We know you know this already, but it’s always worth saying that Black girls are awesome. All over the world, Black girls and young women are doing astounding, world-defining things in every area of life, truly showing that they deserve a seat at every table. This is despite many roadblocks and obstacles created in a world in which gender and race discrimination is still very much a daily reality.
Just one effect of this discrimination is the gender pay gap — where women earn less than men for equal work. In the US, for example, according to research from the United States Census Bureau, women earn 79 cents for every dollar men make. That gets even worse for Black women, earning just 64 cents for every dollar.
Meanwhile, because racial inequality is embedded in societies around the world, it's felt across areas like education, entertainment, sports, and even activism. It's widely reported and documented that Black women and women of color have to work extra hard to have their achievements recognized, with underrepresentation and wage disparities as a result.
Despite this, Black women and girls are doing incredible things every day to show the world what they’re made of, and to make the world that discriminates against them a better, fairer place. From taking over the big screen, to sports, to taking action to change the world around them, these Black young women and girls and their excellence serves as inspiration to millions around the world.
1. Simone Biles
Since she started her athletic career at the age of six, Biles has gone on to win 32 World and Olympic Gold medals making her the most decorated competitive gymnast ever — and she’s just 25 years old. On July 7, she also became the youngest living person ever to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, when she was awarded the honor by US President Joe Biden.
“Everyone around you can tell you, ‘Oh, you can do this,’ but then whenever you really start to believe in yourself, that’s when it comes to life," she said in a 2017 interview with the Academy of Achievement. "But you also have to be a little bit fearless, because at a very young age I chose what I wanted to do."
2. Halle Bailey
When she was 16, Halle Bailey was signed to Beyoncé’s record label, Parkwood Entertainment, along with her sister Chloé. Before then, the sisters — who have worked closely with Global Citizen, most recently performing at Global Citizen Live in Los Angeles — were releasing covers of songs on their YouTube channel and playing minor acting roles in movies. They had acquired some level of fame and were ready to be “Beyoncé’s prodigies.”
In 2020, the Bailey sisters released their second album, Ungodly Hour, which was an instant success. They received numerous Grammy nominations and were presented with the Rising Star Award by MTV.
While both sisters are incredible powerhouses that need a solid shout out, Halle Bailey is now also taking over the film world with her role as Princess Ariel in the live action remake of The Little Mermaid, showing that Black girls and women can be whatever they want to be, even mermaids. “Getting that role felt very surreal. It was much of a shocker for me. Even when I was asked to audition, I looked at it and I was like, 'Me? For Ariel?'” she said in an episode of Talks With Mama Tina. “My image of Ariel that I’ve had is the red hair, the pale skin, and the tail, and she was amazing to me. I loved her, like we all did."
“[I'm] so grateful that I kind of get to reinvent Ariel and show other young, beautiful Black and brown children that hey, you can be this too," she continued. "You are magical and mythical and all of the wonderful things in between as well.”
3. Vanessa Nakate
In 2019, Vanessa Nakate protested alone every Friday or Saturday for weeks at the front gate of the Parliament of Uganda. She was protesting for climate action in Uganda at a time when the country was experiencing extreme high temperatures.
She also spoke at last year's UN Climate Change Conference COP26, one of several opportunities she's had to address world leaders — and has also written for Global Citizen about her climate action.
“Climate change is a nightmare that affects every sector of our lives," she said in a speech at the Desmond Tutu International Peace Lecture. "How can we eradicate poverty without looking at this crisis? How can we achieve zero hunger if climate change is leaving millions of people with nothing to eat? We are going to see disaster after disaster, challenge after challenge, suffering after suffering if nothing is done about this.”
4. Marsai Martin
When Marsai Martin started starring on the hit show Blackish, she was just 10 years old. Despite her young age, however, she's received numerous nominations and accolades from the NAACP Image Awards, Screen Actors Guild Awards, and many others for her stellar performance.
At the age of just 14, she became the youngest-ever executive producer of a major Hollywood movie, for her 2019 hit comedy film Little, which she also starred in.
Martin then went on to create her own production company, Genius Productions in partnership with Universal Pictures, making her the youngest person to get a first-look deal at Universal and the youngest person to get a deal "at any studio in recent memory", according to the Hollywood Reporter.
“My goal is to show young women and girls that our voices and ideas matter, and you are never too young to dream big,” she said.
5. Thandiwe Abdullah
When she was 17, Thandiwe Abdullah became a recipient of Seventeen’s Voices Of The Year award for her work with the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement.
Born to a family of activists, Abdullah started going to protests when she was just two years old and she later co-founded the BLM Youth Vanguard for young activists. Through the BLM Youth Vanguard, she advocated for starting conversations about Black lives and helped to end random police searches which targeted Black people at schools.
“For me, success and my work should always be connected to the community. Making sure that I'm continuing to support and uplift — even if it's not my own people — anyone who is oppressed, anyone who is in need or being subjugated. That's my job,” she said in an interview with Elle magazine.
6. Storm Reid
At the age of 9, Storm Reid already knew she wanted to be an actress. So much so that she and her family moved from Atlanta, Georgia to Los Angeles so she could pursue acting.
A year after, she got her first role in the critically acclaimed movie, 12 Years A Slave. Since then, she has acted in numerous films and projects including When They See Us, Sleigh, and A Wrinkle In Time, in which she played the main character opposite the likes of Oprah Winfrey, Mindy Kaling, and Reese Witherspoon. She has also been nominated for and won several awards including BET Awards and NAACP Awards.
“I would love to keep playing roles where I get to inspire young women, and I get to uplift them and tell their stories and tell important stories that haven't been told,” she said.
Join the movement of Global Citizens around the world taking action to empower girls NOW, with access to education, health, nutrition, and more. Head to our Empower Girls NOW campaign page and start taking action!