With everything already going on with the Coronavirus pandemic, it was very evident that things had gone left for 2020. This was then furthered by the inhumane murder of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and the numerous other black individuals. Enough was enough and the ripple effect was felt globally. There were Black Lives Matter peaceful protests across the world and whilst it should never have even needed to happen, it was a milestone to see black lives and black equality finally being given the time of day.
Black History Month
With October being Black History Month, the team here at GottaBe have come together to share some of our heroes from the black communities. Make it known that there have been so many individuals worthy of mention, including actors Viola Davis for not only being one of the finest actors in Hollywood, but also speaking openly about the pay gaps between black and white actors; and the late Chadwick Boseman for his incredible body of work and for being a shining example of a superhero and an inspiration to many black youths with his portrayal of Marvel’s Black Panther.
Nicknamed as ‘The Greatest’, the late Muhammed Ali is one of the most famed boxers of all time. Not only was he a gold medal Olympian at the age of 18, but was also highly vocal and active in the civil rights movement, voicing support of racial integration. A leading heavyweight champion of the 20th century, Muhammed Ali remains the only three-time lineal champion of that division, despite his passing in 2016.
American activist, Rosa Parks, is best known perhaps for her pivotal role in the Montgomery bus boycott. Her legacy has led to her being considered as “the First Lady of Civil Rights” and “the Mother of the Freedom Movement”. Following her famous defiance, Parks went on to collaborate with many civil rights leaders, including Martin Luther King.
The late Nelson Mandela is quite possibly one of the most prominent black figures in history. An anti-apartheid revolutionary, political leader, philanthropist, Mandela served as the President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999. He was the country’s first black head of start and the first to be elected in a fully representative democratic election. Nelson Mandela has spent his life dedicated to social justice and democracy, facing imprisonment for his efforts. Following his presidency, Mandela spent his time as an elder statesman, working on the Nelson Mandela Foundation, working to end HIV/AIDS. His work earned him over 250 honours, including the Nobel Peace Prize.
We highly doubt that anyone living in 2020 has not heard of Barack Obama. An American politician and attorney, Obama served as the 44th President of the United States of America. Barack Obama’s presidency was a key moment in the country’s history as it marked the first time the United States had a black president. During his two-terms in office, Obama signed many landmark bills, including the Affordable Care Act – also known as Obamacare – the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act of 2010 and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Barack Obama legalised same-sex marriage, campaigned for gun control and ordered for the military operations that resulted in the deaths of Osama Bin Laden and – suspected Yemeni Al-Qaeda operative – Anwar al-Awlaki.
Dubbed the “Queen of All Media”, Oprah Winfrey is an American talk-show host, television producer, author, actress, businesswoman and philanthropist. Having survived sexual assault as a child and teenager, Winfrey moved to Tennessee to live with her father and landed herself a job at a local radio station. Having worked her way up, Oprah debuted the The Oprah Winfrey Show. This ran for 25 years and became the highest-rated show of its kind. She has founded and still heads up her production company Harpo Productions, in addition to the Oprah Winfrey Network. In addition to her work in television and production, Winfrey has been an actress and has worked tirelessly to empower and enrich the lives of young girls in Africa. Oprah’s empire and unrivalled work ethic has resulted in Forbes declaring her the first black American multi-billionaire. Her kindness knows no bounds and her work has seen her win many accolades, including 18 Daytime Emmy Awards – including the Lifetime Achievement Award and the Chairman’s Award – 2 Primetime Emmy Awards – including the Bob Hope Humanitarian Award – a Tony Award, a Peabody Award and the Academy Awards’ Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award.
A renowned political, social and environmental activist, Wangarĩ Maathai was a remarkable woman. The first African woman to win the Nobel Prize and the first woman in East and Central Africa to become a Doctor of Philosophy, receiving her Ph.D. from the University of Nairobi, in Kenya. Maathai founded the Green Belt Movement; a non-governmental organisation dedicated to the planting of trees, environmental conservation and women’s rights. Wangarĩ Maathai was later elected a member of Parliament and served as assistant minister for Environment and Natural resources. She was also an Honorary Councillor of the World Future Council.
Stylist and former model, Edward Enninful is the current editor-in-chief of British Vogue. Not only does he currently preside over the fashion bible, but he is also the first black and first male editor-in-chief of the title. Having worked as a Fashion Director, Contributing Editor and a consultant for titles and brands such as i-D, Italian and American Vogue, W, Calvin Klein, Christian Dior, Celine, Mulberry and Fendi, Edward Enninful is one of the fashion industry’s most formidable forces. Having been awarded an OBE for his contribution to the fashion industry, Enninful continues to challenge and inspire with his visual storytelling and his direction of British Vogue.
American professional tennis player and former World Number 1, Serena Williams is one of the best athletes in sporting history. Winning 23 Grand Slam singles titles, Williams holds the most for any player in the Open Era, and holds the second most of all time, behind Margaret Court. Serena Williams has been ranked the world Number 1 on eight separate occasions between 2002 and 2017 by the Women’s Tennis Association. Williams has firmly cemented herself amongst the greatest of players in tennis and has been a shining example of hard-work, determination and graft. Serena Williams has been very vocal and active in the activism of female and black empowerment and equality.
Martin Luther King Jr
Christian minister and activist, Martin Luther King Jr, is one of the most visible spokesperson on civil rights and in fact was the most visible, until his assassination in 1968. Best known for advancing civil rights through nonviolence, King was inspired to take this approach by his Christian beliefs and the activism practices of Mahatma Gandhi. The first president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), King led and organised a series of protests, marches and struggles; the 1963 March on Washington being arguably his most famous due to the delivery of the “I Have a Dream” speech. In 1964, Martin Luther King Jr. won the Nobel Peace Prize for his combating of racial inequality through nonviolent practices. Beyond racism, King also tackled poverty, capitalism and the Vietnam War.
American attorney and author, Michelle Obama is adored on a global platform. The first black First Lady of the United States of America, Obama shone whilst in the White House, inspiring countless individuals. An advocate for poverty awareness, education, healthy eating, nutrition and physical health, Michelle Obama has served as an inspiration to generations of women and continues to do so with her new podcast ‘The Michelle Obama Podcast’.
American-born, French entertainer, Josephine Baker dazzled the world with her performances before expanding this to include being a French Resistance agent, a freemason and a civil rights activist. Baker was the first black women to start in a major motion picture – the 1927 silent film, Siren of the Tropics. A renowned dancer, Josephine Baker centred her career in Europe, more specifically France. Her iconic banana skirt and necklace look is highly synonymous with the Jazz Age and the 1920’s. Following her contributions to the civil rights movement, she was offered unofficial leadership of the movement by Martin Luther King Jr’s wife following his assassination. She declined as she had concerns for her children’s welfare. Baker is also widely regarded as an LGBT+ icon due to being openly bisexual despite the times.
Image copyright of West Sussex County Council