We have entered a new year: 2015. Yay! *blows kazoo* And though only four days have passed we can bet that in 2015 Black women will continue to accomplish equally amazing pursuits as they were accomplishing in 2014. Though there were a lot of Black women to choose from, I narrowed my list down to what I like to call the "Lucky 7". Here are some women who were doing their thing in 2014, and whose "things" we're going to continue to look forward to and support in 2015.
This year (and by "this year" I mean 2014; I haven't successfully transitioned yet) Keke Palmer became the first Black actress to play Cinderella on Broadway. At 21 years old, Palmer broke down boundaries and set records. Palmer did an amazing job on Broadway even while sick--I saw it with my own eyes! She was comedic, charming and entertaining. In addition to her Disney Princess status, Palmer also became the youngest talk show host in television history with her show "Just Keke" on BET which premiered in June of this year (I should probably start saying "last year" now, huh?). Keke is also quickly becoming a fashion maven and is one of our favorite follows on the gram. Her influence permeates different facets of society and we look forward to what she has in store for 2015.
Though her approach is at times adversarial, we learned from her interview with the Breakfast Club
how truly genuine Azealia Banks is when it comes to Black culture and the appropriation thereof. Banks shows passion, intelligence and of course talent. Her unwillingness to curb her enthusiasm and refusal to cease calling out those she feels has transgressed against the hip hop art form makes her influence undeniable. Banks not only talks the talk but raps the rap. She is true to her creativity and has given us all an album we will continue to listen to in 2015. Her Twitter page is also a favorite follow!
Quvenzhané Willis is not new to the scene or to the movie screen. Willis played the main character in Beasts of the Southern Wild at six years old and was five years old when she auditioned...FIVE! Not only did Quvenzhané become the first Black child actor to be nominated for an Oscar, now at age 9, Quvenzhané has also become the youngest actress to ever receive this nomination. In 2013 Quvenzhane was called a cunt on the Onion's twitter page (never too young for some misogyny!) and dealt with racist attacks due to her status as the first Black actress to play the title role in Annie. Despite the attacks, Willis has walked the red carpet with style, a great smile and puppy purses. Willis is also the face for Armani Junior and we can't wait to see what utter awesomeness she gives us in 2015.
Ava DuVernay is a queen of many trades: she writes, directs, produces and distributes independent films. With only three films under her belt, DuVernay has proven that she is a force to be reckoned with. This year DuVernay directed Selma, a "biopic" that explores the civil rights marches of 1965 and Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s role in them. DuVernay has become the first Black woman to be nominated for a Golden Globe in the best director category for her direction of Selma. With predecessors in this category such as Spike Lee and Steve McQueen, DuVernay is sharing this honor with historic greats. We're crossing our fingers and hoping that as the only Black woman to ever be nominated for this honor, DuVernay will become the first Black woman to win it. Not allowing her films to be the only platform for social commentary, the cast of Selma wore "I Can't Breathe" tee shirts at the New York premiere. Posing with their hands up--a sign that has become synonymous with the movement against police brutality, the cast reminds us that we do not live in a post-racial society. Selma will be out nationwide on January 9th, 2015.
This electric lady continues to shock us (see what I did there?) with her charm and talent. Monae displayed her utter humility and candidness on the Queen Latifah show when a young girl decided to dress as her for Halloween. Monae is moved to tears and assures the girl that she can be bigger than her. She goes on to emote, "I'm just so thankful...the fact that you see something in me, I hope you see God in me. I hope you see love...". Her influence comes in her authenticity. Monae continues to give us funky songs to listen to while also inspiring young Black women everywhere and reminding us how much potential we have. Her influence is a positive one and we hope her relevance continues to attract the masses.
Her continuous passion for social justice makes Rhimes not only an intelligent creative, but an influential individual in different realms of society. Rhimes is sure to defend herself and others via her Twitter page and is unapologetic about her stance. Having been called an "angry Black woman"
this last year and having been accused of having too many "gay scenes" in her new hit show How to get Away with Murder, Rhimes uses social media to let the naysayers know how many seats they can take...in the back of the room. We are looking forward to finding out whether or not she will be returning our edges in 2015. Seriously, what happens when Papa Pope is no longer around to protect Olivia and her white hat?
Kara Walker added to our spring and summer activity list by creating and exhibiting a 35-foot high sculpture made of sugar titling it:A Subtlety
. Audiences from around the city made their way to Williamsburg, Brooklyn and waited in line to view the sphinx like sculpture. Most surprising about this exhibit was the complete portrayal of its lady parts (read: breast, nipples and vagina). The "beautiful, brazen and disturbing
" exhibit exposes the truths of the sugar trade while also portraying the woman with exaggerated African features: a handkerchief similar to Aunt Jemima's and hoop earrings. The sculpture exists in both a subservient and domineering position. Visiting the structure was enough to create lengthy conversation for the remainder of 2014. Discussions of sexism, slavery and stereotypes were all covered in the span of a few minutes visit and did not end there. Continuing in her genius, Walker had all guests secretly video taped thus revealing what has become of the human condition. Her 28 minute video titled An Audience
"affirms accounts of egregious selfie activity" (Huffington Post). Walker's video captures exactly how audiences react to a large vagina which has the capacity to deter from the overall racial political statement of the exhibit or portray exactly what the exhibit meant to do: examine racial politics and the reaction to the Black female body. Walker's work has always explored race, sexuality and identity. We hope she continues to push the metaphorical envelope in 2015. If not, we will always have memories of her work in 2014.
Despite my "Lucky 7" list, there are so many more Black women whose work we are looking forward to supporting in the new year. Jessica Byrd of Emily's List is working to make certain that Black women have a place in the political arena, actress Gabrielle Union opened herself up in 2014 and admitted to her mean girl tendencies and is now a producer of the upcoming movie titled With This Ring and Ryan "Randi Gloss" Arrendell has created politically aware and socially relevant designs with her line of gloss rags tee shirts. So there you have it, I cheated, nine women whose work we look forward to supporting in 2015. Continue to look at the legacy these women create in 2015; I can't wait to see what greatness they continue to exemplify.
Ruth Jean-Marie is a recent graduate of New York University where she received her Master’s of Science degree in Global Affairs with a concentration in human rights and international law. Dedicating her life to the alleviation of misery around the world, her greatest goal is to become a superhero. Her interests include fashion, equality for women and Black people--that real equality, not the surface level stuff, traveling around the world and writing. She's excited about life and intends on living it. She also has a mild obsession with shoes, shopping and sharing her opinion. You'll hear all about it. Catch up with Ruth, honoring Black History, past, present and future at @toharrietwithlove