Facing History and Ourselves celebrates upstanders of all kinds: those who stand up to injustice, those who seek to make positive change in the world, and those who spread messages of tolerance, empathy, and knowledge. During Women’s History Month, we are cheering on young women who are doing just that.
Here are three inspiring stories of young women who we have no doubt will be history-makers of the future. How do we know? Read about how they are already upstanders in their communities.
Zoya Latif, a senior at St. Mary’s Episcopal High School in Memphis, wants you to ask her about being Muslim. As the keynote speaker for the school’s Courageous Conversations series, the 17-year-old urged, “How are we supposed to become educated about different religions and cultures if we don’t ask questions that may seem uneducated?” The series is a joint project between St. Mary’s, Central High School and Facing History that allows students to come together to discuss the challenges they’re facing in their communities and in society. And for Zoya, facing Islamophobia has been all too real. That’s why she’s challenging her peers to ask those uncomfortable questions so she can dispel misconceptions about her faith. And she’s leading by example – asking others as many questions as she can so she can learn from them.
Facing History Girls’ Group
At Lakewood High School in Ohio, the Facing History Girls’ Group is busy bridging cultural gaps in their community. Facing History social studies teacher, Megan Eadeh, started this group as a 2015 Margot Stern Strom Innovation Grant winner to help these 20 girls from diverse backgrounds share their experiences, go to movies, restaurants, and museums, and do acts of community service together. While a quarter of the girls are American-born, the rest are refugees and immigrants from countries including Somalia, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iraq and Nepal. “The goals are for students to understand the benefits of contributing to community and valuing all of the people in your neighborhood,” said Eadeh. Together they are demonstrating what it means to participate in their community and promote a safe space where girls from all walks of life can simply be girls.
At Facing History we’re inspired by Marley Dias. At only 11 years old, she’s already started an international movement. Marley was tired of reading books in school she couldn’t identify with so she started the “1,000 Black Girl Books” movement with her mother, Janice Johnson Dias. She made it her personal quest to find 1,000 books featuring black girls as the main characters. “I hope to make school boards realize that diversity in books is important,” she said. She has exceeded that goal and will continue the movement by sending donated books to other schools. Here is her advice for other young people: “Always look forward and always ask for help when you want to do something. No matter what age you are you can make a difference!” She’s living proof of it. Marley’s even made the talk-show circuit; she spoke about 1,000 Black Girl Books on Comedy Central.