amandla-stenberg-3_520x520_85Amandla Stenberg says she gets it from her mother. The young actress, who has turned into an advocate against cultural appropriation, is crediting her mother for teaching her to be a strong black woman.

“I feel like when I was younger—even though I may not have been conscious [of it]—I fought my hair and I fought who I was…to try to conform, or shy away from my Blackness. Now that I’m growing older, I find that my source of power comes from my identity and ethnicity,” the 16-year-old stated.

In a recent interview with Essence, Stenberg described herself as a “feminist since birth” and talked about backlash black women receive from the media.

“I noticed that whenever I was trying to talk about social justice and how Black women are framed in the media, quite ironically, I would be framed in a certain way that would demonize me and take away the value of my point. That’s a tool that is used repeatedly in the media: Whenever Black women have a point, they’re characterized as Angry Black Women, and therefore the thing they’re talking about is no longer of importance because they have to deal with them being overly emotional or something,” Stenberg stated.

Stenberg said her goal right now is to empower black girls and have positive representations out there.

“Even though the response to what I’ve talked about isn’t always necessarily positive, I’ve thought to myself, Wow, it’s so incredible that we are even having those conversations and that that was my doing. I felt so honored and proud that I could even bring these important things to the forefront,” Stenberg said.

Remember to check out Amandla Stenberg’s interview in the October issue of ESSENCE now available on newsstands.


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  • mywordsaremypower

    I always wonder what it is like to be mixed and only accept one side of yourself and how the other parent must feel if they are still around. I understand society picks which side you belong to just by looking at you. I wonder what her father thinks of accepting her self as a full African American and not acknowledge any of his heritage. I understand she can choose whatever she wants to be and she could ignore how society has chosen to define herself. She can also choose to accept both the heritages she has and own that. I feel if more mixed people who are White and Black mixed started owning the fact they are mixed and not be made to feel that they have to choose one or the other, a lot more people eventually have to start accepting it.

    I champion any women of mixed or black to advocate for black rights, but I feel and this is my own opinion she is being pushed to be the face of young black female activism. I have no issue with her but there is so much Amandla I can take. I’m pretty sure there are other girls her age who have a voice and it is being ignored based on skin color. I know she has been cast as the bitter black girl in most scenarios. I feel like she has taken it on as I have never heard her address the fact that she has advantage of many of her sisters of colour. One last thing her video on cultural appropriation was good but black women for years have been talking about this for years, I have seen videos on this by darker skinned women for years and no one blinks but as soon as Amnadla speaks on it is the first time many white people will listen. I wonder why?. It sounds as if I’m hating on her because of her light skin privilege, I am also to light skin it was also just a obbservation. It just urks me when my dark skin sisters have been doing this for years even before she wore diapers. I’m not set on these thoughts just throwing out how I’m feeling. I’m happy to discuss with people.

    • LogicalLeopard

      Who says she ignores his heritage? She’s identifying as a black woman because that is how she is perceived, and after fighting it, she embraced it. That doesn’t mean she denies she is half white. True, maybe if more biracial people stressed that they didn’t have to choose one or the other, more people would accept it. But I have a feeling that it’s easier said than done. In this country, if you’re biracial, you are effectively black. For hundreds of years it’s been so, and it doesn’t seem like it’s going to change.
      PS: Amandla might not be listened to because she has “light skin privilege,” she might be listened to because she has “Rue” privilege. Playing a key role in a series of movies based off a young adult novel boosts the signal, and people might listen to you, subconsciously because you’re the Mockingjay’s pal. *L*

    • mywordsaremypower

      Just because she is perceived that way does not mean she has to take on being black. She is choosing to ignore her white side by only embracing her black side. She could be happy with the fact sh is both and embrace that and let people know that. You can correct people. People think I’m mixed all the time it does not bother me I just correct them politely. Yes but even those who accept their black side are not considered truly black buy a lot of black people. Mixed children somewhat have the advantage over black children when it comes to colorisim. In England you embrace the fact your mixed race and people do not just assume your black unless of your coloring.

