Black History Month: Who Has Influenced and Inspired You?

In honor of Black History Month, we asked Automatticians— the people who work on — to share a few sentences on the people who have influenced and inspired them, from historical figures to current public leaders to loved ones and friends. Throughout February, we’re honoring and celebrating these people here on Discover and our social channels.

Martin Puryear’s art maintains a precarious balance between conceptual, personal, and technical concerns. As a thinker and a craftsperson he’s provided me with the inspiration to keep my creative dreams alive and pursue a quieter rural existence.

—Rick Banister

The person I would like to mention is my school friend Bessie, who is a nurse now in the UK. I was an introvert and was painfully shy in school. Bessie slowly became my friend, guided me, and became a mentor of sorts. She not only taught me how to overcome my shyness but also helped me develop confidence. She taught me how to stand up for myself and to fight injustice, if I saw any. She helped me become a stronger woman today.


I heard about criminal justice lawyer Bryan Stevenson four years ago from a friend and read his book Just Mercy soon after. His commitment to justice and fairness in the United States criminal justice system pushed me to rethink my feelings about the death penalty and think more about the owed due diligence throughout the process.

—Destiny Kanno

Briana was the first out LGBTQ+ women’s national team player I knew of. As a young player, watching her dominate as goalkeeper was so inspiring and gave me a glimpse of how LGBTQ+ folks could achieve big dreams.

—Anne McCarthy

Marsha is an amazing example of someone who not only did not let the world bring her down, but worked to make it better for others. She’s someone who I aspire to emulate and look towards for inspiration when I feel I can’t change anything about this world.

—Echo Gregor

I can’t say it better than Walker said it herself in The Color Purple: “If [God] ever listened to poor colored women the world would be a different place, I can tell you.” Walker’s gorgeous, devastating, genius novel is a masterpiece that reverberates throughout my life as I read and re-read it. Walker opened my eyes to my privilege, to challenges I will never face as I move through the world in white skin, and showed me having a zeal for life can overcome everything.

—Andrea Badgley

One to two sentences isn’t really enough. Donnell in many ways taught me how to read between the lines in professional environments and how to speak up and be heard. He also showed me the wisdom in practicing manners and patience on a daily basis.

—Rudy Faile

At a time when Black women were not writing speculative fiction, Octavia Butler wrote prophetic pieces that centered Black women and positioned us as important figures in the survival of the human race. She depicted us as strong, intelligent, and magical.

—Kay Daniele

Not a historical figure, but he’s a special person in my life. An inspiration, emotional rock, and role model for kindness, hard work, and perseverance. After our 15-year friendship, he’s been a shoulder to cry on, a partner in many fun adventures, and my best friend.

—Elizabeth Pizzuti

Stacey Abrams’ dedication to ensuring free and fair elections makes me want to fight harder as an American to preserve and uphold our democracy.

—Mel Choyce-Dwan

I’m sure we all need more than two sentences to share how these great people have influenced us, but I’ll leave a quote from Michelle’s book, Becoming: “The subtle cues that tell you to not risk anything, to find your people and just stay put.” As a Black woman, this resonates with me and all of my identities.

—Niesha Sweet

It’s your turn. Who has influenced and inspired you?

Feature by Niesha Sweet

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