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#ShirleyChisholm, A #BrooklynGirl With A Vision!

November 30th, 2020 marked the 96th birthday of politician, teacher, author and activist Shirley Chisholm. Although she is not mentioned as much as she should be when discussing American politics, Chisholm was an extremely important figure in the American political system.

Shirley Chisholm (born Shirley Anita St. Hill.) began her decorated career as a teacher’s aide in Harlem, N.Y. in 1946. Seven years later in 1953, Chisholm officially entered the world of American politics advocating for Lewis Flagg Jr. who became the first Black judge elected in Brooklyn.

Shirley Chisholm became the first Black woman elected to the United States Congress where she served seven terms (1969-1983). In 1972, Chisholm became the first African-American candidate for the Presidency of the United States of America. As well as the first woman ever to run for the Democratic Party as a presidential nominee.

However, in 2005 (only 15 years ago) when Shirley Chisholm passed, there were no national memorial services or even a nationally-televised special to honor her. Why? Chisholm single-handedly paved the way for all of today’s top political figures including fellow Brooklynite Ruth Bader Ginsburg who recently passed in September 2020.

In 2015, ten years after her death, Chisholm was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In 2019, Shirley Chisholm State Park opened to the public in East New York, Brooklyn . The state park created to honor Chisholm in her hometown is the largest state park in New York City stretching 407 acres. Now all we need is a giant-sized statue erected in Washington D.C. to honor Chisholm who was a giant-sized figure herself.

Let’s start celebrating our heroes while they are still here living and breathing! Shirley Chisholm was a true Brooklyn girl with a vision! -xoxo #BrooklynGirlCode <3

“Our confrontation must be against an all-time vision of America. Our confrontation must be against Blacks in the cotton and tobacco fields. Our confrontation must be against women in the kitchen. Our confrontation must be against Blacks at the back door and women at the bedroom door. Those bad, old days are dead.” – Shirley Chisholm

Shirley Chisholm x United States Vice President Kamala Harris courtesy of Shirley Chisholm Institute.
New York City’s first Black Mayor, David N. Dinkins standing in front of a portrait of Shirley Chisholm.
Shirley Chisholm teaching early in her career.
Shirley Chisholm teaching early in her career.
Shirley Chisholm at work.
Shirley Chisholm seated with the founding members of the Congressional Black Caucus in 1971.
Political Activist Rosa Parks and Shirley Chisholm together at an event.
Image of Shirley Chisholm State Park in Brooklyn, New York.
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#TBT’s: #Two Intelligent #BlackMen Are Better Than One! #HappyBirthday #BobbySeale! 🖤

Black Panther Party founders Bobby Seal and Dr. Huey P. Newton in front of the official Black Panther Party headquarters
Black Panther Party founders Bobby Seal and Dr. Huey P. Newton in front of the official Black Panther Party headquarters
Black Panther Party founders Bobby Seal and Dr. Huey P. Newton in front of the official Black Panther Party headquarters. Photo courtesy of Jason Porter Pinterest page.

Today marks the 84th birthday of Black Panther Party founder, political activist Bobby Seale. Bobby Seale was born in Liberty, Texas on October 22nd, 1936. The oldest of three children, Bobby Seale moved to Oakland, California with his family when he was eight years old. Seale would later go on to form the very controversial, but very important Black Panther Party along with Dr. Huey P. Newton in Oakland in 1966. The party which eventually dissolved in 1982 aimed to inform and educate African-Americans on their civil rights and provide free food to residents in inner-city communities.

Black Panther Party founder Bobby Seale.
Black Panther Party founder Bobby Seale. Photo courtesy of The Washington Post.

In his later years, Seale wrote a few books, starred in popular television documentaries and became a college professor teaching Black Studies at Temple University in Philadelphia, PA (where my Temple Owls at?!). At 84 years old, Bobby Seale is still on the move educating and empowering. Happy Birthday to a true American Legend! And thank you for coming together with Dr. Huey P. Newton to form the Black Panther Party because two intelligent Black men are better than one! -xoxo #BrooklynGirlCode.🖤

Photo of Black Panther Party founder Bobby Seale
Photo of Black Panther Party founder Bobby Seale. Photo courtesy of Moor Info.

