The annual King Holiday Observance is a time that we celebrate, commemorate and honor the life, legacy and impact of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Global citizens will have unique opportunities to learn and unite in celebration of Dr. King’s groundbreaking work and Mrs. Coretta Scott King’s powerful continuation and formal institutionalization of that work through a variety of engaging events hosted by The King Center leading up to The King Holiday on January 16th, 2023.
As we witness nations around the world continue to struggle under the weight of violence, hate and poverty, today’s social, political and economic landscape reveals the urgent necessity of Dr. King’s philosophy and methodology of Nonviolence (Nonviolence365™). The King Center leads the charge to provide education and training in Nonviolence365; while serving as the vital living memorial of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Our strategic theme for 2023 is ‘Cultivating a Beloved Community Mindset to Transform Unjust Systems’. This theme defines the 2023 King Holiday Observance events and programming while serving as a compass for all the work we will do this upcoming calendar year and beyond. The pioneering work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. demonstrated that Kingian Nonviolence (Nonviolence365™) is the sustainable solution to injustice and violence in our world, ultimately leading to the creation of the Beloved Community, where injustice ceases and love prevails.
The King Center welcomes and invites you to join this movement for a new future as we strive to cultivate a Beloved Community Mindset, and ultimately transform unjust systems.
Many people seemingly think the topic of public education in America is less important when compared to other pressing issues of today. However, there is one convincing figure who would respectfully disagree and debate why public education should not be dismissed or devalued. Dr. Sandy Womack Jr., currently an Area (Assistant) Superintendent with the Columbus City School District (which happens to be the largest school system in the State of Ohio), has always been a strategic thinker and advocate for underdogs.
Like most natives of disadvantaged urban neighborhoods, Womack gained an uncanny and often underestimated perspective of the learning process despite being exposed to a frequently challenging, yet character-building environment that private and parochial school systems do not offer. It was in the urban community that he learned a form of mental chemistry (a type of “toughness”) that is often cultivated in helping to define what it means for someone to possess a resilient spirit upon reaching adulthood. Those traits – essentially “chemistry” & “character” – are often heightened when adults, as Womack says, remember that “Exposure changes expectations, but it is the experiences we provide our children with that change their lives.”
No one in life has ever given Sandy Womack Jr. anything.
He has earned everything through those same forms of exposure and experiences he references. First, as a talented high school wrestler who was awarded a college scholarship in wrestling and went on to become a two-time NCAA All-American standout, and then in college classrooms as a knowledge-thirsty student and aspiring educator. Once he stepped away from the sport he excelled at, he fell in love with the infinite possibility of what he could accomplish through advanced education.
To broaden the scope of understanding the level of engagement (and privilege) involved in maintaining the economic stability of members of one ethnic group over others, one does not need to look far beyond the research. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) and the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) in Washington, D.C., the overall total number of college graduates awarded doctoral level degrees in 2018-2019 (the latest year’s statistics) reveals there were 187,568 doctoral degrees conferred throughout the U.S. in that year alone. Of that number, 100,880 were awarded to Whites; 19,507 were awarded to Asians; 14,087 were awarded to Blacks; and 13,277 were awarded to Hispanics and/or Latinos. And, out of that 187,568 total who received doctoral degrees in the U.S., only 13,020 total were conferred (awarded) such degrees for the category of education that year. Of that 13,020, Whites made up 6,963; Blacks made up 2,524; Hispanics and/or Latinos made up 1,110; and Asians represented 395 of those overall (education) doctoral degree graduates in 2018-2019.
