Highlighting big and small Black leaders for change

CMU junior Malcolm Vinson talks about Rosalind Brewer Monday, Feb. 13, in Kulhavi Hall.

From 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. Central Michigan University students, freshman Vincent Vargas and junior Malcom Vinson with Multicultural Academic Student Services (MASS), hosted “Black Leaders Who Create Change.” The event was on Feb. 13 in Kulhavi room 141. 

This event featured an in-depth Kahoot in which students competed against one another by answering questions about prominent Black leaders and overlooked Black leaders who have made small, but important impacts on the world, according to Vargas. The first and second place winners of the Kahoot won 10 flex dollars to add to their student account. 

“Many of these leaders didn't necessarily lead huge activist movements, they worked to better their community and the environment around them,” Vargas said. “We hope this meeting inspires you to reach out and start. 

“You don't have to start with a huge protest or rally, we're working to inform those around you and from there sparking change. (That is) whether you're doing research on your own, going out of your way to attend events throughout the rest of Black History Month, supporting different communities, being an ally (or) creating a more diverse, equitable and inclusive environment.”

Vincent and Vargas highlighted twenty Black leaders' big and small throughout history, including the following:

Tarana Burke

Tarana Burke is an activist known for creating the MeToo movement and a viral sensation over the media by sharing the hashtag, ”MeToo”. 

Burke, at the age of 13, joined an organization called 21st Century that focused on youth development allowing her to lead campaigns centered around housing inequality, racial discriminiation and economic injustice. By working with many women of color who experienced sexual violence Burke began to find resources to support young women of color that inspired her to start JustBe incorporated, which also started the MeToo hashtag according to Vargas. 

Amariyanna Copeny

Amariyanna Copeny has been working to help the Flint Water Crisis since the age of 8. She, at 8-years-old,  wrote letters to former President Barack Obama, leading to a $100 million relief bill to Flint because of her national spotlight. Copeny raised $500,000 as a kid using her platforms as a member of the Flint Youth Justice League and other organizations to support access to health and access to clean water in Flint, according to Vargas.

“She’s so young (15) and this just puts it into reference that we can all make change no matter how old,” Vargas said. 

Deviate Davison 

Devita Davison spoke in a TEDTalk regarding the issues of urban decay in Detroit and the lack of easy accessible fresh food in lower income Black communities. Vargas said she created the nonprofit, Detroit Kitchen Network, to provide access to kitchen equipment and works to help promote health, food and agriculutre across the community. Davison helped the community grow 550,000 pounds of fresh produce for lower income Black communites of Detroit in 2017.

Marley Diaz

Marley Diaz noticed at 11-years-old that all of her mandatory reading for school was about white boys and dogs. Vinson states she felt that she didn’t have the freedom in what she was able to read. Diaz created a book drive to generate more awareness to main Black female characters in novels. More than 9,000 books were donated. 

“I feel like today we see a lot more children’s books with people of color as the main characters,” Vinson said. “I think of a lot of the reason why was because of Marley and her efforts to bring that awareness.”

Talia Brookshire

Talia Brookshire, a CMU alumna, was a key factor in developing a multicultural plan for NASCAR’s series “Changing Lanes”, a story in which NASCAR worked to create more opportunities for people of color in the racing world. Vargas said she was awarded CMU’s Outstanding Alumni award in 2011. 

“We included her just to show CMU alumni making change in USA Olympics, NASCAR and other big names that she was contributing to,” Vargas said. “You guys can do it too.”