In light of Black History Month, we at MEDIAGIRLS would like to commemorate a special individual that shares the same goals as our organization and girls+ community. One dominant historical figure, Martin Luther King Jr., enters the minds of many when reflecting on this month and its meaning. Although Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday and the national holiday have passed, we continue to pay tribute to his legacy. That said, another individual is making it clear that MLK’s legacy must continue and continue without delay. Yolanda Renee King, MLK’s granddaughter, the 13-year-old daughter of Martin Luther King III and Arndrea Waters King, adds substantial value to the youth movement. As a widely known activist, Yolanda Renee King follows in her grandfather’s footsteps as she too pushes for societal change.
Making her debut back in 2018, Yolanda King speaks for and with the youths of today’s modern society. Inspired and driven by her grandfather’s legacy, Yolanda King added to MLK’s words at the March for Our Lives rally back in 2018,
“My grandfather had a dream that his four little children would not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream that enough is enough, and that this should be a gun-free world, period” (ABC News).
In 2020, King addressed the Commitment March crowd at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC. She used this platform, 59 years after her grandfather’s most famous “I Have a Dream” speech (during the March on Washington and addressed to civil rights marchers on August 28, 1963), to speak in favor of racial equality and the power of youth voices. It was at this march that Yolanda King said:
“We have mastered the selfie and TikToks now we must master ourselves.”
[To watch the full video, click the link here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Edyg7gU8Ck]
Before this statement, Yolanda King said that “great challenges produce great leaders” (YouTube). With this message, it’s clear that King acknowledges the spirit of the younger generation, the power of their communal strength, and their ability to speak about the issues that we can and ought to change with the use of media. Since we have “mastered” media or demonstrated how we can positively manipulate media for the benefit of certain causes (using media platforms to encourage and spread change), we must then learn to master ourselves. Mastering ourselves requires changing our mindsets concerning specific issues. With the power of efficient change-inducing media by our side, we must overcome the things that divide us to promote and defend peace and to, thus, master ourselves. These are the concepts that we must remember this Black History Month as girls+ and a nation.
Not only does King use powerful words to stand up against gun policy, but as a youth activist concerned with the rights of many, King has taken a strong interest in the voting rights of this country. According to a TeenVogue op-ed article, “MLK Granddaughter, Yolanda King, Joins the March On for Voting Rights,” Yolanda King summarizes the unjust voting rights reality in the United States, “Lawmakers have passed 30 bills to stop people from voting. Thirty bills that silence the voices of Black and brown people, immigrants, and young voters.” For this reason, Yolanda King is gaining much attention within the media for her and her family’s efforts against voting rights restrictions and their campaign demanding voting rights legislation.
[To Watch The Highlights of March On For Voting Rights, and to pledge and donate to its cause, follow this link: https://marchonforvotingrights.org/]
Some may tell girls+ that with their youth comes powerlessness. Yet, Yolanda King captivatingly explains why youth voices matter and how they can generate change:
“Leading up to this day, people have been asking me why I march for voting rights. As a 13-year-old without a vote, without any way to pass laws, what’s my role in all of this? Here’s what I tell them: My generation can’t vote, but we can demand that our leaders do their jobs. We know that what people want is not just words on paper but real action for an inclusive and just country. Marching and activism are the tools we have, and we need to use them” (TeenVogue).
This Black History Month, as we remember the contributions many black individuals took (and still take) to fight for equal rights, I encourage girls+ to recognize the role that black individuals play in U.S. history and use this knowledge to embrace the black community and take action against forms of injustice. Yolanda King stressed this similar importance when she recently spoke about the significance of MLK Day. King used the day to stress the means of action. She says, “MLK Day is not a day off,” [rather] “it should be treated as a day on. It’s a day of service.” (NBC News). Not only must we consider this concept for next year’s MLK Day, but we must hold on to this notion throughout Black History Month as well.
At MEDIAGIRLS, we speak of the value of girls+, their voice, and their contribution to society. Most essentially, we wish that girls+ can feel seen. This most notably includes girl+ of color. Just like us, King herself emphasizes the importance of Black women’s representation. When speaking of Coretta Scott King, Yolanda King states, “People just think that she was the widow and wife of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., but she was phenomenal, and she actually was the one who got him in the movement. And so I think it’s so important to also talk about the Black women in the movement” (NPR). With that being said, Black women must also be recognized during this month’s celebration and dedication to black history.
If you wish to follow Yolanda on any social media platform, I suggest you check out her Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/YolandaReneeKing/. If you do, you’ll see that she hasn’t posted anything since 2019, and her last post states that she is not running her own account, as “she has other interests other than social media right now.” The post also warns followers against following other accounts that are impersonating Yolanda. Although Yolanda does not have much of a social media presence at the moment, she is still receiving much attention from the news media, as demonstrated above. With this being said, Yolanda’s activism proves that it is more than possible to maintain an overall presence and obtain a voice in the mainstream while also setting boundaries with social media. Yolanda proves that activism is still achievable with limited use of social media, and she continues to inspire girls+ in this way. To encourage each other and other individuals to participate in her activism, girls+ can use their (using Yolanda’s words) mastery of social media to expand Yolanda’s platform across social media.
Yolanda King pushes our nation and our MEDIAGIRLS community to understand how essential youth voices are to inspire and impact change. Youth activists like King remind us that girls+ have a voice and that our voices hold immense value. With this, I leave you with the same concluding words of Yolanda Renee King from her March for Our Lives rally:
“Spread the word! Have you heard? All across the nation, we are going to be a great generation!”
To dive deeper into the history of Black History Month check out these links:
Also check out NowThisNews post on Instagram which paid tribute to Yolanda King’s platform: https://www.instagram.com/p/CY2HIHeN731/
Aryana Martin, Editorial Intern, is a student at Emmanuel College in Boston, Mass. She studies English with a double minor in Sociology and African and African Diaspora Studies. She’s passionate about reading, writing, learning, and creating new relationships and experiences. She is thrilled to contribute to the MEDIAGIRLS mission.