A new U.S. quarter featuring legendary poet, writer and activist Maya Angelou went into circulation on Monday (Jan. 10), making her the first Black woman to be featured on the coin.
In a statement, the U.S. Mint announced the new coin, which is the first of five designs in its American Women Quarters Program. Other quarters in the series, which celebrates important women in American history, will continue to be rolled out later this year and through 2025.
“Each time we redesign our currency, we have the chance to say something about our country — what we value and how we’ve progressed as a society,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in a release. “I’m very proud that these coins celebrate the contributions of some of America’s most remarkable women, including Maya Angelou.
The quarter still features Former President George Washington’s profile on the “heads” side, while the “tails” side pictures Angelou in front of a bird and rising sun — a nod to her 1969 debut memoir I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and a symbol “of the way she lived.”
The push for the American Women Quarters Program began in 2017 with support from California Rep. Barbara Lee, whose Circulating Collectible Coin Redesign Act passed last year.
“As a leader in the Civil Rights Movement, poet laureate, college professor, Broadway actress, dancer and the first female African American cable car conductor in San Francisco, Maya Angelou’s brilliance and artistry inspired generations of Americans,” Lee said in a statement on Monday. “If you find yourself holding a Maya Angelou quarter, may you be reminded of her words, ‘Be certain that you do not die without having done something wonderful for humanity.’”
In a tweet, she added, “The phenomenal women who shaped American history have gone unrecognized for too long — especially women of color. Proud to have led this bill to honor their legacies.”
Besides the civil rights icon, the U.S. Mint’s quarters program will also distribute coins featuring Sally Ride, an astronaut and the first American woman to travel to space; Anna May Wong, considered to be the first Chinese-American Hollywood movie star; Wilma Mankiller, activist and the Cherokee Nation’s first female principal chief; and Adelina Otero-Warren, a woman’s suffragist and the first Latina to run for Congress.
If there is one name that has become synonymous with heroism, it is Stacey Abrams.
“Whatever happens,” author and niece of former president Trump, Mary L. Trump tweeted on the evening of Nov. 3, 2020, “@staceyabrams is a hero.”
“She is one of THE heroes of the US election #StaceyAbrams,” tweeted actress Thandiwe Newton on Nov. 6 2020.
Hillary Clinton, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Susan Rice, Viola Davis and Whoopi Goldberg were among those who tweeted thank you’s to their new hero during the 2020 election.
The 49-year-old Abrams founded Fair Fight, an organization dedicated to addressing voter suppression, in 2018 and is credited with registering 800,000 new voters across Georgia who were affected by voter suppression in time for the 2020 U.S elections.
On Dec.1, 2021 Abrams had her own tweet to share:
“I’m running for Governor because opportunity in our state shouldn’t be determined by zip code, background or access to power.”
Besides being a candidate for governor, Abrams also happens to be a tax attorney, romance novelist, and former state representative, serving in the Georgia House of Representatives from 2007 to 2017 and as minority leader from 2011 to 2017.
Abrams is a powerhouse. A superwoman. A hero.
But the journey of the hero we often see, in literature, movies and life, is not one without conflict. From Odysseus to Luke Skywalker, the hero’s journey is a long one that begins with a departure, followed by an initiation and ultimately a return.
Abrams’ journey is no exception.
Act I: The Call to Action
Abrams was born in 1973, the second of six siblings, in Madison, Wis. Her parents, Robert and Carolyn Abrams, raised their family in Gulfport, Miss. before moving the family to Atlanta, Ga., where they pursued graduate degrees at Emory University and eventually became Methodist ministers.
Abrams interest in politics began at a young age. When she was 17, she was hired as a typist for a congressional campaign, which led to a promotion to speechwriter, based on the edits she had made while typing.
It was during high school that she learned an important lesson about her worth too.