      After Hunger games was done and she had her 15 mins of fame not many people knew who she was and they had to reference her character and at that point many people were still confused. Since Hunger Games shes has not done any acting.

    • LogicalLeopard

      I don’t know if she’s specifically ignoring her white side by embracing her black side. As far as perception goes, she’s seen as a black woman. So black issues are going to be of great significance to her, because black issues are her issues, by virtue of her appearance. So, by discussing black issues, she’s not denying her European heritage. She might speak about it, but that might not make the press.
      Are you from England, by the way? I wonder if there are cultural differences here and there that shape the way we all look at race. True, biracial people have problems being fully embraced by full African Americans (not that there really IS such a thing, to a great extent….) but I’m thinking they probably have greater challenges due to their skin color.
      As far as the Rue thing, yup, she had her 15 minutes of fame, but I think the role was enough to catch people’s attention, particularly young people on social media. Now she appears to becoming more famous for her opinions. Good for her, maybe she’ll be one of those child actors that pursues academics, or maybe even both.

    • Noirluv45

      I have a friend who’s father is Canadian and her mom is African. She identifies as a Black woman, although she deeply embraces her Canadian and African roots. She very much in tune with her Canadian family and all, but she still identifies as Black.

      Yet, again, I don’t understand why this concerns Black people to the point where we oftentimes get very indignant about their mixed race heritage.

    • mywordsaremypower

      Mixed people are seen as other and to be white and mixed opens up a whole jar of complex. History to the present day white and black have a history and I think it matters to most black people because its struggle to fight against anti-blackness. When you see a mixed person some may feel they could easily turn on the black man. women and child.

    • Noirluv45

      Great points.

    • TastyTaco

      Thank you. And Zendaya is getting backlash, but if Zendaya starts saying the same thing, she would be an honorary Black, too. It is like a real life Samantha White, when I watched “Dear White People,” I was dying to know more about her dark- skin female friends, it was like they had no voice, but the biracial girl was pushed to the front of their civil crusade. I thought the same thing when I saw a video of Angela Davis speaking on black hair and beauty, and I waited to hear from the dark skin women in the background. I am aware their are light skin women who are not Biracial, their stories are valid. But with all the colorism Blacks have experienced, it is belittling to keep those who are “too black” kept in the back. You are right, there definitely has to be teens her age

    • i mean

      Amandla is not pushed to the front because she is biracial she is being pushed to the front because she is one of the few young Black actresses asserting issues that Black women face on a CONSISTENT basis. And her points are valid and well researched, and she knows how to form an intelligent argument. Furthermore, she is not the only one pushed to the front. Solange, Azealia Banks, Janelle Monae, and bloggers like Crissle are up front as well. Its just Amandla is the only one that has been a part of something mainstream (The Hunger Games). Most Black celebs that have any mainstream success are always on hush mode when it comes to having an actual conversation, unless it interferes with their coins (Nicki v. Taylor). Until another celeb starts making articulate points on the commodification of Black women’s bodies on a very public forum, Amandla has the crown. And don’t get me started on Zendaya #whitedontcracktooguys Coleman, I wish people would stop shoving her down my throat.

    • Noirluv45

      YES, that’s why I really respect and like Amandla a lot!

    • mywordsaremypower

      She has only been in one major film and that is it. She is being pushed because I know a few young black females who speak on race issues and they have a following but surprise surprise they are not being pushed to advocate for rights. Zendaya and Amandla are both mixed if they both identify as being black its okay, we cannot say who is deserving more. Everyone know is you want the jobs to keep rolling in the most of the time you have to keep your pretty little mouth shut when it comes to race. Why do you think most famous people do not always advocate against race. Black famous people want the money well you have to keep quite about racism to stop hurting little egos. I’m assuming Amanda is accepted by you because she is more overt about her thoughts on racial issues, the same racial issues darker skinned women have talked about for decades and now all of a sudden she is some messiah? Its good she advocates for black people but she does not have to prove she is black enough to be down for the cause. Zendaya does not have to prove she is black enough for the cause. I’m pretty sure Zendaya wants to say more but it would not do so well with her reputation. As we all no once you start stating your opinion and your black people are quick to call you a racist for calling out racism. What makes this thing all to funny both these young girls have called out racism and they got praised by all races, Viola Davis brings race to the conversation she is controversial for doing so. I could make this pattern all day long. If your light its alright if your to dark do not bark.