Such statistics reinforce beliefs like those of noted scholar Richard Rothstein who said it best when he expressed that, “social class differences likely affect the academic performance of children.” In addition, Mr. Rothstein makes a valid argument when he quipped that “good teachers, high expectations, standards, accountability, and inspiration are not enough.” (Class and Schools, 2004). For children in today’s urban school settings to succeed, they need a Dr. Sandy Womack Jr. In a career that has spanned thirty-years in education, Sandy Womack Jr. got his start teaching in the Ohio education system with the Alliance City Schools in Stark County. Then, briefly with the University of Akron-Federal TRIO Programs in Summit County. Next came a teaching position in the Cleveland Metropolitan Schools, and a series of promotions led to becoming the Dean of Students and then an Assistant Principal with the Akron Public Schools. At the age of 29, he became the Head Principal with the Canton City Schools before being offered a series of promotions to become the Director of Curriculum and Development, and then the Director of Principal Leadership and Development with the Cleveland Heights-University Heights School District in Cuyahoga County before finally becoming a member of what he considers the best professional team yet – his current administrative position helping to lead the Columbus City School District. The man has literally served in practically every capacity (except a Human Resources and/or Superintendent positions) as an education professional…from teacher to counselor to Assistant Principal to Building Principal to Administrator.
To discover why he is so passionate about public education in America and not only a frequently requested speaker at conferences, organizations, and universities across the country, but a trusted figure of children, parents, and/or guardians alike, you would have to know his path and allow him to pique your curiosity. Equipped with an arsenal of amazing traits and an invaluable skill set, Womack is a classic example of what can evolve (potential-wise) from many, if not most, of the disadvantaged children he has interacted with for many years. In addition to being a best friend-life partner to his equally dynamic wife – Dr. Monica Womack (who earned her Ph.D. and is a behind-the-scenes problem-solver in public education herself), Dr. Sandy Womack Jr. earned his Ed.D. and together they share three razor-sharp daughters. Interestingly, Sandy hails from a background where one of his parents (his late father) was a convicted felon who spent time in prison at one point. A constant reminder that no matter how you start out or where you come from, it’s how you use that experience to transform a person’s own life and that of other people that matters. It has been that factor, along with growing up watching his mother sacrifice and juggle to make things happen, which has enabled Sandy Womack Jr. to resonate with and relate to countless children, parents, and/or guardians of diverse backgrounds like few educators or administrators have or do.
When asked what he believes are the three most critical concerns affecting education in urban school settings throughout America, Womack is quick to reveal, “the proverbial lack of proper funding issue, the expectation issue (of the people who work directly with urban school children), and the lack of collective community-wrap-around-support issue.” To many students, parents, and fellow educators across the nation, Dr. Sandy Womack Jr. is not only the epitome of a dynamic teacher-education administrator, but he’s also another “inner-city success story.” Understandably, this overachiever still has his heart set on attaining his biggest goal yet as an educator-administrator, which (according to him) is to “become the #1 influencer of African American children in public schools in the world!”
*Santura Pegram (email@example.com) is a freelance writer and socially conscious business professional who has helped to advise small businesses; nonprofit organizations; city, county, and state governmental committees; elected officials; professional athletes; and school systems. He was a one-time protégé-aide to the “Political Matriarch of the State of Florida” – the late Honorable M. Athalie Range.
You’d have to go pretty far and wide to meet someone who doesn’t know the name Cedric the Entertainer.
Born Cedric Antonio Kyles, the multihyphenate comedian, producer, entrepreneur, host and actor has been a recognizable face in entertainment for almost 30 years. Many recall Cedric from his time as a former host of BET’s ComicView and Def Comedy Jam in the 90s. Others will remember him for his co-starring role in the hit sitcom on WB The Steve Harvey Show, next to fellow comedian and friend Steve Harvey.
However, most fans hear his name and immediately think of the sensation that was The Original Kings of Comedy tour and video in 2000 where he performed beside fellow legends Steve Harvey, D.L. Hughley and the late Bernie Mac.
No matter how you know his name, face or signature laugh, Cedric the Entertainer is always guaranteed to bring a smile to the faces of his audience. He has hosted talk shows, led game shows and even recorded comedic interludes on rap albums: one triple platinum (Jay Z’s The Blueprint), one quadruple platinum (Ye’s Late Registration) and one certified diamond album (Nelly’s Country Grammar). For over 20 years, he has appeared in numerous movies (such as the Barbershop, Madagascar and Ice Age franchises) and television shows, including his current hit The Neighborhood, recently renewed for its fifth season and produced by Cedric’s production company, A Bird and a Bear Ent., which he manages with his longtime partner Eric Roan.