In 1991, Abrams was valedictorian of her high school class and received an invitation to meet the Governor of Georgia. The family didn’t have a car, and instead took the bus to the Governor’s Mansion. Upon arrival, the guard at the gate stopped the Abrams family, saying the event was private, and they didn’t belong there. Her parents presented the the invitation, stating their daughter was invited to the event.
“I think two things happened that day,” Abrams said when she recounted the story to CBS news in May of 2021, “One, they were not going to let me be denied this honor that I’d achieved. But two, I think they wanted me to see my responsibility is to not let someone else tell me who I am and where I belong.”
Abrams earned a Bachelor of Arts in interdisciplinary studies from Spelman College, studied public policy at the University of Texas at Austin’s LBJ School of Public Affairs, where she earned a Master of Public Affairs degree and earned a Juris Doctor from Yale Law School.
After law school, Abrams worked as a tax attorney at Atlanta’s Sutherlan Asbill & Brennan law firm, primarily working with tax-exempt organizations, health care and public finance.
Abrams was appointed a deputy city attorney for the City of Atlanta in 2002. Then in 2006, she won a seat as a Democrat in the Georgia Assembly and became the first female minority leader of her party.
In 2010, she co-founded Nourish, Inc, which was eventually rebranded as the invoicing solution business, NOW Corp. She became district attorney for Atlanta and then minority leader for Georgia’s House Democrats in 2011, all while writing romance novels under the pen name, Selena Montgomery.
Her level of accomplishments up until this point already seemed heroic. Abrams was just getting warmed up.
Act II: The Road of Trials
Abrams became the Democratic nominee for Governor of Georgia in 2018 and the first black woman to become the gubernatorial nominee for a major party in the United States. Abrams ran against then Georgia Secretary of State, Brian Kemp. She ultimately lost to Kemp by less than two percentage points.
Abrams claimed there was a gross mismanagement of the election by the Secretary of State’s office. The Associated Press reported at the time that Kemp put nearly 53,000 voter registrations on hold ahead of the election, nearly 70 percent of them from Black people.
Allegations of voter suppression sparked a massive voter registration effort, spearheaded primarily by Abrams.
Within days of the election, Abrams founded Fair Fight, an organization devoted to promoting fair elections, encouraging voter participation in elections and educating voters about elections and their voting rights.
It is no coincidence voter suppression is most notably associated with the civil rights movement. Voter suppression, particularly of voters of color, isn’t always easy to understand if you’ve never experienced it Abrams has said.
“When you’ve never had to think about the hardship of voting, then yes, these conversations on voter suppression seem absurd to you,” Abrams said in her May interview with CBS News, “When you have never spent more than seven minutes in line, it is nearly impossible to imagine that there are poor Black people who stand in line for eight hours, miss an entire day’s wages, risk losing their jobs simply to cast a ballot in an election that may or may not have any benefit in their lives.”
After her loss, Abrams fought to campaign against voter suppression
in the run-up to the 2020 election through Fair Fight, making sure that everyone who had the right to vote, did so.
Her efforts were successful.
In the 2018 election, her campaign registered more than 200,000 new voters. In 2020, Fair Fight and her other organization, the New Georgia Project, registered more than 800,000 new voters.
Besides fighting against voter suppression, Fair Fight has taken on other causes that align with Abrams’ platform.
In 2019, Abrams launched Fair Count to ensure accuracy in the 2020 Census, stressing the need for greater participation in civic engagement from the POC community, and the Southern Economic Advancement Project, which is a public policy initiative to broaden economic power and build equity in the South.
More recently, Fair Fight has turned its attention to the state’s healthcare system.
In October, Fair Fight launched a new seven-figure ad campaign urging Gov. Brian Kemp to help Georgians by supporting an expansion of Medicaid.
Paying off medical debt is another part of Fair Fight’s advocacy.
“I know firsthand how medical costs and a broken healthcare system put families further
and further in debt,” Abrams said in a statement on Fair Fight’s website, “Working with
RIP Medical Debt, Fair Fight is stepping in where others have refused to take action. For people of color, the working poor and middle-class families facing crushing costs, we hope to relieve the strain on desperate Americans and on hospitals struggling to remain open.”
