This week in black women: Luvvie, 6th-grade superstars, The Lion Queen, and more.

Indictments fell like leaves. Baseball finally ended. And black women had another week of being intelligent, talented, innovative, and fearless.

This is the second edition of "This week in black women," a weekly column dedicated to signal-boosting the black women who make the world spin.

This week, we shoutout a Hollywood hotshot, a writer making big moves, children inspiring millions from their classroom, and a judge doing work. Celebrate them! Follow them! Support them! Let's go!


"Go off, sis": Luvvie Ajayi

The best-selling author and blogger was the opening speaker for the TEDWomen conference in New Orleans. Through presentations, discussions, and other events, the annual three-day conference centers women and girls as the innovators, change agents, and creators they are. Not 24 hours later, Ajayi was in New York City delivering the keynote address at The 3% Conference, a movement and event created to address the lack of women creative directors in advertising (only 3% when the effort began).

‌Photo by John Sciulli/Getty Images for Adcolor. ‌

"Take care of business": U.S. Magistrate Judge Deborah A. Robinson

Presiding over the preliminary portion of Paul Manafort and Rick Gates' indictments was none other than Deborah A. Robinson, a jurist with nearly 30 years of experience behind the bench. As a judge in the district, Robinson is no stranger to high-profile defendants, hearing cases involving NBA star Allen Iverson; former Washington, D.C., mayor Marion Barry; and George W. Bush's White House aide, Lewis "Scooter" Libby. Prior to her work as a judge, Robinson served as an assistant U.S. prosecuting attorney. Robinson will now hand the case over to U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson.

Images by Dana Verkouteren/AP and Charles Dharapak/AP Photo.

"If you don't know, now you know": Christy Coleman

It's 2017, and folks are still attempting to rewrite Civil War history. If you're looking for a place to brush up on your facts, visit Christy Coleman, CEO of the American Civil War Museum in Richmond, Virginia. The innovative space examines the Civil War from the Confederate, Union, and black perspectives.

Coleman is one of the few black women to lead a Civil War museum and told NBC News this summer, "My job is to lay out stories you may not have considered or heard before and provide an environment where people can learn and explore. And that’s what I do and I do that fairly well."

"Yes, young queens": the sixth-grade MCs at Milwaukee Excellence Charter School

I wrote about Milwaukee Excellence last year after seeing their passionate principal rap about homework. The school and students are going viral again, this time with their empowering student-lead rap "Excellence First" about staying focused and goal-oriented. It was written by their teacher, Terrance Sims, set to the beat from Tee Grizzley's "First Day Out," and tweaked with help from his sixth-grade class.  He held mini tryouts to see who would perform for the video, and these talented tweens rose to the top.

Come for the positive message, stay for two sixth-grade girls spitting 🔥 bars about MBAs and doctorates. The video has more than 86,000 views on Instagram and even landed the students on "Good Morning America."

"Let the people know": Angela Robinson

Last week, I asked you to send me links if you knew of any awesome black women doing amazing things. Molly M. sent me this delightful note:

"I wanted to reach out and propose my best friend Angela Robinson who just wrote and directed the major movie, 'Professor Marston and The Wonder Women.' An awesome woman with major accomplishments to write about, too!"

Robinson has some amazing Hollywood bonafides to her name, working as a writer, director, and producer on shows like "True Blood," "How To Get Away With Murder," and "The L Word." Her latest project, "Professor Marston and the Wonder Women," tells the surprising true story of William Moulton Marston, the psychologist who created Wonder Woman, and the polyamorous relationship he had with his wife and mistress. The complex love story opened Oct. 13 and is Certified Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes.

Hats off to Robinson — a gay, black woman getting it done and finding success in an industry long dominated by white men. (And kudos to Molly for letting people know about her fabulous friend.)

Angela Robinson attends the Professor Marston and the Wonder Women panel  in New York City. Photo by Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images.

Final thoughts: Ziwe

Disney just announced the full cast of the live-action "Lion King," and Beyoncé will take the throne as Nala.  

Where's the lie?

Courtesy of Amita Swadhin
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In 2016, Amita Swadhin, a child of two immigrant parents from India, founded Mirror Memoirs to help combat rape culture. The national storytelling and organizing project is dedicated to sharing the stories of LGBTQIA+ Black, indigenous people, and people of color who survived child sexual abuse.

"Whether or not you are a survivor, 100% of us are raised in rape culture. It's the water that we're swimming in. But just as fish don't know they are in water, because it's just the world around them that they've always been in, people (and especially those who aren't survivors) may need some help actually seeing it," they add.

"Mirror Memoirs attempts to be the dye that helps everyone understand the reality of rape culture."

Amita built the idea for Mirror Memoirs from a theater project called "Undesirable Elements: Secret Survivors" that featured their story and those of four other survivors in New York City, as well as a documentary film and educational toolkit based on the project.

