Self-Development of People committee member makes Essence’s ‘Woke 100’ list

Samantha Paige Davis honored alongside Michelle Obama, Simone Biles

by Darla Carter | Presbyterian News Service

Samantha Paige Davis, a member of the Presbyterian Committee on the Self-Development of People, has made Essence magazine’s third annual Woke 100 list, which salutes women of color challenging the status quo. (Photo by Rich Copley)

LOUISVILLE — A Washington activist with ties to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has received an honor from Essence magazine that puts her in company with former first lady Michelle Obama, gymnast Simone Biles and other “movers and shakers,” such as filmmaker Ava Marie DuVernay.

Samantha Paige Davis, a member of the Presbyterian Committee on the Self-Development of People, has landed on the magazine’s 2019 Woke 100 list, which honors women of color who “exemplify the true meaning of being change agents and power players,” according to Essence.

“Each year, Essence’s Woke 100 list highlights the movers and shakers who are taking a stand and making a difference where they are,” Essence’s chief content and creative officer, MoAna Luu, said in a news release. “Whether on the national stage, the boardroom, political arena or the classroom, we applaud their continuous efforts to not only inspire others but also to effect change.”

Davis is the founder of the Black Swan Academy, a nonprofit organization in the District of Columbia that’s working to create a pipeline of black youth leaders dedicated to improving themselves and their communities. Its activities include holding an annual youth civic leadership summit for nearly 200 young people and offering a black history and culture writing contest to foster pride.

Davis “understands her call and she understands how to utilize the gifts that she has in the communities in which she works,” said the Rev. Dr. Alonzo Johnson, coordinator of the SDOP committee. “She’s been a catalyst of transformation and she’s brilliant.”

Making the Woke 100 has been a humbling experience for Davis because the list includes women she’s “in community with” as well as women she’s “admired from afar,” she noted in a Facebook post.

“It is truly a humbling experience to be listed in Essence’s 2019 Woke 100 list, alongside many women such as U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley, Mary Hooks and Fatima Goss Graves, whose leadership and womanism I have admired,” Davis said in an email.

The honor follows the recent death of the Davis’ father, Sam Davis, who played for the Pittsburgh Steelers and was a Super Bowl champion.

“I feel tremendously blessed to have the work and the work of my community highlighted, but more so, I see this as a way to honor the life and legacy of my father, who spent most of his life pouring into the community,” she said.

Johnson said Davis is well-deserving of the honor since she is an amazing advocate and community organizer who’s “doing a lot of really incredibly envious work and getting young people to take on leadership roles.”

“She’s incredibly insightful,” he said. “She understands exactly what needs to happen to prepare young people … for leadership and engagement.”

Johnson said Davis also has been vital to the SDOP committee, which works to empower the economically poor, oppressed and disadvantaged.

“We’re very pleased and we’re honored and very blessed to have her,” Johnson said. “Our entire committee is just absolutely rejoicing.”

He recalled a thought-provoking speech that Davis gave during the recent Compassion, Peace & Justice Training Day in Washington, D.C.

“She was really amazing in that she was able to really get people thinking critically and realistically about what does it mean to bring about change and to be really intentional about the work that we’re called to do,” Johnson said. “She was challenging us to be more than just talk” and to “engage issues of justice in our churches and in our communities.”

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