In November, Fair Fight celebrated the win of 12 Fair Fight-endorsed candidates in local elections across Georgia.
“Democrats in Georgia scored key victories as Fair Fight-endorsed, pro-voting rights candidates prevailed in every corner of the state,” said Fair Fight Political Director André Fields.
Abrams used her loss to build a sturdy platform on which she could stand, and see tomorrow.
Act III: The Hero Returns
Abrams announced her campaign for Georgia governor on Dec. 1, 2021, promising to fight for economic equality and expand health care access.
“I’ve never stopped fighting for Georgia. I’ve never lost faith that — together — we can build a brighter future for all of us,” Abrams said in a statement on her official campaign website, “Together, we can keep more money in families’ pockets, help our communities prosper and give our children the greatest opportunities to thrive.”
Polls conducted by Redfield & Wilton Strategies in November suggest a race against Kemp, her long-time political rival, could be a close one, again. Abrams trailed Kemp by 3 points among likely voters in the state.
Abrams’s journey has been a long one that, truthfully, is still ongoing. As she prepares her gubernatorial bid, she is also laying the groundwork for the next leg of her journey: a bid for the presidency.
“When someone asks me if that’s my ambition, I have a responsibility to say yes,” Abrams told CBS News, “For every young woman, every person of color, every young person of color, who sees me and decides what they’re capable of based on what I think I am capable of.”
Sidney Poitier, whose elegant bearing and principled onscreen characters made him Hollywood’s first Black movie star and the first Black man to win the best actor Oscar, has died. He was 94.
Clint Watson, press secretary for the Prime Minister of the Bahamas, confirmed to CNN that Poitier died Thursday evening.
Poitier overcame an impoverished background in the Bahamas and a thick island accent to rise to the top of his profession at a time when prominent roles for Black actors were rare. He won the Oscar for 1963’s “Lilies of the Field,” in which he played an itinerant laborer who helps a group of White nuns build a chapel.
Many of his best-known films explored racial tensions as Americans were grappling with social changes wrought by the civil rights movement. In 1967 alone, he appeared as a Philadelphia detective fighting bigotry in small-town Mississippi in “In the Heat of the Night” and a doctor who wins over his White fiancée’s skeptical parents in “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.”
Poitier’s movies struggled for distribution in the South, and his choice of roles was limited to what White-run studios would produce. Racial taboos, for example, precluded him from most romantic parts. But his dignified roles helped audiences of the 1950s and 1960s envision Black people not just as servants but as doctors, teachers and detectives.
At the same time, as the lone Black leading man in 1960s Hollywood, he came under tremendous scrutiny. He was too often hailed as a noble symbol of his race and endured criticism from some Black people who said he had betrayed them by taking sanitized roles and pandering to Whites.
Rihanna’s homeland wants her to continue to “shine bright like a diamond.”
The singer was honored Monday in her native Barbados during its presidential inauguration, which served to mark the country becoming a republic.
Barbadian Prime Minister Mia Mottley told the crowd, “On behalf of a grateful nation, but an even prouder people, we therefore present to you the designee for national hero of Barbados, Ambassador Robyn Rihanna Fenty.”
“May you continue to shine like a diamond and bring honor to your nation by your works, by your actions, and to do credit wherever you shall go,” Mottley said.
The makeup and fashion mogul was appointed as an ambassador of Barbados in 2018.
According to a statement from the Barbados Government Information Office released at the time, the position gives the celeb “specific responsibility for promoting education, tourism, and investment for the island.”
She also became one of the Caribbean island country’s cultural ambassadors in 2008, doing promotional work for its tourism ministry.
In a move that received a great deal of support in the country, Barbados formally cut ties with the British monarchy by becoming a republic almost 400 years after the first English ship arrived on the most easterly of the Caribbean islands.
