Shariah Harris, 19, Becomes 1st  Black Woman to Play in U.S. Polo’s Highest League

Shariah Harris just became the first black woman to play high-goal polo, the top tier of U.S. polo. (Photo credit: KERRY MCCANN)

by Taryn Finley via huffingtonpost.com

A 19-year-old is making history and disrupting the wealthy white male-dominated sport of polo at the same time. On June 30, Shariah Harris of Philadelphia became the first black woman to play high-goal polo, the top tier of polo in the U.S. This summer, the Cornell University sophomore hit the field at the Tony Greenwich Polo Club in Connecticut to play for the Postage Stamp Farm team in the Silver Cup tournament. Harris told HuffPost that she’s excited about this barrier-breaking opportunity. “It’s great. Everything’s going by really fast, actually so it’s been great. This is something I’ve always wished I could do but never thought would happen. It’s pretty amazing.”

Harris became interested in the sport at age 8 or 9 after her mom took a wrong turn while driving. The wrong turn led them to grounds where other black children were riding horses. Harris and her mom were intrigued and found that the stables were run by a non-profit called Work to Ride. The program allows underprivileged inner-city kids to work in the stables and care for the horses. In return, the kids learn about horsemanship and equine sports. “As a mother of three children on a single income, I saw it as an opportunity to make their lives better,” her mom, Sharmell Harris, told the Hartford Courant. “Instead of a soccer mom, I became a barn mom.”

Shariah Harris (far right) and her team. (PHOTO COURTESY OF SHARIAH HARRIS)

Harris would report to the stables early in the morning to feed the horses, clean the barns, do maintenance work and other tasks. Though she admits that she wasn’t that good at riding in the beginning, she found a sense of comfort being on the horses. At 12, she joined the organization’s team and found a passion in polo. She would watch videos of the best players in the world and aspire to play at that level. So she incorporated some of their moves into her sport and challenged herself by playing with the boys of the program.

She carried her practice into college and became a force on Cornell’s polo team. In 2016 Harris was named the Polo Training Foundation’s 2016 National Interscholastic Player of the Year. The animal science major helped lead Cornell’s arena polo team into the finals this year. She credits much of her success to Work to Ride. Through Work to Ride, Harris was able to travel to play in different cities in the country as well as Nigeria and Argentina. While in Argentina in December, the teen met the owner of the Postage Stamp Farm team, Annabelle Garrett.

Continue reading

Zambian Doctor Natasha Salifyanji Kaoma Wins Queen’s Young Leader Award

Natasha Salifyanji Kaoma with Queen Elizabeth II at the Queen’s Young Leader Awards (Photo: Facebook/ Natasha Salifyanji)

by  via thisisafrica.me

Natasha Salifyanji Kaoma is a 25 year-old Zambian doctor already making an impact in her community. Kaoma who says she won’t rest “until all women and girls in Zambia live their lives to their maximum potential,” has promised herself to be “on the frontlines, speaking, inspiring, uplifting millions one life at a time.”

Kaoma is a women’s health advocate, and she is among the 25 Africans who won the 2017 Queen’s Young Leader Award. The award recognises, and celebrates exceptional people aged 18-29 from across the Commonwealth, who are taking the lead in their communities and using their skills to transform lives. Winners of this prestigious award receive a unique package of training, mentoring and networking, including a one-week residential programme in the U.K. during which they collect their award from Her Majesty The Queen of England. With this support, award winners will be expected to continue developing the amazing work they are already doing in their communities.

Kaoma’s focus has been on menstrual hygiene. She co-founded Copper Rose Zambia in 2015 while still in medical school. The organisation sought to teach women the importance of sexual and reproductive health. This led to a drive to launch fundraising to provide menstrual hygiene kits to girls in rural areas. The organisation which started as a mentorship programme to pair 1st year students with senior students at the Copperbelt University, has through its Candid Pride Campaign and Woman4Her programmes educated over 5,000 teenagers about reproductive health.

Kaoma’s goal is to reach a million females through sexual and reproductive health programmes over the next five years (2021).

To read more, go to: Zambia’s Natasha Salifyanji Kaoma wins Queen’s Young Leader Award

Sierra Leonean-American Dancer Michaela DePrince: ‘I Went From Being a War Orphan to a Ballerina’

Michaela DePrince photographed for “The Female Lead” by Brigitte Lacombe

by Michaela DePrince via positive.news

Sierra Leonean-American ballet dancer Michaela DePrince was orphaned at the age of three. Born Mabinty Bangura to a Muslim family, she was sent to an orphanage where the ‘aunties’ who cared for the children believed that her skin condition, vitiligo, was a curse and called her the ‘devil’s child’. In 1999, DePrince was adopted by a US couple. Inspired by a picture of a ballerina she saw on a magazine in Sierra Leone, DePrince trained as a ballet dancer, winning a scholarship for the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School at the American Ballet Theatre. In 2013, she joined the Dutch National Ballet. Her story features in a book called The Female Lead.