What’s kept him going all these years?
The constant inspiration from fellow artists. “Now, I’m just motivated continually to do great work,” Cedric shared with Black EOE Journal. “We had so many new creators that came on the scene and are doing great things to where I feel like, now, there’s heavy competition all around and great, and you just want to be a part of the conversation.” He’s talking about writers adding culture and depth to the conversation like Ava Duvernay, Lena Waithe and Kenya Barris. He also referenced fellow comedian creators like Kevin Hart. “You just want to keep leveling up,” he said. “That’s why I stay busy and stay at it and stay motivated. I’m actually just excited that the energy is…moving forward and not slowing down…”
And Cedric hasn’t slowed down either.
Building an Empire
From lead comedian at a White House Correspondents’ Dinner to Broadway to host of this past year’s 73rd Primetime Emmy Awards, he is always finding ways to bring joy through his work.
Along with The Neighborhood, his company also produces two shows on the Bounce TV network that are about relevant issues and stories, particularly in the Black community: Johnson, a show that follows the lives of four Black men in their 30s navigating the trials of everyday life. They are childhood friends and happen to have the same last name… Johnson. The other program is a dramedy called Finding Happy about a Black woman working in the Atlanta radio industry, played by comedian and actor B. Simone, who, with the help of some friends, decides on her 36th birthday to make a decision to change her stagnant life and find her own happiness.
According to Cedric, “I guess as far as what has changed [over the years], I feel like so many creators are gaining more and more control of their brands and their ideas that they want to see and do and that becomes even more motivating… the fact that your creativity doesn’t have to be limited to a group of producers, creators or networks that have no idea what you’re about and what your people want to see. Now there’s just a wide array of opportunities.” He also commented on the emergence of new streaming networks and platforms, both large-scale like Netflix, and smaller ones such as those started by social media influencers and content creators from underrepresented backgrounds.
“The networks have to up their game because the streamers are so hot,” he shared. “It opens up the playing field for diversity all across the board. When you think about it, across the cultural diaspora that we have in this country, it just gives great opportunity to see shows and people from different cultures which really allows all of us to grow…and, of course, it’s forced the major institutional networks to have to change up because they’re now getting left behind. So now that gives an opportunity for so many other people to create.”
Along with his creativity on the screen and stage, Cedric the Entertainer is also an ardent businessman. He released his own line of hats a few years ago in his signature style called Who Ced?. “I loved hats from very early on in my career. I had a couple of images when I started to do comedy, and one of them was of my grandfather wearing his fedora. I thought it was cool to do when I was on stage, so I started rocking them and eventually I wanted to expand my brand.” The line was intended to be an inexpensive, everyday wear accessory. However, they’ve recently undergone a rebrand and will soon be launching a new line called Egg & Butter, which will feature hats that are more upscale and Italian-made. Visit eggandbutter.com to sign up for the mailing list for news of the official launch date. He also debuted another business in January of this year, a 100 point, three-time gold medal-winning, two-time Best in Class red blend wine he named after his mother. According to Cedric, “I partnered with Smith and Devereux winery in Napa [Valley]. It’s called Zetta.
My mother’s name was Rosetta. It’s a Napa Valley blend red, beautiful wine. You can go to smithdevereux.com and get a case, get a bottle. It launched on her birthday, January 4.” 10 percent of all profits are donated to the RedRoseReads Foundation to support literacy programs throughout the U.S.
But that’s not all he’s working on. “I’m sure I’ve got a hundred other businesses. I stay busy. I’ve got a very cool thing called Fan Room (fanroomlive.com) that I do which is kind of like an online green room situation where celebrities meet their fans in a virtual environment, and they sit and talk, and they chill with them in the Fan Room. It’s pretty cool. That’s been growing. We started that over the pandemic.”