"Secret Survivors had a cast that was gender, race, and age-diverse in many ways, but we had neglected to include transgender women," Amita explains. "Our goal was to help all people who want to co-create a world without child sexual abuse understand that the systems historically meant to help survivors find 'healing' and 'justice' — namely the child welfare system, policing, and prisons — are actually systems that facilitate the rape of children in oppressed communities," Amita continues. "We all have to explore tools of healing and accountability outside of these systems if we truly want to end all forms of sexual violence and rape culture."

Amita also wants Mirror Memoirs to be a place of healing for survivors that have historically been ignored or underserved by anti-violence organizations due to transphobia, homophobia, racism, xenophobia, and white supremacy.

Amita Swadhin

"Hearing survivors' stories is absolutely healing for other survivors, since child sexual abuse is a global pandemic that few people know how to talk about, let alone treat and prevent."

"Since sexual violence is an isolating event, girded by shame and stigma, understanding that you're not alone and connecting with other survivors is alchemy, transmuting isolation into intimacy and connection."

This is something that Amita knows and understands well as a survivor herself.

"My childhood included a lot of violence from my father, including rape and other forms of domestic violence," says Amita. "Mandated reporting was imposed on me when I was 13 and it was largely unhelpful since the prosecutors threatened to incarcerate my mother for 'being complicit' in the violence I experienced, even though she was also abused by my father for years."

What helped them during this time was having the support of others.

"I'm grateful to have had a loving younger sister and a few really close friends, some of whom were also surviving child sexual abuse, though we didn't know how to talk about it at the time," Amita says.

"I'm also a queer, non-binary femme person living with complex post-traumatic stress disorder, and those identities have shaped a lot of my life experiences," they continue. "I'm really lucky to have an incredible partner and network of friends and family who love me."

"These realizations put me on the path of my life's work to end this violence quite early in life," they said.

Amita wants Mirror Memoirs to help build awareness of just how pervasive rape culture is. "One in four girls and one in six boys will be raped or sexually assaulted by the age of 18," Amita explains, "and the rates are even higher for vulnerable populations, such as gender non-conforming, disabled, deaf, unhoused, and institutionalized children." By sharing their stories, they're hoping to create change.

"Listening to stories is also a powerful way to build empathy, due to the mirror neurons in people's brains. This is, in part, why the project is called Mirror Memoirs."

So far, Mirror Memoirs has created an audio archive of BIPOC LGBTQI+ child sexual abuse survivors sharing their stories of survival and resilience that includes stories from 60 survivors across 50 states. This year, they plan to record another 15 stories, specifically of transgender and nonbinary people who survived child sexual abuse in a sport-related setting, with their partner organization, Athlete Ally.

"This endeavor is in response to the more than 100 bills that have been proposed across at least 36 states in 2021 seeking to limit the rights of transgender and non-binary children to play sports and to receive gender-affirming medical care with the support of their parents and doctors," Amita says.

In 2017, Mirror Memoirs held its first gathering, which was attended by 31 people. Today, the organization is a fiscally sponsored, national nonprofit with two staff members, a board of 10 people, a leadership council of seven people, and 500 members nationally.

When the pandemic hit in 2020, they created a mutual aid fund for the LGBTQIA+ community of color and were able to raise a quarter-million dollars. They received 2,509 applications for assistance, and in the end, they decided to split the money evenly between each applicant.

While they're still using storytelling as the building block of their work, they're also engaging in policy and advocacy work, leadership development, and hosting monthly member meetings online.

For their work, Amita is one of Tory's Burch's Empowered Women. Their donation will go to Mirror Memoirs to help fund production costs for their new theater project, "Transmutation: A Ceremony," featuring four Black transgender, intersex, and non-binary women and femmes who live in California.

"I'm grateful to every single child sexual survivor who has ever disclosed their truth to me," Amita says. "I know another world is possible, and I know survivors will build it, together with all the people who love us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

Photo by R.D. Smith on Unsplash

Gem is living her best life.

If you've ever dreamed of spontaneously walking out the door and treating yourself a day of pampering at a spa without even telling anyone, you'll love this doggo who is living your best life.

According to CTV News, a 5-year-old shepherd-cross named Gem escaped from her fenced backyard in Winnipeg early Saturday morning and ended up at the door of Happy Tails Pet Resort & Spa, five blocks away. An employee at the spa saw Gem at the gate around 6:30 a.m. and was surprised when they noticed her owners were nowhere to be seen.

"They were looking in the parking lot and saying, 'Where's your parents?'" said Shawn Bennett, one of the co-owners of the business.

The employee opened the door and Gem hopped right on in, ready and raring to go for her day of fun and relaxation.

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."