Hard-hitting Figures: Black Women in Communications

A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of seeing the blockbuster hit “Hidden Figures” with my family. When the title screen rolled in and my eyes squinted against the sudden bright light, I was greeted with images that I don’t get to see enough of.

The scene pictured a little black girl sitting at an old wooden desk, glasses covering most of her face as she hesitantly walked up to the front of her classroom. She stood in front of a chalkboard that had a scribble of complex mathematical equations not even the average adult could solve. Faced with a challenge, she pushed up the brim of her glasses, lifted her head and confidently began to solve the equation. It was barely five minutes into the movie, and I could not describe the amount of pride and joy vibrating within me.

In honor of Black History Month and as an ode to “Hidden Figures,” I decided to compile a list of influential black women in the communications field. This list includes some of my favorite content creators and influencers I’ve come across who have inspired me to continue learning, improving and following my professional and personal goals.

Chatty Hattie

Chatty Hattie was the first African-American woman disc jockey in Charlotte, North Carolina. Inspired by radio at an early age, Hattie Leeper began working for a local station, WGIV, at just 15 years old. She started as an errand girl, however, this changed when one day Leeper was called to stand in for one of the DJs who didn’t show up for work. Because she had been shadowing the DJs, she knew the techniques to do the job. Leeper acquired the nickname “Chatty Hattie” for her great banter between records. After graduating from high school, Leeper was officially declared a DJ host. In 2015, Leeper’s accomplishments landed her in the Charlotte Broadcast Hall of Fame. Check out her full Broadcast Hall of Fame interview here.

Kat Blaque

Kat Blaque is a feminist content creator and social activist on YouTube. A California native and California Institute of the Arts graduate, Blaque works as an illustrator, animator and writer whose content can be found on the Huffington Post, Everyday Feminism and Pride.com. Blaque started blogging in 2005, and she would write about her life, being trans and LGBTQ and racial issues to her small but dedicated following. She has amassed over 100,000 followers on her Facebook and YouTube pages. Her work on these platforms focuses on educating the public about racial and LGBTQ justice, feminism and much more. Some of her recent work includes these beautifully animated videos on Ida B. Wells (another communications icon) and Bayard Rustin..

Ava DuVernay

Ava DuVernay is a director, screenwriter, film marketer and distributor. Another California native, DuVernay graduated from UCLA with majors in English and African-American studies. She went on to work in public relations and film publicity, opening her own firm called The DuVernay Agency. After marketing others film, she decided to create her own. She released two feature films, “I Will Follow” (2010) and “Middle of Nowhere” (2012). The second won her the best director prize at the 2012 Sundance Festival. She went on to direct “Selma,” the story of Martin Luther King and his fight for voting rights for blacks. It was nominated for an Academy Award for best picture. DuVernay’s recent documentary, “13th”, uncovers the racially biased prison system in America. All of DuVernay’s works are must-sees. She has also been made into a Barbie, which in and of itself is amazing.

A couple of years ago, I didn’t know what was possible in the communications field. Classes in college taught me analytics, social media marketing and tailoring content creation for businesses. These were all fine classroom exercises, but sometimes working in corporate communications can become stale and uninspiring. These women’s works not only breathed life back into the industry for me, they inspired me to work harder and to keep going on a path that, although not totally cleared, has fewer hurdlers than before. Great women like Chattie Hattie push me to humble myself, network and pursue my passion. Great women like Kat Blaque inspire me to keep learning, better myself and educate those around me. Great women like Ava DuVernay inspire me to keep creating and not to flinch from telling stories that need to be heard. Great women like these inspired me to write this blog post and to keep researching our history and discover great black women who refuse to be hidden.

Ayana Tabourn | Wayne PR/Communications Intern

Image: Shutterstock

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