The year 2015 was submerged under the relentless waves of death, brutality and injustice. The pain, outrage and empty spaces simultaneously ignited a blaring call to action for black people to dig deeper into their communities, express themselves unapologetically and command seats at tables were there hadn’t been seats before. This Black History Month, The FADER is celebrating the groundbreaking strides that some brilliant Young Black Heroes are taking to mobilize change through art, film/television, education and music.
On the last day of this year's Black History Month, we share what these changemakers told The FADER about what it means to each of them to be considered a Young Black Hero.
What does it mean to you to be a Young Black Hero?
Valencia Clay, 29
Valencia Clay: You said, something about “position of impact.” That really made me sit down and realize who I am and what I’m doing. I was preaching this to the teachers at the keynote, “Stop saying teacher leader and just say teacher because teacher is leader.” For you to say position of impact was that reminder of 'you are here being impactful' and even on social networks—I’ve wanted to delete my Instagram so many times because I can’t stand the superficiality of it all and so many of my mentors say, “You need to be on it because you’re different, because you help perpetuate that.” That reinforced it again because I’m looking at what I’m doing online as impactful. Not just taking selfies, I’m actually really intentional about it. When I think about, “Young Black Hero,” that means that I am doing the work that I was called to do. I don’t know if I’ve ever been called that, I don’t think I’ve ever heard myself be called that but when you ask, how does it make you feel when people say that, I’m taken aback, I’m humbled.
The young part is true, the black part, all day, unapologetically, but to be a hero—who am I saving? I’m saving myself first and foremost. If I wasn’t teaching, I would go insane. Even when I went to the hospital and everything happened, my therapist said, “She needs to be back in the classroom it keeps her sane.” I don’t even know if it’s selfish for me to look at it as a being a hero and saving others because I’m getting so much from it. I may be even getting more than who I’m giving it to. There’s a balance and that’s life, there has to be a balance. But just to even hear it be called that, I think it’s wrong for me to accept the title of that because I’m gaining so much as I’m giving. But, I appreciate it. I love it. It makes me feel really good. I’m honored and humbled but I’m very aware of the fact that I have to call my children—the people I work for, those are my heroes as well.