Blair Imani is no stranger to the role social media plays in social justice. During one of her rare days off, in between flights, writing and speaking engagements, the 24-year-old author and activist jokes, “I wouldn’t have a career if it weren’t for Twitter.”
Some may remember Imani as the queer, American-Muslim woman fighting for safe spaces in a debate with Fox News’ Tucker Carlson last summer. Others, more ingrained in the day-to-day labor of activism, may know her for her work with GLAAD as well as her own educational nonprofit Equality For HER. Or, if you’re one of the 1.8 million people who follow actor and former Reading Rainbow host LeVar Burton, you know her from a tweet he sent last year asking “somebody [to] publish this woman’s book” in support of Imani’s forthcoming illustrated text, Modern HERstory.
Featuring profiles of 70 women and nonbinary agents of change, Modern HERstory, written by Imani and illustrated by Monique Le, is a profoundly inclusive approach to history, celebrating otherwise unsung and unconventional champions of equality. Positioning wildly famous figures such as Oprah Winfrey, Solange Knowles, and Serena Williams alongside lesser known but equally dedicated women like Janet Mock, Franchesca Ramsey, and Raquel Willis, Modern HERstory amplifies the voices of women who wouldn’t ordinarily find themselves in a traditional history book. In the process, this legitimizes the merits of what Imani refers to as “visibility activism.”
With the social impact of politically passionate talk show hosts, artists, and athletes being fairly evident, the most interesting portions of Modern HERstory explore the cultural capital of social media influencers and visibility activists. Blair focuses on how these women work within atypical roles to contribute to the intersectional feminist movement.
In a conversation with Complex, Imani shares how she found ways to sing the praises of her favorite authors, educators, and “Black Twitter” all-stars throughout her groundbreaking new book. Below are a few notable women the newly published wordsmith chose to highlight in her own words.