Always Giving Back
What may surprise many isn’t that Cedric the Entertainer gives back. It’s how many ways and through how many organizations. For example, there’s the Cedric “The Entertainer” Charitable Foundation scholarship that he started in 1996 for high school students in partnership with the United Negro College Fund (UNCF).
“My mother was an educator, a reading specialist,” he said. “She passed a few years ago, but she instilled in my sister and myself this idea of philanthropy, to be able to help give back to help those less fortunate. I started that with an educational program mainly for kids who grew up in single parent households who needed a little help to go to college… partnered with UNCF…partnered with my alma mater Southeast Missouri State University as well as any HBCUs. We’ve been doing that since ‘96, helping kids go to college. We deemed that very important.”
But that’s not all.
“From there, when my mom got ill, [my sister and I] really got involved in women’s health issues. We started a women’s health pavilion in St. Louis, Mo. at St. Mary’s Hospital in her name, the Rosetta Boyce Kyles Women’s Pavilion that deals with all kinds of women’s health issues from athletics for young students to cancer to the heart to just getting people rides to the hospital. That initiative has been something we’ve done for about six years. Of course, I’ve worked with the American Diabetes [Association] because my dad deals with diabetes. So, we did the neuropathy campaign, really trying to get especially Black males to go get checked out; something we don’t do in our culture. We always try to man it out and tough it out and don’t realize these are things we can actually fix and prevent if we got a heads up soon enough.”
Long May He Reign
Cedric the Entertainer’s good work is never done, and we’re thankful for that.
His commitment to making a difference in the world through charity and philanthropy is admirable, but one can’t forget his work with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to help mentor a new generation of voices in media and entertainment.
“My work with the Academy is all about improving the minority participation in this industry, especially coming in at the internship level and giving people the opportunity to be here, to be working and be involved with these shows.”
Cedric has been an outspoken supporter of diversity and inclusion in American society as well as a champion of racial and social equity. “It’s very important. You need a group of people that’s truly and completely about advocacy…We do need people who are all about the advocacy; they’ve got to stay and make people accountable, to show that we’re necessary and worthy of all the stuff we’re asking for.”
But what’s next for The Entertainer?
Anything. Maybe even music?
“I’m a person who likes to write songs. I write little songs and jingles quite a bit.
I haven’t really introduced my music, so I guess people will come to find that out soon,” he told Black EOE Journal. “I haven’t really ever [shown that]. I do them for jokes, but I haven’t really shown some of the sincere stuff that I do.” Well, we’re excited to see what the future holds. Hearing about any new projects Cedric has up his sleeves will surely be sweet music to our ears.
Just days after “Obi-Wan Kenobi” debuted on Disney+ May 27, star Moses Ingram has already received countless hateful social media messages.
Ingram plays a Jedi hunter Inquisitor named Reva, who actively tracks down Ewan McGregor’s Obi-Wan. While Lucasfilm and “Obi-Wan Kenobi” director Deborah Chow anticipated fan hate toward a Black female character, Ingram addressed the onslaught of DMs and comments she has received thus far.
“Long story short, there are hundreds of those. Hundreds,” Ingram said in an Instagram video after screenshotting messages that threatened her and called her racial slurs. “And I also see those of you out there who put on a cape for me and that really does mean the world to me because, you know, there’s nothing anybody can do about this. There’s nothing anybody can do to stop this hate. And so I question my purposes even being here in front of you saying that this is happening.”
Ingram continued, “I don’t really know. I don’t really know. But I think the thing that bothers me is that like, sort of this feeling that I’ve had inside of myself. This feeling that no one has told me, but like I just got to shut up and take it. I just got to bury it. And I’m not built like that. So I really just wanted to come on, I think, and say thank you to the people who show up for me in the comments and the places I’m not going to put myself. And to the rest of y’all, y’all weird.”
Ingram’s Instagram Stories included threats saying her days were “numbered” and slamming her for not being the first Black person in “Star Wars” history.
“You suck, loser. You’re a diversity hire and you won’t be loved or remembered for this acting role,” one message read.
Another said, “How the f**k does an alien know eubonics?”
