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Have you ever stopped to think about Black history and the way we view it? Like every other history lesson, we’ve been learning about the same thing and the same people for years. Why is it that? Why is it that when we talk about history we have to same conversation over and over again?
Now, I’m not saying that Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks aren’t notable figures, but I am questioning why the conversation on Black history commonly always stops with them. It would have made sense 50 years ago, but now not so much. MLK and Rosa Parks were change makers in order for generations after them to continue to pave the way.
We are currently living in a generation that is shaping a new form of Black history. Call it, Black history 3.0, if you want. Black people and Black culture have made so many accomplishments in the last decade and as a Black millennial female, I don’t think a lot of us have really taken note of them. Popular culture has weaved itself into politics for many years, but now to a higher degree. Now more than ever, celebrities, authors, musicians and artists are using their voices to make political waves. Who will make the history books a century from now? Here’s a few to note:
In what year other than 2018 would you hear of a major movement to have a Black female run for President of the United States? Oprah Winfrey, known as North America’s first Black multi-billionaire, recently delivered an inspiring politically-charged speech at this year’s Golden Globes, reinstating her title as the greatest Black philanthropist in American history.
They’re a sister duo who have been making waves in the athletic community for years. As professional tennis players, they were the first African-American doubles team to be named year-end world champions by the International Tennis Federation. They’re also got four gold Olympic medals underneath their tennis skirts. To add to the Williams’ brilliance, this past year, Serena proved to the world that a pregnant woman is still a fully capable one.
Though not a celebrity of sorts, Tarana Burke is the astonishingly brave woman who created the #MeToo movement in 2006, making her more than deserving to be on this list. The #MeToo movement caught wind in 2017 and became the focal point of this year’s Golden Globes. As an advocate for women’s rights, Tarana has utilized all platforms available to her to ensure that women around the world feel empowered enough to stand up for themselves.
We are extremely blessed to have lived to see the first Black president of the United States. As a Canadian, I can only hope to see the same thing happen for us one day too. Since his 2008 election, Barack Obama has lead America out of a financial crisis, won the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize and reformed American health care. Though Obama’s reign as president has come to an end, the Obama family is still very much loved around the world. It is without a doubt unchallenged that Obama is walking, living and breathing history.
Though she is almost always by his side, many of us overlook the fact that Michelle Obama is a notable figure in her own right. She’s the first African-American First Lady of the United States, and the only first lady in American history to have two Ivy League degrees. In her time as First Lady, Michelle tackled issues like childhood obesity and affordable meal plans for low-income children. Michelle also continues to be an advocate for female education, with or without the White House’s support.
Last year was a huge year of accomplishments for this Chicago-native rapper. His third mixtape, Coloring Book, became the first streaming-only album to debut on Billboard’s charts and the first streaming-only album to win a Grammy. Chance became extremely involved in the politics of his hometown, ultimately donating $1 million dollars to Chicago public schools. Chance is a pioneer to a type new music industry—one where unsigned artists can achieve and succeed.
Known as an iconic meme star and the lead actor in How to Get Away with Murder, Viola Davis is the first Black person ever to receive an Oscar, Emmy, and Tony award for acting. Viola is also known for activism for women’s rights. At this year’s Los Angeles Women’s March, the actress delivered a viral speech that captivated those around the world.
Who can forget about our near and dear badgalriri? From the way she carries herself down to her fashion sense, Rihanna is the embodiment of female empowerment—and she’s philanthropist, too. As a result of her work in Barbados and the charities she has founded over the years, Rihanna accepted Harvard University’s Humanitarian Award in 2017. This past year, Rihanna even released her own makeup line, prompted by the lack representation people of colour face in the makeup industry. Thanks to Fenty Beauty, there’s a foundation shade for the lightest of light to the darkest of dark.
She’s an award-winning television producer, screenwriter and author that has been in the industry since 1995. However, it’s only recently that she’s received mainstream recognition for her work. Before Rhimes, many Black aspiring producers and screenwriters never would have thought this level of success was possible. Let’s not even forget to mention all of the Black actors who Rhimes’ work has showcased, like Scandal‘s Kerry Washington and Grey’s Anatomy‘s Chandra Wilson.
Remember the major upset that resulted from Moonlight, the coming of age story about a young Black boy in Miami, beating out La La Land for best picture at the Oscars? Though the mix-up was disappointing for some, the win confirmed the quality of the work lead by film director Barry Jenkins and playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney. It also showed little Black boys across the world that their stories matter and deserve to be told.
He’s the man behind everyone’s favourite film, Get Out and with this year’s Oscar nominations, Jordan Peele has made history. He’s the first Black filmmaker to formally be considered for directing, writing, and producing in the same year. He’s also the fifth Black person to be nominated for Best Director and if he wins, he’ll be the first Black director in history to win the Oscar.
You probably recognize Sterling for the hit TV drama, This Is Us. Recently, Sterling Brown has made many firsts as an African-American actor. At the 24th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards, Sterling became the first Black man to win the award for outstanding male actor in a drama series. A few weeks prior, he also became the first African-American man to win a Golden Globe for a TV drama.
The people listed above are just some of the many who need to be recognized this month. When thinking about Black history, I encourage you to expand your vocabulary because the things we’re experiencing now will be considered history someday, too. Why wait to celebrate changemakers when we can do it right now?