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  • Raven Cokley

To be Young, Gifted, Black and Excellent

Black people have one of the richest, most awe-inspiring histories in America. In a time where the essence of who we are is constantly being dehumanized, dismissed and devalued, we have affirmed our humanity and our right to life, liberation and freedom. Whether it was through song, spoken word, a sermon, a dance or a story that has been passed down from generation to generation, our history is in every fiber and fabric of our being. We are our ancestors’ wildest dreams. WE ARE BLACK EXCELLENCE!

So, what exactly is #BlackExcellence? Black Excellence is witnessing the first Black President serve two terms in the White House; the first Black homecoming King AND Queen being crowned at my alma mater; watching #TheSimones win GOLD during the Olympics in Rio; Serena winning her twenty-third major title; honoring #HiddenFigures such as Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson and Katherine Johnson, who helped NASA launch the first American into space. #BlackExcellence is exemplified in every vision you create, every BIG dream that you dare to imagine and every action that you take. YOU ARE BLACK EXCELLENCE!

As we embark on Black History Month this year, I invite us all to take a moment to reflect on what it has meant to be Young, Gifted, Black and Excellent in America. In 1969, at the height of the Civil Rights Movement, Nina Simone and Weldon Irvine co-wrote a song entitled “To be Young, Gifted and Black.” This song was written as an ode to an acclaimed author, Lorraine Hansberry, whose autobiography was later published with the same name after her passing in 1959. Nina indicated that she wanted to create and perform a song that would “make Black children all over the world feel good about themselves, forever”. In the midst of racial, social and political turmoil, Black folks were yet again honoring, celebrating and affirming ourselves; we will always, and especially now, declare that our lives, voices and stories matter:

Young, gifted and Black

We must begin to tell our young

There's a world waiting for you

This is a quest that's just begun

As you continue to DREAM BIG, remember that our fight has only just begun. Despite the obstacles and injustices that confront you, there is an entire world waiting just for you. As Black people in America, we have cultivated a generational strength that cannot be weakened. There is liberation in our stories, freedom in our strides and resistance in our struggles. We are trailblazers, educators, scientists, doctors, leaders, activists, organizers and social change agents. Whether you are the first in your family to go to college or the last of your friend group to land that dream job, I invite you to tap into the generational brilliance that is embedded within our Blackness and within Black culture. We make this world a better place simply by existing in it; in fact, our very existence is the greatest form of resistance. We are today, tomorrow and forever,

Young, Gifted, Black and Excellent! “There are still so many causes worth sacrificing for, so much history yet to be made.”- First Lady Michelle Obama

Raven K. Cokley is a Brilliant Black Girl dedicated to disrupting systems of oppression that marginalize Black communities. Currently, Raven is a first-year doctoral student in the Counseling and Student Personnel Services Program at the University of Georgia. Her current research interests include Black Womanhood, Black Liberation Movements, Giftedness in Black Girls and Black Collegiate Students' Experiences in Higher Education. To connect with Raven, please send an email to You may also check out her blog at

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