Yara Shahidi Performing Assata Shakur Is More #BlackGirlMagic Than Our Hearts Can Stand

Courtesy of Afshin & Keri Shahidi for Blackout for Human Rights

As media partners for the Blackout for Human Rights-produced MLK Now event at New York City’s Riverside Church on Monday, The Root found a lot to be inspired by this Martin Luther King Day. But at The Glow Up, we were pleasantly surprised to also find #BlackGirlMagic in full effect.


From actress Lupita Nyong’o reciting the words of scholar, lawyer and Black Panther leader Kathleen Cleaver to watching political pundit Symone Sanders and activist Rosa Clemente in conversation with our eloquent editor-in-chief, Danielle Belton, women were placed front and center of the movement we helped build over a half-century ago.

But the moment that truly held us in awe on Monday didn’t occur in the famed sanctuary of Riverside Church in Harlem. It was a less-than-two-minute video clip sent by actress Yara Shahidi, who recites a poem written by activist and writer Assata Shakur called “Affirmation” while wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the image of James Baldwin (a moment our brothers at VSB would undoubtedly consider one of the “blackest things that ever happened on MLK Day”).

To say that this was simply a moment of #BlackGirlMagic is insufficient, as Shakur’s words coupled with Shahidi’s delivery are such a significant and poignant message to all of us right now as we sit through yet another long sociopolitical winter, waiting for spring to invigorate and liberate us.

We hope you find as much inspiration from this magical MLK Day moment as we did, and we sincerely thank our friends and partners at Blackout for Human Rights for sharing it—and the day—with us.

Maiysha Kai is Managing Editor of The Glow Up, co-host of The Root Presents: It's Lit! podcast, and your average Grammy-nominated goddess next door...May I borrow some sugar?