The “Queen’s Gambit” alum also included a soundbite from “The Read” podcast during which she said: “You know what’s really crazy, you would think sci-fi and fantasy would be the most welcoming, the most accepting genres because they are so often storylines that are ridiculous and made up of like, aliens and weird shit, comic book shit, and n***** having special powers and all that.”
The official “Star Wars” Twitter addressed the backlash to Ingram early Tuesday, posting, “We are proud to welcome Moses Ingram to the Star Wars family and excited for Reva’s story to unfold. If anyone intends to make her feel in any way unwelcome, we have only one thing to say: we resist.”
The “Star Wars” page continued, “There are more than 20 million sentient species in the Star Wars galaxy, don’t choose to be a racist.”
Ingram previously acknowledged that Lucasfilm “actually got in front” of the anticipated racism to her casting. “‘This is a thing that, unfortunately, likely will happen. But we are here to help you; you can let us know when it happens,’” Ingram said earlier this month. “Of course, there are always pockets of hate, but I have no problem with the block button.”
John Boyega and Kelly Marie Tran formerly received racist fan harassment following their respective roles in the recent Skywalker trilogy, leading to Boyega having a “very honest, a very transparent conversation” with Disney executives to not sideline Black and POC characters in the franchise.
Click here to read the full article on Indie Wire.
Many of us had existential thoughts during lockdown, and assuaged them with new hobbies. We did thousand-piece puzzles. We crocheted and knitted. We learned new songs on our guitars, baked overzealously, and connected with our plantlife. For Viola Davis, knocking around in her $5m mansion in Toluca Lake, Los Angeles, it was writing, though the nature of it was less assuagement than staring into the coalface of an existential crisis. Who am I? What is my life supposed to mean? If this isn’t it – the Oscar winning, the formidable trail of accolades, the palatial bathrooms and saltwater pool – then what is?
“I lost my mind during the pandemic,” she tells me from her bedroom, dressed pre-photoshoot in a grey sweatshirt and loose woollen hat. “I just wandered around this house like Mary Tyrone in Long Day’s Journey Into Night.” She laughs about it (she has a deep laugh and a deep, mighty voice inherited from her grandmother), but the memoir resulting from the time spent writing is anything but light. She has a story to tell, a gripping, emotive, at times spine-tingling story, with pathos and pain, triumph and redemption, setting a new benchmark for the celebrity confessional. Finding Me is a page-turner, written with narrative knowhow and stylistic competence.
Over a matter of months – interrupted by the filming of The First Lady, in which she plays Michelle Obama, and The Woman King, a historical drama set in the Kingdom of Dahomey (now southern Benin) in west Africa, both projects from her company JuVee Productions – she grappled on the page with the spectre of her poverty-stricken childhood and her subsequent thorny rise to the top, a place that turned out to be less comfortable than imagined.
“Whenever you’re still, whenever you’re quiet, whenever you put everything down, then everything in your life comes into full focus. It comes at you like a jackhammer,” she says of the big, Covid-induced pause. But it was not only the pandemic that led her to the blank screen. The crisis was already in process. “I think it’s been happening ever since my status started to rise,” she says. “When it first rises, it’s nothing but excitement, nothing but an understanding that this is a culmination of your hard work, your talent. You just feel like God has blessed you – I still feel that.
“And then it moves along: what no one tells you about being ‘on top’ is the minutiae of it, the cost of it, the pressure of it, the responsibility, and finally the disillusionment. You feel like you’ve found something you love to do and you’ve made it, your life’s all sewn up – and then you hit it, and it’s just a level of emptiness, of wondering what your life means, and then you crash and burn. I had to go back to the source and revisit my life, revisit my stories, to sort of catapult me into something so I could find home – find me. I’d been lost in it all.”
