What is openness, anyway? According to Rebecca Walker, speaker, writer, blogger and activist, openness is the ability to let go of one’s preexisting ideologies in order to see the world in a new and different light. In her TEDx talk, she says it is about accepting a new reality that is different from the ideas you were raised with. She features this quote on her website and it is apparent that she lives by it every day.

Rebecca Walker, Photo David Fenton, 2003

If anyone knows about openness, it is Rebecca Walker. She identifies herself as Black White and Jewish, which is also the name of her autobiography that was published in 2000. When she was born, she took her father Mel Levanthal’s last name, but decided to change it to her mother’s when she was 15. Her mother, Alice Walker, is an African-American author and her father is a Jewish American lawyer. Her parents divorced when she was a young child, so she spent time alternating between her father’s home in the Bronx in New York City and her mother’s home in San Francisco, California. Every two years, Walker switched between living in a largely Jewish environment to a largely African-American environment, which she describes as being extremely difficult but she also must have learned a lot about accepting different people and their cultures.

Walker learned about feminism at a young age from her mother, a world renowned author who campaigned for women’s rights and set up organizations to aid women. Ironically however, Walker describes she often felt abandoned by own her feminist mother because her priorities were her own work and self-fulfillment. In her Daily Mail article, Walker says, “A good mother is attentive, sets boundaries and makes the world safe for her child. But my mother did none of those things.” Walker’s mother even believed that children enslave their mothers and was not happy when her daughter told her she would have a son.

When Walker got accepted into Yale University, her mother asked why she would want to be educated at a “male bastion.” Luckily, Walker did not let her mother’s opinions stop her from speaking out about her beliefs and fighting for what she knew was right. Her openness and passion for empowering women inspired her to co-found the Third Wave Foundation, a non-profit organization that encourages young women to get involved in activism and leadership roles. Her organization developed a campaign that registered over 20,000 new voters in the U.S. in its first year of existence.

In 1994, Walker was named one of the 50 future leaders in America. And last year, she was chosen as one of BBC’s 100 Women. Walker has written seven books, the most recent being Adé: A Love Story in 2013. She continues to speak about gender roles, identity politics, and stereotypes surrounding feminist beliefs. Her insights are particularly intriguing because she had to formulate her own view of feminism that was different than what her mother taught her as a child. Her ability to take a challenging life experience and turn it into an opportunity to inspire others is one reason why she is being recognized as a noteworthy woman.

Read more about Rebecca Walker’s story in this article she wrote on Daily Mail. All quotes are sourced from this article.  

Watch her TEDx video. 

Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.