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How Music Helps Mechanical Engineer Yassmin Abdel-Magied Relax In a Male-Dominated Industry

Yassmin Abdel-Majied

Yassmin Abdel-Majied
Yassmin Abdel-Magied

Yassmin Abdel-Magied is not your average 25-year-old professional. She has already established herself as a successful mechanical engineer, author, youth advocate, political commentator (her exclusive TEDx video titled What does my headscarf mean to you? has garnered 1,948,952 views). Plus, she almost became an official Formula One race car driver due to her love for fast cars but decided to put that career on hold and focus on her Youth Without Borders foundation that she founded when she was only sixteen.

On our initial meeting in a small patisserie in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, Yassmin comes off as super humble. The vibrant colors in Yassmin’s Hijab or Kimar (head scarf worn by Muslim women) make the beautiful features in her face stand out even more. In addition to all this, Yassmin’s huge smile brightens up the already sun-drenched patisserie. After finally getting our coffee and finding two available seats, Yassmin and I formally introduce ourselves to one other. After speaking briefly about my Fencing career which Yassmin seems to be interested in, I begin to ask her a whole slew of questions. I’m the most impressed by Yassmin’s modesty. Although she has achieved a lot more in life than most people her age, her journey is one of endurance, patience and strength that started all the way back in her native land of Khartoum, the capital of Sudan.

Yassmin’s family, originally from Khartoum, migrated to Australia when Yassmin was just a young girl. When Yassmin and her family arrived to Australia in the early 90’s, they were one of only two Sudanese families in the region and had to acclimate to all the strange new ways of the Aussies. However, it was Yassmin’s mother, an architect herself, who always instilled in Yassmin to never forget where she came from. These words of wisdom would carry Yassmin through the more difficult times in her life.

The first question that comes to mind after engaging in conversation with Yassmin who seems so joyful and upbeat is — why mechanical engineering as a career? Yassmin obviously has the talents to be anything she wants but chose working on an oil rig as her full-time job (gotta keep your day job). Working on the oil rigs sometimes leaves Yassmin far out in the middle of the vast ocean for months at a time where she is often the only woman around several men. Once she explains to me that she comes from a family of engineers and architects and that the challenge of working on the oil rigs is what excites her, it starts to make more sense.

So now, the next question that comes to my mind is what does someone do to bring them joy and break the monotony of being away from family and friends for months at a time? “I love listening to music while I’m out on the rigs!” Yassmin replies boisterously. This makes perfect sense because if I know anything, it’s that music brings you joy no matter where you are in the world. When I ask her what particular artists she enjoys listening to, she shocks me when she answers that she adores popular 80’s singer/songwriter Tracy Chapman. The late 80’s was the time that Chapman was prominent in music and Yassmin had not even been born yet. I was definitely born and can recall this time clearly because I remember playing my mother’s Tracy Chapman cassette tape over and over again until the brown tape popped. However, Yassmin Abdel-Magied wasn’t even a thought when Tracy Chapman was on top of the charts, so this just goes to show how ahead of her time she is.

Yassmin Abdel-Majied and Aziza Hassan in Brooklyn on 8/19/16
Yassmin Abdel-Magied and #BrooklynGirlCode Creator, Aziza Hassan in Brooklyn on August 19th, 2016

Yassmin also mentions Drake (of course), Janelle Monae, and a few other popular artists that she enjoys listening to, to keep her up while out on the oil rigs. She then asks me who some of my favorite artists are and I reply with the usual, Notorious B.I.G., Jay-Z and Nas. I also tell her that I enjoy listening to all types of Trap music and that more recently I’ve been listening to Nigerian-American artist, Jidenna. After promising to exchange our favorite music playlists online at a later time, Yassmin wishes me well in all my future endeavors and rushes off to her next appointment. Still, the short time that we got to meet and chat about our lives over coffee in that small patisserie on a warm summer day in Brooklyn brought memories that will last a lifetime.

Check out Yassmin’s blog Redefining The Narrative and her critically-acclaimed book Yassmin’s Story in bookstores now.

Yassmin's Story

UPDATE: On June 5th, 2020 Yassmin Abdel-Magied wrote a feature article for TIME magazine on systemic racism and its origins titled, Why the Protests in the U.S. Are an Awakening for Non-Black People Around the World.