Activist and actress Yara Shahidi is celebrating Black History Month by paying homage to black girls and their endless magic.
In partnership with Google, Shahidi wrote an open letter and filmed a video, both titled “To Be a Black Girl.” Her words capture the struggles and joys of black women past and present.
“To be a black girl is to be one of the reasons the universe thrives,” she begins. “Our lineage has taught me that I am integral, that we are important, even when society dismisses us, hiding the wonder of our presence, a trail set for and before us by generations of powerful and empowered Black women.”
The letter, which reads like an acrostic poem, goes on to list the ways black women have influenced black culture and American society as a whole. She drops names including activist-authors Angela Davis and Janet Mock. Shahidi also makes it a point to mention that musician Sister Rosetta Tharpe, and not Elvis Presley, invented rock ’n’ roll. She then quotes poet Nikki Giovanni: “Art is not for the cultivated taste. It is to cultivate taste.”
Shahidi recites the letter in the video. With images of pioneering black women playing in the background, the star emphasizes that this history is one to honor. Supporting her are snaps from the South African Women’s March in 1956, simple shots of black women attending Howard University and classic portraits of civil rights heroes Rosa Parks and Coretta Scott King.
In each moment, this letter gives credit to the black women typically forgotten and celebrates those continuing to make waves.
“A study of my history tells me that I will soar, despite the continuation of oppression, neglect and objectification. We will soar,” she says.
Check out Shahidi’s inspirational letter in the video above.