In 2016, with her Academy Award win for best supporting actress for her role in Fences, based on an August Wilson play, Viola Davis became the first African American to achieve the triple crown of an Oscar, Tony and Emmy for acting (the Tony was for a Broadway role in Wilson’s King Hedley II; the Emmy for the TV legal thriller How to Get Away With Murder). She is the most nominated Black woman in the history of the Academy Awards (she received nominations for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, another Wilson adaptation, as well as The Help and Doubt) and has been ranked in the top 10 of the New York Times’ list of the greatest actors of the 21st century. Her execution of her roles is both exacting and magnanimous, ever astute, possessing a haunting integrity that makes each character seem profoundly known, tangible and self-possessed.
The consummate humble artist, she deems fame and glory secondary to the work; she is modest about her trophies, and dismissive of efforts by her actor husband of almost 19 years, Julius Tennon, and their adopted daughter, Genesis, to splash them around the house. “If it were up to me all the awards would be in the garage,” she says. “I mean, it’s just not my style – it’s a bit too much. Listen, it’s not that I haven’t looked at the Oscar or whatever and thought: wow, that’s pretty awesome. I’m very grateful, but, you know, you can’t live there. Soon as you get it, you walk off the stage, you’re an Oscar winner, but then it’s like, and now what? And then you gotta go on to the next job, and start all over again with that impostor syndrome.”
Click here to read the full article on The Guardian.
When sworn in this summer, Jackson will be the first Black woman to serve on the nation’s high court.
“This is one of the great moments of American history,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said before the vote. “Today we are taking a giant, bold and important step on the well-trodden path to fulfilling our country’s founding promise.
This is a great moment for Judge Jackson but it is an even greater moment for America as we rise to a more perfect union.”
President Biden called the vote a “historic moment” for the nation. “We’ve taken another step toward making our highest court reflect the diversity of America,” Biden posted on Twitter.
All 50 Senate Democrats, including the two independents who caucus with them, voted for Jackson’s confirmation. They were joined by three Republicans: Sens. Mitt Romney of Utah, Susan Collins of Maine, and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.
Click here to read the complete article posted on NPR.
In April 2021, Keke Palmer landed a deal with Amazon after her Instagram sketch videos went viral, as previously shared by AfroTech. Now, the actress has teamed up with the e-commerce giant for a new partnership that shines the spotlight on other Black women bosses like herself.
According to Essence, Palmer and Amazon partnered to support Black women business owners in honor of Women’s History Month. Within the collaboration, the duo worked to put together a selection of Black-owned brands to highlight, as well as speak to two of the founders for Amazon’s conversation series.
After becoming an entrepreneur and launching her record label, Big Boss Entertainment, in 2018 — her own personal experience has led her to help women who look like her kickstart their ideas, too.
“It’s time to put the spotlight back on Black businesses to remind people that we gotta support each other. Also, to understand that when you are buying Black, you’re sometimes buying into a newer business,” Palmer shared with Essence. “So they need proper support, encouragement, and tools to be able to even get to some of the places as these other corporations. It’s just the only way that we continue to create not only generational wealth for our community. To me, it just makes sense — it’s to counteract all of the systemic injustices. We have to go that much harder to push back businesses to the forefront.”
Keke Palmer’s Curated List Of Black-Owned Brands Below are the brands and people selected by Palmer:
Darlyng and Co.
LIVE BY BEING
Words Of Advice For Entrepreneurs From Keke “Keep A Bag” Palmer
“Take it day by day and don’t be so hard on yourself. Understand that it’s a process and that Rome wasn’t built in a day and yes, you are gonna run into issues and things aren’t gonna go. Right. But all of it is a stepping stone. It’s not meant to make you give up. It’s meant to help you.”
(CNN) President Joe Biden has selected Ketanji Brown Jackson as his nominee to the Supreme Court, setting in motion a historic confirmation process for the first Black woman to sit on the highest court in the nation.
Biden will deliver remarks on Friday afternoon announcing the selection, the White House said. CNN first reported Biden’s decision.
Jackson, 51, currently sits on DC’s federal appellate court and had been considered the front-runner for the vacancy since Justice Stephen Breyer announced his retirement.
She received and accepted Biden’s offer in a call Thursday night, a source familiar with the decision told CNN, but was present for DC Circuit Court hearings Friday morning.
