OkayAfrica highlights 100 outstanding women of the African Diaspora

MN Rep. Ilhan Omar is among those named

(l-r) Iman, Rep. Ilham Omar and Lupita Nyong’o (Photos courtesy of Ilhan Omar; Creative Commons)

Newly elected Minnesota State Representative Ilhan Omar is among 100 African women named to a new “100 Women” list released earlier this month in honor of Women’s History Month. Omar is listed among such celebrities as actress Issa Rae and model Iman, “major forces” and “lesser-known power players” on the African continent and the African Diaspora, by OkayAfrica, an on-line magazine.

Settling on the 100 “dope” Black women “was very, very difficult to really narrow them down” for the inaugural OkayAfrica 100 Women list, released March 6, said Associate Editor Antoinette Isama last week in an MSR phone interview. “We had an even longer list that we researched on.”

OkayAfrica “is a multi-faceted hub” for news and features on Africa and the African Diaspora, according to its data sheet. “We seek to connect a global audience completely on content about Africa,” explained Isama, a former South Africa newspaper reporter. She is now based at the magazine’s Brooklyn offices.

Isama was named to her present position in February. She is a Northwestern University master’s degree graduate, specializing in interactive journalism and magazine writing. “It’s cool to see what’s happening on the continent that is [often] portrayed as not progressive and backwards,” she continued. “We also see the perspective of what is going on on the continent by young Africans.”

In addition to Omar, a former refugee who became America’s first Somali American Muslim woman legislator when she was elected last November to the Minnesota House, other notables who made the magazine’s first list include Uganda chess prodigy Phiona Mutesi. The film Queen of Katwe is based on her.

Ghana information technology entrepreneur Farida Bedwei and Somalia human rights and social activist Iiwad Elman are also among the 100. All 100 women were selected by the OkayAfrica female staff, stressed Isama.

Asked if she could name an individual on the list who might merit more attention, Isama said that would be hard. But if she could, “Karen Attiah is a Nigerian who grew up in the States, and she is the global opinions editor at the Washington Post,” she responded. “She is very articulate and opinionated. She pushes the boundaries of journalism and urges us to think critically about our role [as journalists].

“These women…are an example on how Africa is growing as a continent,” said Isama. “These are people that are leading in their industries and making their own change. Essentially they are women who are doing very good work… Through their challenges, other people can see and can have their goals as well.”

Omar’s historic election was not only noted locally and nationwide but globally as well, said Isama. “Her election was very inspiring because she is a representative of the big Somali community in Minneapolis, and she was able to have a good grassroots movement. The Somali community is very supportive, not just in Somalia but all over the Diaspora. They were very, very supportive of her campaign and that she was able to achieve her huge goal.”

Isama surmised that the OkayAfrica 100 Women list is part of a series of public events the magazine plans to stage throughout the year in honoring the women. The list is one of OkayAfrica’s 12 “editorial themes” launched this year, she pointed out.

“We have more in the works,” said Isama.


The complete OkayAfrica 100 Women list and related features can be found at www.okayafrica.com/100-women.

Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to challman@spokesman-recorder.com.