    • mywordsaremypower

      Yep I questioned that the other day. Zendaya and Amandla are both mixed black and white. They both have spoken about race but somehow Amandla is given a pass and Zendaya not so much. For me it seems you cannot just pick and choose who you accept. Why is Amandla more accepted because is is more down with her cause? I was going to say the same thing, she reminded me of Samantha White form Dear White People (So is his social activism just a phase). I liked the Aesthetic of the film it could of been done so much better. They pushed a Light Skin narrative but forget that majority of mid-dark back people suffer in day to day life more. I don’t think black people realize that colourism is so much of thing within our community, because it runs deeper than light skin vs dark sin. We do exactly the same thing white people do, we market the lighter side of ourselves and let them market how we are perceived.

    • I understand what you are saying. I think in the case of Black Women with a darker complexion, there is an understanding that any complaint, no matter how tacitly expressed will be deemed angry. However, I cannot cosign for two different reasons. First, we have too many Black Entertainers on the “New” Black bandwagon. Therefore, whenever someone comes forward with the type of consciousness that a number of these “entertainers” seem to lack, we need to embrace the message and should not be selective in what complexion they have. Personally, the only person who speaks for me is myself. However, we can not ignore the fact that many of the people in the younger generation may still be impressionable. When you have constant media and mediums in which “white” is the standard, it can affect you subconsciously if not consciously. Secondly, I don’t think anyone appointed Amandla to come forth. She spoke out on her own through social media. Did she have the platform? Yes. But, that is not the point. A number of Black Women entertainers have commented using those same platforms. Instead of speaking out on such issues, they have chosen to do otherwise such as in the case of Jada saying “All Girls Rock” (kissing up to white women while shading “Black Girls Rock” or in Nia Long’s case saying all live’s matter. So, if you ask me, I think the take away is not to wait for someone to give you permission to speak, but to do so and own it. And if you don’t have a platform, get to work and building one such as in the case of Issa Rae.

  • Amandla Stenberg is beyond her years. She has not only great insights on defending the human autonomy of black women. She is also very down to Earth, humble, and insightful. When people attack her personally, she has responded with wit and great analysis. So, I have a great amount of respect for her. It is greatly true that her black mother taught her not only about consciousness, but about the truth that liberation can never come unless girls and women have their human rights protected and preserved in society. She is a biracial young person. Just because she is biracial, doesn’t mean that her human dignity should be degraded. She is a human being and she has the right to talk about cultural appropriation and other important matters involving racial issues. Also, we have to know that many black women, who have spoken about what Amandla has spoken, have been ignored and disrespected. We know that light privilege and colorism are real. The voices of black women who speak truth to power must be respected. This doesn’t mean that Amandla’s voice doesn’t matter. We can fight colorism and other evils without hating on biracial human beings. Her voice matters.

    Also, the voices of black women (who are unsung and well known) matter too. We have learned so much from strong black women like Septima Clark, Gloria Richardson, Mary Louise Smith War, Gwendolyn Elaine Armstrong, Ella Baker, Bernice Johnson Reagon, Mae Mallory, Xerona Clayton, and so many other Black Sisters who fought injustice and loved black people with a great love. We are a loving people. Society should always promote the accurate principle that black girls and black women can achieve great accomplishments, that their strength is powerful, and that their lives should be respected. We live in a world where misogynoir is common, but we fight against misogynoir, so justice can be made for all. I wish the best for Amandla Stenberg.

  • Mary Burrell

    Amandla is a very well grounded and she is articulate