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What Gen Z Can Learn From The Fiery Exchange Between Jemele Hill And Denise Oliver-Velez

November 4, 2021


I still remember that day, the day that we said goodbye to my grandmother. I remember standing graveside and sharing with all those in attendance the powerful words of When Great Trees Fall by Maya Angelou.


When great trees fall,


rocks on distant hills shudder,


lions hunker down in tall grasses,


and even elephants


lumber after safety.


I had just turned 11-years-old a few days before my grandmother's funeral. It was my first birthday without her. As I spoke the powerful words of Maya Angelou, I felt connected to all the powerful Black women in my family who had come before me. I understood at that very moment that I was not walking on earth alone. I understood that although this great tree had left us, I was still surrounded by other great trees that would help me navigate life. As my life has continued, I have used the great trees around me to learn and grow.


These great trees, the Black women who helped create a world where a young Black Generation Z girl like myself could break free of the shackles made of White supremacy and negative stereotypes, helped me overtly and covertly. Honestly, without them, I would not have been able to even dream of the life I am fortunate to live.


Last week, I watched a Twitter discussion between a great tree and another emerging great tree that I both admire. This exchange of a few short tweets captured the thoughts I had been having about our inability as younger Black women to learn, acknowledge, and engage those amazing Black women who came before us and gave their all to fight to ensure that we would have the opportunities we had today.


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