Biden met with Jackson for her Supreme Court interview earlier this month, a senior administration official said, in a meeting that the White House managed to keep secret.
For more than a year, the President had familiarized himself with her work, reading many of her opinions and other writings, along with those of other contenders.
But the official said Biden also was impressed by her life story, including her rise from federal public defender to federal appellate judge — and her upbringing as the daughter of two public school teachers and administrators.
One of the best ways to get inspired is to examine the stories of courage and strength of others. As part of Together, We Rise, a 31-day package highlighting amazing Black people, experiences, allies, and communities that shape America and make it what it is today, we’ve compiled a list of Black women who have made historic impacts in our nation and the world as a whole.
The history-making Black women included in this group defied odds, broke boundaries, and left special marks of excellence in their communities, paving the way for other Black women to do the same.
Elizabeth Freeman (unknown-1829)
Freeman, also known as Mum Bett, was a nurse and midwife who successfully sued Massachusetts for her freedom in 1781, becoming the first African-American enslaved woman to win a freedom suit in the state. Her suit helped lead to the permanent abolition of slavery in Massachusetts altogether.
Ona Judge (1773-1848)
Ona Judge, known by the Washingtons as Oney, was a mixed woman born into an enslaved family on Mt. Vernon and brought to Philadelphia to serve at the President’s House. On May 21, 1796, a 22-year-old Ona successfully escaped her enslavement to President George Washington while he and Mrs. Washington ate dinner. She fled to New Hampshire.
Harriet Tubman (unknown-1913)
American abolitionist Harriet Tubman is most known for her efforts to move slaves to liberation in the Underground Railroad, a network of antislavery activists. Her legacy is indelible in the movement to abolish slavery, as she is documented to have made approximately 13 trips through the Underground Railroad to lead dozens of slaves to freedom — and never got caught, despite a $40,000 reward for her capture.
Ida B. Wells (1862-1931)
Ida B. Wells was a prominent Black investigative journalist, educator and activist in the early civil rights movement. She was one of the founders of the NAACP (National Assocation for the Advancement of Colored People), and led a powerful anti-lynching crusade in the U.S. in the 1890s.
Rosa Parks (1913-2005) Rosa Parks, a trailblazer known for her courageous participation in the Montgomery bus boycott, sparked a movement against racial segregation on public transit. Her defiance to give up her seat led to her arrest on Dec. 1, 1955, but sparked a revolutionary movement. The United States Congress has since honored her as “the first lady of civil rights” and “the mother of the freedom movement.”
Maya Angelou (1928-2014)
Maya Angelou has a distinct voice as a Black writer and activist. She left her legacy with a large collection of memoirs, poems, essays and plays. She rose to fame in 1969 after the publication of “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” one of her autobiographies that details her early years as a young Black woman.
Nina Simone (1933-2003) Nina Simone possessed a unique raspy voice and had a massive impact on the jazz community, as well as continued involvement in the civil rights movement. In her early years, she changed her name from Eunice Kathleen Waymon, her birth name, to her new alias, Nina Simone, so she could disguise herself from her family while trying to make a career in jazz as a pianist and singer. She rose to fame and recorded more than 40 albums between 1958 and 1974.
Audre Lorde (1934-1992)
Audre Lorde made incredible contributions to feminist literature. In her writings, she highlights her experience being a Black lesbian woman and confronts issues of racism, homophobia, classism and misogyny, giving voice to other Black female writers and activists.
Aretha Franklin (1942-2018)
“Queen of Soul” Aretha Franklin was ranked ninth in Rolling Stone’s “100 Greatest Artists of All Time” twice and it’s said that no one understood soul music better than Aretha. She also was the first female artist to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Marsha P. Johnson (1945-1992)
Marsha P. Johnson, born Malcom Michaels Jr., was the first American self-identified drag queen. She was one of the first gay liberation activists and one of the most prominent figures of the Stonewall riots in 1969. When asked what the “p” in her name stood for, she responded, “pay it no mind,” and continued to use that phrase when asked about her gender identity.
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.”
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.
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.