LSU alumna Blair Imani published her first book, "Modern HERstory," on Oct. 15. Modern HERstory describes 70 women and non-binary people who changed the world. The book includes illustrations by Monique Le and a foreword written by Tegan and Sara, alternative pop artists and social activists.
Modern HERstory began as a Women’s History month module that would showcase a different woman and her accomplishments every day throughout March. While developing her idea, Imani knew she wanted to incorporate visual elements into her project.
“When I was in college, I noticed people would pay more attention to PowerPoints than they would just a lecture because there’s something to look at,” Imani said. “I tried to use that same model when I was explaining important figures in history.”
The Women’s History Month module went viral around the time the Women’s Movement was beginning.
“It had great momentum because the Women’s March was happening and the Day Without a Woman was happening,” Imani said.
Imani reached out to illustrator Monique Le on Twitter and asked if Le would be interested in writing a book with her.
Imani and Le developed a crowdfunding campaign to fund their project. Once LeVar Burton of Reading Rainbow shared their crowdfunding campaign, several publishers contacted Imani and Le beginning in August 2017. By October 2017, Imani and Le had a publisher and the book was published almost a year later.
Modern HERstory includes many of the original elements from Imani’s educational module, but also describes the institutional oppression each woman and non-binary person faced. Imani’s decision to describe institutional oppression in her book was influenced by LSU history professors Steven Ross and Victor Stater, who described the historical context well-known people came from.
“Really learning about how racism, sexism and homophobia affected everyday people’s lives gives you a bigger picture,” Imani said. “You’re not just getting snapshots, you’re getting a diorama.”
Modern HERstory is the first print publication for Equality for HER, a social non-profit organization founded by Imani that promotes the empowerment of women and non-binary people. Imani was inspired to found Equality for HER while she was a student at the University.
Equality for HER was originally a student organization, but as Imani worked to create an inclusive space for people of different backgrounds and identities, she realized the organization needed to expand. She began working online and connecting with different people from around the world who supported her cause. Four years later, Equality for HER is now working with NBCUniversal and continuing to grow.
Imani is also affiliated with other organizations that have similar causes to Equality for HER. She works with organizations such as GLAAD, previously known as the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, and is a board member of the Tegan and Sara Foundation, all of which provide support for members of the LGBTQ community.
At the University, Imani was just as passionate about social activism. Besides founding Equality for HER, Imani also lobbied for the acceptance of LGBTQ individuals at the State Capitol with Equality Louisiana and Louisiana Progress.
“LSU was like an incubator for me,” Imani said. “It’s where I learned how to be strategic and how to make connections with people.”
While Imani had good experiences at the University, she said she faced racism, sexism and toxic masculinity.
“I think I had some of the best times of my life going to LSU, but also the most challenging. I did deal with racism. I did deal with sexism,” Imani said. “I also learned how to deal with it, which equipped me for the real world.”
After the success of Modern HERstory, Imani is currently writing her second book and continues to promote inclusive spaces for all through organizations such as Equality for HER.