Publication date February 9, 2024
Celebrating Black History Month: 7 Women Currently Shaping the Future
Black History Month shines a light on the countless contributions of Black figures throughout history. This year's theme, "Saluting our Sisters," specifically brings the life the role Black women have played in shaping society, advocating for change, and nurturing communities worldwide.
While prominent individuals like Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks remain cornerstones, it's crucial to acknowledge the ongoing legacy of Black excellence.
Today, many Black women continue to break barriers, inspire change, and make significant strides across different fields. Let’s have a look at these seven remarkable women who are making history right now.
Sha’Carri Richardson recently made headlines at the 2023 World Athletics Championships in Budapest for winning the women’s 100 meters, setting an event record with a time of 10.65 seconds, overcoming the controversy of being disqualified from the Tokyo Olympics. This means that she ran faster than some of the greatest World Champions including Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Merlene Ottey, Marion Jones, and Gwen Torrence.
In childhood, Sha’Carri was abandoned by her mother who also was a field athlete and did not grow up with a father. This meant that Sha’Carri’s aunty and grandmother had to step in and raise her. Soon, they found they had a championship sprinter in their hands.
Sadly, in 2021, Sha’Carri’s biological mother died and to deal with the loss Sha’Carri smoked marijuana during testing for the upcoming Olympics, later the athlete was tested with marijuana in her system and was ultimately disqualified from competing for her country in one of the biggest global competitions in the world.
Yet her 2023 win, is a testament to her determination and personal and public victory. Let’s hope that we will further see Sha’Carri in the 2024 Paris Olympics Securing gold!
Now when we’re celebrating Black History Month Women, how can we skip Lashana Lynch who made history in 2021 by performing the role of Nomi, and became the first black and first female secret agent who inherits the 007 title in James Bond?
This is truly inspiring considering there have been 26 James Bond films over 6 decades! In the film Nomi is MI6’s new 007, no spoiler here, just watch the film to find out more. But what Lashana did, wasn’t easy, there was a lot of criticism at the time that 007 would be female and black yet she did not give up the role and instead blew audiences away with her incredible on-screen performance.
As a child, Lashana was raised in London by Jamaican-immigrant parents, and her love for acting began in primary school when her head teacher, a black woman, gave her the lead role in her school play.
In 2022, Lashana later played the role of Igozie in The Woman King. The movie was inspired by the true history of a one-of-a-kind all-female warrior group that protected Dahomey, a kingdom in West Africa. This role pushed Lashana into further stardom and truly inspired young actresses who saw her on the big screen.
Today, Lashana continues to make history working on films with Marvel and other well-known franchises. She says that her life’s work will show black women that anything is possible.
Source: Washington Post
Michelle Obama, an attorney and philanthropist, became a powerful role model for women around the world. After some remarkable black female historical figures, As the first African American First Lady of the United States, Michelle shattered a significant barrier and inspired millions with her grace, intelligence, and commitment to public service.
During her time as First Lady, Mrs. Obama started the Let’s Move program, which was developed to help end childhood obesity. In 2019, Michelle shared her personal story and journey in her bestseller book ‘Becoming” which was followed by the corresponding Netflix documentary in 2020.
As first lady, she worked as an advocate for poverty awareness, education, nutrition, physical activity, and healthy eating. Later, in 2022, her book, The Light We Carry, became a top seller. This Princeton University and Harvard Law School graduate continues to stand for education for young girls, and the overall health of children.
Source: Southern Living
At just 19 years old, Coco Gauff made history by winning the most recent US Open Women’s title. Her win was celebrated by millions from all over the world and she even received personal congratulations from President Joe Biden and Barack Obama but what makes Coco Gauff so special?
So far, a total of 55 women have won the US Open Women’s title since its inception in 1968 but only 5 of those women have been black and Coco Gauff is the second youngest black woman to do so after Serena Williams.
Her parents are the biggest supporters behind her success, you will be surprised but when Coco was only six years old her parents created a ten-year plan for her victory. To achieve it, her mother resigned as a nurse and became a full-time mother to take care of Coco and her father took on the role of her coach. To their amazement, Coco exceeded the plan by two years and became a professional tennis player when she was only fourteen years old.
In fact, in 2019, at 15 years old, she made her Grand Slam debut at Wimbledon and was the youngest in the Open Era to ever reach the main draw of Wimbledon. In the tournament, she defeated five-time champion Venus Williams, and months later, she won her first WTA Tour singles title at the 2019 Linz Open. As she is just 19, there is still so much more history for Coco to make!
Rihanna has carved out her own lane when it comes to black women making history. Although her rise to fame was mainly marked by her singing talent, Robyn Rihanna Fenty has proven through ventures like Fenty Skin, Fenty Beauty, and her lingerie brand Savage x Fenty that she is also a top-tier businesswoman.
She is the latest black woman musician who performs on the world’s biggest stage. As anticipated, she has always delivered a spectacular performance. The nine-time Grammy Award winner sang plenty of her biggest hits, including Umbrella, Pour it Up, Rude Boy, Diamonds, and Work.
In 2012 and 2018, Time named Rihanna one of the 100 most influential people in the world. Also, Forbes ranked her among the top ten highest-paid celebrities in 2012 and 2014. As of January 2024, she is the richest female musician, with an estimated net worth of $1.4 billion.
That’s not all, Rihanna has also made philanthropy part of her mission by championing diversity and inclusion through all of her brands and pledging $15 million for climate justice through her Clara Lionel Foundation.
Source: The Today Show
Issa Rae, creator of the award-winning TV Insecure, has proven that there are no limits to what you can accomplish. Rae broke into the television and film industries after making the well-known web series The Mis-Adventures of Awkward Black Girl.
She began producing, directing, and starring in multiple projects and even started her own production company, HOORAE, as well as her own record label, Raedio. Most recently, Rae even launched her own prosecco brand Viarae. She has dedicated her career to creating storylines and platforms for artists and actors of color, demonstrating that everyone is equal, what really matters is the dedication and talent of a person.
Our last hero in the list, Jessica Watkins, an American NASA astronaut, geologist, aquanaut, and former international rugby player, made history by becoming only the fifth Black woman ever to travel into space and the first to join a space station expedition. So far, 260 people from 21 countries have visited the International Space Station but in April 2022, Jessica Watkins became the first Black woman to do so.
Her contribution has not only improved life on Earth but has also helped researchers learn more about the long-term effects of spaceflight on the human body. She was in space for six months and during this time Watkins orbited the Earth 2,720 times, traveling a distance of 72,169,935 statute miles.
After some famous African American women in history, In 2002, she crushed the record of being the African American woman who has spent the most time in space. Now, with so many possibilities out there in space, humanity awaits the new things Watkins will uncover, especially because as part of NASA’s Artemi program, she could be sent on a mission to the moon.