It would be hard in 2021 to not recognize the name or face of award-winning actor Michael B. Jordan. He is particularly known for his film portrayals of shooting victim Oscar Grant in the 2013 drama Fruitvale Station, boxer Adonis “Donnie” Creed in the Creed films (an offshoot of the classic Rocky franchise), as well as Erik Killmonger in 2018’s record-shattering Black Panther, all three of which were directed by Ryan Coogler. He also recently starred in (and helped produce) Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse, an action thriller digitally released on Amazon’s Prime Video service in April. His upcoming film, A Journal for Jordan, is based on a memoir of the same name, directed by veteran actor Denzel Washington and co-produced by Jordan’s company, Outlier Society Productions. It’s expected to release this December. Jordan has also been recognized as a style icon, one of Time 100’s most influential people of 2020, and is People Magazine’s current ‘Sexiest Man Alive.’
A Model for the Movement
For this continuously rising star,everything he does is about so much more than the fame and the accolades. “I love mentorship. The next generation, they’re the future. They’re the key to everything. They’re supposed to be better than us,” Jordan shared with Black EOE Journal. “So, trying to groom the next batch of talent of humans across the board, not just in the arts, but just across the board, I think is really important. The fellowship program, the Outliers Fellowship program, [is something] I am really excited about.”
The program is an internship and mentorship initiative that Jordan announced during Black History Month last year during the Obama Foundation’s MBK (My Brother’s Keeper) Rising! event. The Outlier Fellowship provides access, community and opportunity to underrepresented LA youth entering arts, media and entertainment.
However, Jordan and his Outlier Society are raising the stakes in their efforts towards a more diverse and inclusive industry. Along with the fellowship program, Outlier Society can also boast itself as one of the few media companies to adopt the inclusion rider. The inclusion rider is a contract attached (by a star or company) to a film or television contract stating that the project’s production team must take steps to recruit and hire both cast and crew members from historically underrepresented groups. For Jordan, though, this is less a boast than an obvious step in the right direction. “You just got to do it. You can’t overcomplicate it,” he said of what’s needed to see less disparity and more inclusion in media and entertainment, both in front of and behind the camera.
“As the producer, I chose…” he shared about one of his more recent projects, “There’s also a lot of vehicles for talent that may not have gotten all of the swings that I’ve gotten or opportunities in certain roles or certain genres. Being able to create around talent is something that I’ve always been interested in doing and am looking forward to doing more of in the future.”
Jordan’s impact has also been evident in his hometown of Newark, N.J. where he’s supported Audible’s charity, Newark Working Kitchens, an organization he’s proud to say served “over one million meals this past year…” He also launched the “Hoop Dreams Classic,” an HBCU College Basketball Showcase in Newark last year at the Prudential Center. Furthermore, he surprised students in his hometown at both at his alma mater, Newark Arts High School, last year and at Barringer High School. His Barringer High visit was part of the Coach Foundation’s involvement in The Future Project, which puts professional directors into high schools around the country to offer inspiration and guidance to students dreaming of careers in the arts.
Strategic and Intentional
Michael B. Jordan is not afraid to stand for those things he believes to be right, even in the face of adversity. For years, he has been quite outspoken on the causes and issues he feels most strongly about, even getting political by joining protests, like his participation in the “Big 4” Hollywood talent agencies march to support Black Lives Matter in June 2020 as well as being a part of movements to encourage voting and support voting rights. “Everybody has their part they have to play…I’m very strategic. I plan. I think things through. I try not to emotionally react to certain things. You also got to know the business that you’re in and how to move on certain issues and how to actually get real movement. Timing is everything.”
Unfortunately, there are many who believe that celebrities and influencers should not participate in such activities or speak on issues outside of their industry. ‘We’re here to be entertained, not preached to,’ is a common sentiment that many netizens share. What is Jordan’s response to that?
