favoring working together in small groups to create change. In 1992 she co-founded Detroit Summer, a youth program where volunteers repair homes, paint murals, organize music festivals and turn vacant lots into community gardens. She opened the James and Grace Lee Boggs School in 2013. Her legacy is important because she dedicated seven decades to challenge the inequalities of this nation.

Her advice for the present is, “People are aware that they cannot continue in the same old way, but are immobilized because they cannot imagine an alternative. We need a vision that recognizes that we are at one of the great turning points in human history when the survival of our planet and the restoration of our humanity require a great sea change in our ecological, economic, political, and spiritual values.” Grace Lee Boggs died in 2015 at the age of 100.

First Nations and Civil Rights Pioneer Elizabeth Wanamaker Peratrovich

Elizabeth Wanamaker Peratrovich. Wikicommons

By Nylu Bridges Bernshtayn, age 13

Elizabeth Wanamaker Peratrovich is a civil rights leader who fought for equal rights in Alaska in the 1940s. Peratrovich was responsible for the passing of the Anti-Discrimination Act in Alaska in 1945, which was the first anti-discrimination act in the United States. Peratrovich was part of the Lukaax̱.ádi clan in the Raven moiety of the Tlingit Nation, an indigenous clan in the Pacific Northwest coast of North America. Peratrovich spent her life fighting to end the inequality experienced by the Alaska Natives. Peratrovich’s legacy is important today because she not only fought against the discrimination of Native Alaskans, and for the rights of indigenous peoples, but for all people who experience racism and discrimination.  

The Women Behind Black Lives Matter

From Left to right Opal Tometi Patrisse Cullors and Alicia Garza Photos by Jean-Marc Ferré, Citizen University and Steve Eason

By Madison Smith, age 11

Patrisse Cullors, Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi are the three strong, empowering Black women who co-founded Black Lives Matter. They wanted to bring attention to the critical, yet often unrecognized, issues of police brutality and racial discrimination. Black Lives Matter started online with the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter and connected with big organizations such as BlackOUT Collective, Color of Change, Black Youth Project 100 (BYP100), Cooperation Jackson and many more.

Patrisse Cullors, a civil rights leader and anti-incarceration activist, was born and raised in Los Angeles, California, where she experienced police harassment from a young age. She said the police would go into her house and mistreat her family, especially her brothers, frisking and patting them down until they finally found nothing. This became the norm, but even as a child she wanted to challenge this injustice.

Alicia Garza is a civil rights activist and writer who was born and raised in Oakland, California. She has organized around domestic workers’ rights, as well as ending police brutality, racism and violence against trans and gender-nonconforming people of color. She was inspired to start Black Lives Matter after the shooting of Trayvon Martin in Florida.

Opal Tometi was born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona. She is a writer, civil rights leader and community organizer. She is the executive director of Black Alliance for Just Immigration. She is a Nigerian woman who says that she faced lots of racial discrimination from people around her, but still manages to be one of the leading faces of one of today’s leading movements.

The whole community has become more aware of racial discrimination and police brutality because of Garza, Tometi and Cullors. As Alicia Garza said, “Black Lives Matter was created as a response to state violence and anti-Black racism and a call to action for those who want to fight it and build a world where Black lives do, in fact, matter.”

The Legacy of Marsha P. Johnson

Marsha P. Johnson in the 1973 NYC Gay Pride Parade by Gary LeGault

By Simone Oduola Age 11

Marsha P. Johnson was a transgender Black woman and an activist for LGBTQIA+ liberation and those living with HIV/AIDS. Her past experience with police and homophobia motivated her to fight against homophobic and transphobic culture and laws. In the 1960s it was illegal to be gay in New York and many other U.S. states. She was a leader, together with her friend Sylvia Rivera, in two of the most significant moments in the LGBTQIA+ rights movements: the Stonewall riots and Gay Liberation Front, which established marches that were the inspiration for the pride parades celebrated around the world today.

The Stonewall riots occurred in Greenwich Village, New York, on June 28, 1969. The Stonewall Inn was a place where the LGBTQIA+ community would gather and hang out. Police often raided the bar and mistreated the LGBTQIA+ people who were there. This sparked the Stonewall riots, which was a very important moment for the LGBTQIA+ community. Marsha P. Johnson was a leader of the riots but is not often recognized for what she did. Historical accounts often focused on a whitewashed and ciswashed version of the Stonewall riots.


LGBTQIA+Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer/Questioning, Intersex, Asexual.

Homophobic Showing a prejudice against lesbian, gay, queer and bisexual people.

Transphobic – Showing a prejudice against transgender people.        

Whitewashed – When a historical event involving people of color is portrayed as a White-dominant event.

Cisgender – People who identify as the gender they were assigned at birth.

Cishwashed – When a historical event involving transgender people is portrayed as a cisgender-dominant event.

“Water Is Life”: How Anna Lee Rain Yellowhammer Inspired Standing Rock Protests

Protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline Photo Credit Fibonacci Blue

By Mary Ryan, Age 11 and Indykids Staff

In 2016, Anna Lee Rain Yellowhammer, who was 13 at the time, started a petition on Change.org to protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). The 1,172-mile-long underground oil pipeline transports crude oil from North Dakota, through South Dakota and Iowa, to an oil terminal in Illinois.

But pipeline opponents are worried that a spill would pollute drinking water for the nearby Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. “It’s not if it leaks but when it leaks,” said Anna Lee Rain Yellowhammer. “When the pipe leaks, it will wipe out plants and animals, ruin our drinking water, and poison the center of community life for the Standing Rock Sioux.”

Anna initially collected 80,000 signatures, which inspired worldwide support for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, with thousands of people camping and protesting on the reservation for several months. The protesters celebrated in December 2016 when the Obama administration denied a permit for DAPL; however, just a few months later, the Trump administration reversed that decision and approved construction. The community continues to fight to shut down the pipeline in federal court, even though the pipeline began operating in June 2017.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *