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Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass Signs Affordable Housing Directive

Source: Mario Tama / Getty

Having a seat at the table is one of the most important catalysts for change. One must be represented in order to be heard. 

MORE: Karen Bass Launches New Housing Program To Help Tackle Homelessness In Los Angeles

In 2022, Black people all over the country broke down barriers to become Black firsts.

Black firsts are Black people who break down barriers in their specific fields to become the first Black person to ever achieve their relative goal. 

Representation not only allows leaders who look like you to have a voice in the decisions that affect your life, but it also inspires a new generation to strive for goals they haven’t seen achieved in their communities. 

MORE: Black Marine Sciences Scholar Aliyah Griffith Makes History At The University Of North Carolina

“There is a lot of work to be done to make sure our leaders reflect the people they are supposed to represent,” said Kamala Harris when speaking about representation. “The more diverse a group of decision-makers is, the more informed the decision will be. Until we achieve full representation, we all should understand we are falling short of the ideals of our country.”

One of the most recent Black firsts was Karen Bass. In December, Bass was sworn in as Los Angeles’ 43rd mayor by Vice President Kamala Harris, making her the first Black woman to ever serve in that role. Bass is also the first woman to ever be elected mayor of Los Angeles. 

Since Bass has been in office she has already begun to tackle L.A.’s homelessness crisis. She recently announced plans to move the city’s homeless from tent encampments into hotels and motels through a new housing program that has already been launched. 

“My emergency declaration will recognize the severity of our crisis and break new ground to maximize our ability to urgently move people inside, and to do so for good,” Bass said.

Although her task is daunting, Bass hopes to house over 17,000 homeless people in her first year.

Her passion for homelessness advocacy extends back to her early days with the Community Coalition. The former social worker helped push for converting motels into housing for the homeless in the 1990s

But Bass isn’t the only Black first in 2022 who is trying to make a lasting change in their community and nationwide. 

Check out NewsOne’s exclusive list of notable Black firsts in 2022.

MORE: Texas Town’s First Black Woman Police Chief Grew Up ‘Terrified’ Of Cops

1. Mellody Hobson – NFL

 Mellody Hobson, President of Ariel Investments, and Starbucks chairwoman is the first Black woman to have equity in the NFL. She gained the title due to her stake in The Walton-Penner ownership group that’s spearheading the Broncos deal. Walton mentions Hobson specifically in the official press statement, speaking of being “excited” to have her as an addition to the team. “Beyond her role at Ariel, Mellody is an influential leader in corporate and civic organizations across the nation,” this announcement reads, going on to add, “Mellody currently serves as Chair of the Board of Starbucks Corporation and is also a director of JPMorgan Chase. We know she will bring her strategic acumen and leadership perspective to our team.” The percentage amounts and actual level of ownership are still under wraps, but we could only imagine that any portion pays out nicely when a handful of billions are concerned.

Hobson’s new position puts her in a place to open the door for more Black ownership opportunities in the future, in addition to giving a strong example that football isn’t just a boys club.

2. Mike Grier – NHL

A decade after retiring from the NHL following 14 great seasons on the ice, Black hockey hero Mike Grier became the first Black GM in the National Hockey League’s history.

It’s worth noting that Grier already made Black history during his time playing as the first African-American player in NHL history to exclusively train in the U.S. He joins the GM ranks with his brother, Chris Grier, who’s been General Manager for the NFL’s Miami Dolphins since 2016.

 

3. Quatecia Wilson – Little Rock Fire Department

Quatecia Wilson is making history in Little Rock, Arkansas.

On Dec. 21, the decorated engineer and community leader was honored with a historic ceremony where she was promoted to captain of the Little Rock Fire Department. Wilson has become the first Black woman in the department’s history to be promoted to the coveted rank, according to the Ark Times.

4. Arika Carr – Arcola Police Department

Officer Arika Carr is making history in Arcola, Texas. The decorated cop has now become the first Black woman to serve as chief of the Arcola Police Department. In September, Carr was sworn in after the city council unanimously voted to appoint her to her new position as chief. Now, the history maker will oversee all of Fort Bend County under the big role.

The mother of five landed her first job as an officer in 2010 with the Meadows Place Police Department. Seven years later, Carr joined the Arcola Police Department. Carr’s historic appointment comes as the Arcola Police Department fights to regain its reputation following a series of scandals.

 

5. Aliyah Griffith – University Of North Carolina

Aliyah Griffith recently became the first Black student to earn a graduate degree in marine sciences from the University of North Carolina, the Daily Tar Heel reported.

The scholar developed an interest in aquatics as a youngster following a trip to Sea World at the age of five.

Throughout her childhood, she visited marine parks and aquariums. After connecting with a dolphin trainer at the Baltimore Aquarium, she decided she wanted to pursue a career in marine biology.

Staying true to her passion, Griffith went on to study marine sciences at Hampton University. After earning her undergraduate degree, she advanced her education at UNC, becoming the first Black student to be accepted into the school’s marine sciences program, which has been in existence for 50 years.

6. Claudine Gay – Harvard University

Claudine Gay named 30th president of Harvard University, will be schools first Black leader Source:Getty

On Dec. 15, Harvard University announced that Dr. Claudine Gay will serve as the Ivy League institution’s 30th president, making her the first Black person to hold the position. She is also just the second woman ever to be appointed to the role.  

Dr. Claudine Gay began working at the university in 2006 as a government professor and became an educator of African and African American Studies the following year.

The university appointed her as a Wilbur A. Cowett Professor of Government in 2015 and she served as Dean of Social Science from then until 2018.

Gay’s also closely worked with Harvard’s outgoing president, Lawrence S. Bacow, for the past five years.

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