First Lady Obama Celebrates Female Leaders Contributions to the Civil Rights Movement

Female panelists discuss the difference between today's civil rights movement and the one of the past

michelle obama

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In an effort to honor the women who continue to play a major role in fighting for civil rights, First Lady Michelle Obama hosted a Black History event at the White House that celebrated female leaders both past and present.

On Feb. 20th, FLOTUS hosted an intergenerational panel of women who have, and continue to, make a huge difference within their community. The invited panelists included Carlotta Walls LaNier, member of the Little Rock Nine; activist and journalist Charlayne Hunter-Gault, who is also a 2015 Women of Power Legacy Award Honoree; Sherrillyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund; Chanelle Hardy, National Urban League senior vice president for policy and executive director of the National Urban League Washington Bureau; and Janaye Ingram, national executive director of the National Action Network. The panel discussion was moderated by Essence Editor-in-Chief Vanessa K. De Luca.

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“These women represent many different facets and eras of the movement,” FLOTUS said. “But there is something that connects each of their stories, a common thread that animates their lives, and that is their hunger for and belief in the power of education.”

In addition to discussing their various journeys from a young woman to now, the panelists also discussed the difference between the civil rights movement of the past and present. Janaye Ingram of the National Action Network noted that today it’s not as easy to pinpoint where the discrimination is rooted from.

“When they’re confronted with situations of injustice or racism, and not even just for them but for all of us, it can be very hard to figure out was that a racist experience or was that something else,” said Ingram. “Was it gender bias, was it that this person just didn’t like me? It becomes very hard to see the line in the sand.”

In response to these acts of discrimination, Ingram encourages young people to follow the method of Martin Luther King, Jr., by practicing non-violence mixed with modern day tactics such as the die-ins that took place following the death of Michael Brown and Eric Garner.

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