My uncle took me to the orphanage after my father was shot and my mother starved to death. He knew he’d never be able to get a bride price for me, because of my vitiligo. There were 27 children in the orphanage and we were numbered. Number 1 got the biggest portion of food and the best choice of clothes. Number 27 got the smallest portion of food and the leftover clothes. The aunties thought I was unlucky and evil because of my vitiligo. I was number 27. I was always dirty. They used to braid my hair too tightly because they wanted me to be in pain and they told me I’d never be adopted.

The only moments I was happy were because of my friend, who was also called Mabinty. We slept on the same mat and she used to sing to me and tell me stories when I couldn’t sleep. She was number 26. I thought nothing good would ever happen to me and then, one day, I found a magazine outside the gate of the orphanage. On the cover was a picture of a ballerina in a tutu. I thought she was a fairy on her tippy toes in her beautiful pink costume. But what struck me most was that she looked so happy. I hadn’t been happy in a long time. I ripped off the picture and hid it in my underwear.

We had a teacher who came to give us English lessons and I showed it to her. She explained to me that the girl was a dancer. I was walking with this teacher one day when some rebels came towards us. A boy was following them and another truck full of them around the corner. They had been drinking, I think. They saw Teacher Sarah was pregnant and started betting whether she was having a girl or a boy. So then they thought they’d find out and they got their machetes and cut her open. Her baby was a girl. They killed her and my teacher in front of me. The small boy thought he should imitate the older ones and he cut my stomach.

Later, the rebels occupied the orphanage and threw us out. We walked across the border to Guinea. There were plans for most of us to be adopted, but not me. Finally, there was a plane to Ghana. I was miserable because I thought I would never see my best friend, number 26, again. Then a lady with blonde hair, which seemed amazing to me, and wearing bright red shoes grabbed my hand and my friend’s hand too, and said: ‘I’m your new momma.’ Number 26 became my sister Mia.

My parents made me see that it is OK to be different and to stand out. When we got to the hotel, I started looking through my momma’s luggage for my tutu and pointe shoes. I thought all Americans were doctors, models or ballerinas and she would have brought my clothes with her. I didn’t speak English so the only way I could explain was to take the picture out of my underwear and show her. She understood straight away. She said I could dance if I wanted to.

When we got to America, I started going to ballet class once a week, then twice a week. I found a video of The Nutcracker and I must have watched it 150 times. I begged my mother to take me to a performance and I knew it so well that I could tell when they went wrong. By the time I was ten I was going to ballet classes five times a week.

I worried that my vitiligo would be a problem but my skin turned out to be an issue in a different way. A lot of people are still very traditional in their views and they want to see the same thing in the corps de ballet – white skinny dancers. Early on, my mother was told by one of my ballet teachers, ‘We don’t put a lot of effort into the black girls. They all end up getting fat, with big boobs.’ I have strengths as a dancer. I am muscular and I have strong legs. More importantly, I work very hard.

To read full article, go to: ‘I went from being a war orphan to a ballerina’

Joy Bishara and Lydia Pogu, Two Escaped Boko Haram Abductees, Graduate From High School in VA, Head to Southeastern University

(photo via instagram.com)

by Taryn Finley via huffpost.com

Two of the nearly 300 Nigerian schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram in 2014 are telling their story. Joy Bishara, 20, and Lydia Pogu, 19, are among the 57 girls who were able to escape from the terrorist group. The duo gave People Magazine a detailed account of horrors they faced when the gunmen invaded their school in Chibok, Nigeria, and the events that followed.

The girls were sleeping when the invasion occurred. They woke to the sounds of gunshots and bombs. Pogu told People that men in uniforms stormed into their dorm and told them they were officers who were there to protect them. But the girls said they knew they weren’t real officers based on the way they described themselves.

“We were all crying and screaming. They told us to keep quiet or they’re going to kill us. So they start to shoot their guns up on top of us, making us quiet. All of us were scared. We were just holding each other,” Bishara said. “They asked us to follow them, we should go with them. When we tried going with them, some of us start running … then they went and put us all back together and said, ‘OK, you all have to cooperate or else we are going to just shoot any girl who just followed a different direction that we didn’t point.”

She said they gave the girls an ultimatum: run away and die or get on a truck and leave with them. Once the truck drove away with the girls on it, it created clouds of dust, making it difficult to see behind the truck. Girls began jumping from the truck and running away in different directions. Bishara and two other girls found each other in the bush and were able to stop a motorcyclist, who brought them back to Chibok.