“‘Shut up and entertain?’ That’s never going to be me,” he said, “I’m not the guy that talks just to talk or is loud for the sake of being loud. The things I do, and how I do it, all has a purpose, and I don’t need the credit for everything that I’m doing either, so I try to move and make impact the best way I know how. Sometimes that’s not always aesthetically pleasing to the masses, but bigger picture and behind closed doors, I try to make an impact the best way I know how for the long game, and not just for the quick fix until people become distracted again and try to move on to the next thing.”
Working with a Mission
There’s a clear trend in the types of films Jordan has chosen to
produce, direct and star in. From Fruitvale Station to Black Panther to 61st Street, the television series he is executive producing for AMC, slated to premier next year, about a promising young black athlete embroiled in the corrupt Chicago criminal justice system. There’s a criterion to the types of work he wants to do. “It usually has to say something. It has to mean something. I know every movie won’t be a Fruitvale Station or a Just Mercy,” he shared. “I like a lot of different types of movies and genres and I want my career, when you look back at it to be a reflection of that, eclectic and diverse.”
Eclectic and diverse are perfect descriptors of his repertoire from sci-fi fantasy, comic book franchises, action thrillers, dramas, romances and sports films to soap operas, biopics, crime TV and even voice overs in children’s shows.
According to Michael, he wants to do work he won’t regret. “I want to look back on it and be really proud…it’s got to make an impact no matter what it is, and [I want to] have fun doing it.” He has a strategy “of doing a bigger film and then do a smaller film and kind of have that balance of being able to do these intimate smaller films and still being able to do a movie that’s bigger, more commercial and sort of broader. If you look back at some of the work that I’ve done, it’s kind of played in both those spaces. As an actor, you play a part in a bigger machine. As a producer, you have a few more hats. As a director, you’re telling a story from your perspective and telling a story that you’re trying to say. As I’ve gotten older, [I’m] just being very selective with pushing my career forward.”
Focused on the Future
Jordan has much to look forward to in his personal and professional future. He is set to make his directorial debut next year, taking the helm for Creed III. Having had the opportunity to work with other great directors such as Denzel Washington, Ryan Coogler and Sylvester Stallone, who directed four out of the six original Rocky movies that the Creed franchise is based on, Jordan has been able to take what he’s learned and apply it to his own ingenuity and experience.
“Getting wisdom and gems from the generation before me is always a great thing,” said Jordan, “I think just watching Ryan [Coogler] from the beginning. Fruitvale Station was the first time I saw somebody who really looked like me close to my age that was directing a movie. Writing and directing, it was crazy. He kind of really showed me that it was possible. Now, watching him go through it, being so close to the process (the development process), seeing all the meetings he’s gone to, and all the steps to it. Also, observing Sly [Stallone] and how he did it. What was that formula like? What were the responsibilities of directing in that type of way? He’s also somebody who starred and directed himself, what was that process like? And for me, learning from every director I’ve work with and collaborated with. Imagining myself doing it: ‘In that situation, I would be doing what?’ OK, cool. That’s question I’ve got to answer. I’ve got to know about this; I’ve got to know about that. I’ve been doing that for a long time, and I finally got to the point now where I feel confident in what I’m about to do in the story I’m telling.”
And he’s already considering how to pay the knowledge, and the torch of success, forward. “I’ve been extremely blessed, so to be able to take my blessings, opportunities, situations that I’ve been able to learn from and grow from and be able to pass that forward to the next generation is something that’s always excited me. It’s always been the answer in a lot of ways.”
For Jordan, the future is about assessing the best ways to address the issues that face our society so that those who follow can live in a better world. “Trying to find, ‘What’s the solution; how do we get better; how do we grow as a people?’ and all those things,” he said about his focus, mindset, and approach to his work. “Our time on this Earth is short. To make it count, to learn as much as you can and pass those experiences on to make somebody else’s life a little bit easier — that’s the approach that I’ve been on.”
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