UPDATED: 6:00 a.m. ET, Feb. 1, 2021:
One of the great things about Black history is that it continues to be made on a daily basis by the average person in ways that are not immediately apparent. But it is also being made by some of the most prominent African Americans who have shared their talents, gifts and generosity with the masses in order to make the world, and country, a better place.
In no order, below are five examples of prominent African Americans who are making Black history by continuously breaking barriers that were put in place by restrictive and discriminatory laws and policies decidedly meant to advance non-Black folks.
Making Black history is all but synonymous with Kamala Harris’ career, which continued in momentous fashion just a few weeks ago when she became the first Black woman to be sworn-in as United States Vice President. While Harris stands on the shoulders of the many, many Black women political pioneers who came before her — people who she paid tribute to during her speech accepting the Democratic nomination to be Joe Biden’s running mate — she has used that momentum to confront persistent racial inequities and barriers that she smashed through to put herself in a position to possibly become the first Black President of the United States.
This young woman who also happens to be the most decorated gymnast to ever live just can’t stop winning. On top of that, she has been excelling in a sport that is typically associated with white people. Fresh off of being selected as the 2019 Team USA Olympic Female Athlete of the Year, Biles has said she wants to use her platform in sports to inspire and empower women and girls to be unapologetic about their greatness.
“It’s important to teach our female youth that it’s OK to say, ‘Yes, I am good at this,’ and you don’t hold back,” she said in an interview with USA Today. “You only see the men doing it. And they’re praised for it and the women are looked down upon for it. But I feel like it’s good to do because once you realize you’re confident and good at it, then you’re even better at what you do.”
With one fell swoop, this ultra-wealthy and successful philanthropist, chemical engineer and investment banker eliminated the student loan debt for the entire 2019 graduating class of Morehouse College and vowed to pay off the student loan debt for their parents, as well. It was one amazing gesture that likely (hopefully?) will challenge other people in situations similar to his to do the same, seeing as studies have shown that the disparity in student loan debt lopsidedly adversely affects Black students more than anyone else.
The rapper-turned “business, man,” might be getting some negative press for teaming up with the same NFL that is accused of blacklisting a certain quarterback for protesting police violence against Black people, but a closer look at his moves as of late reveal there is a genius method to his madness. Never mind the fact that he’s a newly crowned billionaire, he and his Roc Nation management company have already established itself outside of entertainment as a bastion of civil rights.
The award-winning filmmaker and TV producer seems to have her hands in just about every pot in the entertainment industry, a business sector that has typically relegated Black talent to being in front of the camera, not behind it. Her efforts have allowed more diverse stories to be told and has contributed to breaking down racial barriers as Hollywood slowly begins to follow in her footsteps.