Bishara and Pogu were able to return back to their families. In August of the same year, the duo and several other girls who escaped moved to the United States to complete school. With the help of a Christian nonprofit and a Nigerian activist group, they were able to attend boarding school in Virginia. Bishara and Pogu transferred their senior year and recently graduated from Canyonville Christian Academy. Both gave speeches at the ceremony. They will be attending Southeastern University in Florida in the fall and have started a GoFundMe to help with their expenses.

In April 2014, Boko Haram abducted as many as 276 schoolgirls from Chibok. The girls were subjected to rape, torture, starvation and forced marriages. They were also forced to join the group’s army. This sparked the #BringBackOurGirls campaign online and caught the attention of notable figures, including former first lady Michelle Obama.

To read more, go to: 2 Escaped Boko Haram Victims Graduate From High School | HuffPost

Halima Aden is 1st Hijab-Wearing Woman to Cover any Edition of Vogue

Halima Aden covers Vogue Arabia (photo via colorlines.com)

by Kenrya Rankin via colorlines.com

The Trump Administration is doing its best impersonation of a trash bag as it tries to keep Muslims outside its borders, but Vogue Arabia highlights the beauty and hustle of Muslim Somali-American model Halima Aden on the cover of its June issue. Mic.com reports that she is the first hijab-wearing model to cover any edition of Vogue.

Aden described the moment as “surreal” in an Instagram post yesterday (June 1). In a video on the magazine’s website, she talks about why it’s important for her to appear on the cover. “Every little girl deserves to see a role model that’s dressed like her, resembles her or even has the same characteristics as her. I think beauty is for everyone,” the 19-year-old model says.

To read more, go to: LOOK: Halima Aden Slays as First Hijab-Wearing Woman to Cover Vogue | Colorlines

63 Year-Old Duvinson Jeanty Receives College Degree Alongside 27 Year-Old Son Benjamin

Benjamin Jeanty (l) and Duvinson Jeanty (r) [image via huffingtonpost.com]

by Zahara Hill via huffpost.com

At your typical graduation, parents are somewhere beaming in the audience as their kid switches their tassel to the left. But last Friday, 63-year-old Duvinson Jeanty was right alongside his son receiving a bachelor’s degree of his own. Duvinson and his 27-year-old son Benjamin both graduated from William Paterson University in New Jersey and are the first in their family to receive college degrees. Duvinson, a Haitian immigrant, retired from his 25-year stint as a New Jersey Transit bus driver in 2013 to become a full-time student at the university. “It’s always been my dream, my goal to finish college,” Duvinson told CBS New York.

Like Duvinson, Benjamin didn’t take the straight and narrow path in his pursuit of higher education. After a year at Rutgers University in 2008, he left the school and began working in the fast food industry. Three years later, he realized he wanted to pursue something he felt was more purposeful.

“I starting making good money, and making money is cool, but how am I serving the community? How am I helping others?” Benjamin told Fox News.

Part of the inspiration for Benjamin’s change of heart came from witnessing how passionate his dad was about obtaining an education.

Instead of returning to Rutgers to pursue psychology, Benjamin enrolled at William Paterson, where his dad was already studying finance.

“He was my biggest cheerleader and inspiration,” Benjamin told InsideEdition.com. “There were some times I’d come home from work or class late and I’d see him studying and it would encourage me. Seeing him walk across the stage and get his diploma was indescribable.”

To read original article, go to: 63-Year-Old Father Receives College Degree With His Son | HuffPost

Black Lives Matter Movement Founders to Receive Sydney Peace Prize for 2017

Black Lives Matter founders (left to right) Opal Tometi, Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors. (Photo by Ben Baker/Redux)

by Elijah C. Watson via okayplayer.com

The Black Lives Matter movement will be awarded this year’s Sydney Peace Prize. The award, which Australia’s Sydney University has offered since 1998, normally goes to an individual peacemaker who promotes human rights and using nonviolence as a means of combating injustice, making the University’s choice of the Black Lives Matter movement as the award recipient unprecedented.

“This movement resonates around the globe and here in Australia, where we have become inured to the high incarceration rates and deaths in custody of our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples,” Pat Dodson, the West Australian Laborer senator and the 2008 recipient of the Sydney Peace Prize, said in an interview. “It’s as if their lives do not matter.”

Founded by Patrisse Cullors, Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi, the Black Lives Matter movement came about following the death of Trayvon Martin and the acquittal of his killer, George Zimmerman. Since then, the organization has become a global crusader against injustice, especially following the election of Donald Trump as president.

The organization has also helped bailout black mothers from jail for Mother’s Day, as well as supported black-owned businesses across the country. “We’re not just about hitting the streets or direct action…it’s a humanizing project,” co-founder Cullors said. “We’re trying to re-imagine humanity and bring us to a place where we can decide how we want to be in relation to each other versus criminalizing our neighbors or being punitive towards them.”

To read more, go to: Black Lives Matter Founders To Receive Sydney Peace Prize Okayplayer