Shirley Chrisholm was the first Black woman to be elected to Congress in 1968, she was also an author and educator. Chisholm was also the first woman to seek nomination for the Presidency. During her seven terms serving as a congresswoman, she was a staunch advocate for both women’s rights and minorities. While in Congress, “introduced more than 50 pieces of legislation and championed racial and gender equality, the plight of the poor, and ending the Vietnam War.” After her retirement from Congress, Chisholm continued her work as an educator at Mount Holyoke College.
Sidney Poitier is an American-Bahamian actor known for “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner”, “The Defiant Ones”, and “In the Heat of the Night” among numerous other titles. In 1964, Poitier became the first Black man to win the Academy Award for Best Actor. He is now the oldest living recipient of that award.
Along with his monumental Academy Award win, Poitier has a number of other awards and nominations. He has received awards from: the San Sebastian International Film Festival, NAACP Image Awards, Grammy, Berlin International Film Festival, African-American Film Critics Association, BAFTA, and Golden Globes. Along with his numerous awards, Poitier has countless other nominations in these and other categories. In 1994, Poitier received his very own star in the Walk of Fame in Hollywood.
Dr. Maya Angelou was a beloved poet, author, and activist. Many know Angelou from her widely distributed novel, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, a memoir of her childhood filled with as much pain as there was joy. Her debut novel made history as the first nonfiction bestseller by a Black woman. Angelou has 35 other published works, all as moving as her debut novel.
Angelou hoped that telling her stories would inspire generations of Black Americans to find their voice and fight for equality. She used her fame after her debut novel to execute the change she hoped to see in the world. Angelou also developed friendships with prominent activists Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. and in 2008 campaigned for Barack Obama. Angelou was an activist and an artist right up until her death in 2014.
Bessie Coleman was both the first Black and first Native woman to earn her pilot’s license. Her story to success is truly inspiring. Coleman was teased mercilessly by her older brothers, with whom she lived in Chicago, because, during their time in France in World War I, they discovered women could train to be pilots. This lit a fire in Coleman to achieve what seemed to be out of reach and she started applying to as many flight schools as she could, all of them rejecting her. In order to make her dream reality, Coleman started taking night courses in French and prepared to move to France to get her pilot’s education. She was successful and received her license in 1921.
Coleman soon became known for her air tricks and traveled the United States and Europe giving shows and lessons. In 1926, Coleman’s career was cut short due to an unfortunate accident. She took a test flight with William Wills when he lost control of the plane. Coleman was not wearing a seatbelt and at the time planes did not have coverings on the top, which lead her to fall out of the plane to her death.
Sojourner Truth was an American abolitionist and women’s rights activist. Truth was born into slavery in 1797 in New York. Truth was sold four times and underwent harsh physical labor and punishments before she was able to escape with her infant daughter in 1826. In 1828, Truth went to court to recover her son and became the first Black woman to win in court against a white man.
By the 1830s, Truth had started participating in religious revivals and became a public speaker. Truth began to give speeches about the evils of slavery, beginning her role in the abolistionist movement. In 1851, Truth began giving lectures involving women’s rights, including her famous “Ain’t I a Woman” speech, using her public platform for advocacy and equality.
Kobe Bryant is well known worldwide for his amazing career with the NBA, establishing himself as one of the greatest basketball players of all time. During his career with the Lakers, Bryant secured five NBA titles and surpassed Michael Jordan for third place in the NBA all-time scoring list.
Bryant was so much more than an NBA all star, he was also a philanthropist, Academy Award winner, and husband/father. Bryant partnered with After-School All-Starts and ran the Kobe Basketball Academy summer camp.
People all over the world mourned the tragic loss of Bryant and his daughter Gianna on January 26, 2020. Both lost their lives in a helicopter crash in Calabasas.
Chadwick Boseman is probably best known for his role in Marvel’s Black Panther. Boseman was also very prominent in the theatre community as both an actor and playwright. He performed in a number of stage productions and won an AUDELCO award for his performance in Urban Transitions: Loose Blossoms. Boseman also had a number of roles in Hollywood productions including: Avengers: Infinity War, Avengers: End Game, 42, and Get on Up. In addition to his notable stage and film career is his career in television. You can find Boseman in a number of television series including: Third Watch, CSI: NY, All My Children, Lincoln Heights, ER, Lie to Me, The Glades, and Cold Case.
The world was shocked when news of Boseman’s death broke. Boseman died from colon cancer on August 28, 2020 leaving behind an incredible legacy in film, television, and stage.
Barack Obama is the first Black man to be elected as President of the United States. Obama served as the 44th President from 2009-2017.
Before Obama became president, he was just a kid living in Hawaii. Obama attended Columbia University and Harvard Law School after which he served in the Illinois State Senate. He was involved with politics from an early age and continued to be involved as he aged. In 2004, Obama was selected to represent Illinois as a US senator.
Obama served his time as president with grace, diplomacy, and a hunger for equality. He has paved the way for change in the presidency and has opened the door for future men and women of color to pursue their dreams.
Wanda James is the first Black woman to own a dispensary in Colorado and so much more. James has been widely recognized as a cannabis advocate and has featured on a number of television shows. As a part of her advocacy, James became a managing partner with the Cannabis Global Initiative (CBI). Her efforts with CBI are geared toward eradicating the stigma and legalization.
James believes that the root of erasing the stigma lies in the hand of cannabis users. She’s unapologetic about her relationship with and use of cannabis and encourages others to be as well.
Whoopi Goldberg doesn’t really need an introduction because who doesn’t know this loveable woman? Just in case you’ve been living under a rock, Goldberg is an American actor, television personality, comedian, and author. Over her extensive career, Goldberg has amassed a number of impressive accolades including: an Emmy, a Grammy, a Tony, and an Academy award. She is one of sixteen people who has earned all of these awards in their career.
Goldberg is also known for her various humanitarian efforts. She involves herself in a number of efforts including: helping children and the poor, human rights and education, substance abuse, AIDS, and other charitable causes.
Outside of her long standing career in film and television as well as her humanitarian efforts, Goldberg is also an advocate for cannabis. She has never shied away from talking about her use and, in 2016, she founded “Whoopi and Maya” in an effort to bring medical cannabis to women aimed specifically at helping them with menstrual issues.