Top, l-r: Dr Stella Ameyo Adadevoh, Ava DuVernay, Sara Myers, Shonda Rhimes and Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock MBE
Bottom: Azaelia Banks, Bola Agbaje and Destiny Eghara, Melanie Eusebe, Karen Blackett MBE and Margaret Casely-Hayford
2014 – the year that was, showed us some brilliant ways that women of colour can protect, change, disrupt and create this world to make it better for all. Their efforts have helped us all feel more safer, exposed to another narrative alternative to the mainstream and ultimately, they did it on their terms.
Last year also showed us celebrities trying to ‘break the internet’ to maintain their relevance, thousands of people worldwide throwing ice cold water on themselves for charity and on a more moral tip, our collective social conscious, being re-awakened, to demand for imbalances to be levelled. 2014 was a ride and 2015 is looking like it will pose some hard and clear questions to us all on what we want as a society, how we want all communities treated and what we will no longer stand for. It will, at the very least, be interesting.
So how did women of colour fare in 2014, lets take a look:
In the world of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics):
Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock the most positively infectious and empowering science brain Black female Britain has produced. Since February 2014 she took over hosting the legendary BBC programme ‘The Sky At Night‘ after Patrick Moore who hosted the show for 56 years! Dr Maggie really does embody the hashtag #BlackGirlsAreFromTheFuture.
Melanie Eusebe, former Ernst & Young management consultant founded and launched the first Black British Business Awards in October. Highlighting the economic impact and influence Black British people have had on the economy that often gets ignored. Margaret Casely-Hayford a British legal legend walked away with the Black British Business Person of the Year at the awards a month after she retired from her role as head of legal and company secretary for the John Lewis group. Margaret is now Chairman of Action Aid UK. In November, Karen Blackett OBE, CEO of MediaCom topped the Powerlist which details Black British leaders in all parts of society.
Heroic Dr Stella Ameyo Adadevoh, who paid the ultimate price with her life by saving others from Ebola. Dr Adadevoh was the Nigerian doctor who oversaw the treatment of Liberian, Patrick Sawyer who brought the Ebola virus to Nigeria. She was infected by him and tragically died in August. Without her dedication, expertise and selflessness, Nigeria could not have become ‘Ebola-free’ in the time it did. Her actions and life need to be celebrated and revered.
In societal change:
Birmingham based Sara Myers created the petition to get the controversial art work; ‘Exhibit B’ withdrawn from the Barbican. She was able to get just under 23,000 people from all walks of life,to sign the petition for the art work to be withdrawn. Leading an impassioned campaign, she helped to highlight the missing ownership that people of colour want over their history and imagery she raised important questions around diversity in the arts and who are the decision makers and who gets access.
Across the pond, Umaara Elliott and Synead Nichols, two young women brought 50,000 people to the streets of New York for the ‘Millions March‘ to protest against police brutality across the US. The struggle continues but it was inspiring to see people, particularly the young, from diverse backgrounds, show their solidarity and desire for equality, for all sections of society.
It’s amazing what these three women have accomplished in 2014 with just the willpower of their gut instinct and sense of what’s right for humanity and passion.
In popular culture:
Azaelia Banks. You need a full stop after that name because the point has been made! This young woman gave an emotional interview to Hot 97 in December, highlighting the very harsh realities of the music industry, how racism, sexism and ignorance alters what we rate the best as music consumers and much more. Although her delivery is somewhat controversial and can easily offend, I’m yet to find one of her statements about the industry untrue. The truth can often be brutal but at the same time cleansing. It is easy to vilify it, as it contradicts everything you thought of the world, the people you idolised and ultimately yourself. Seeing a woman of colour be so vulnerable, passionate and articulate about her experience in this world on a public platform was refreshing. More please!
Solange Knowles-Ferguson simply for having the coolest wedding ever (pictured above)! Solange and Alan showed us the true meaning of an alternative wedding – tastefully done and full of love, friends and family, the right ingredients for the perfect day. We can’t believe its the same girl who was filmed beating Jay-Z in a lift a few months before! We heart Solange and all her quirky Blackness. We love that she expands exactly what it means and looks like for a woman of colour to understand her place in the world.
Film and TV:
Lupita Nyong’o (pictured below), Oscar winner, style icon, bright colour wearer, short afro innovator, classical beauty reinvented. Oh, and she’s got a brain! She uses it for good and to boot is a brilliant actress.
Bola Agbaje and Destiny Eghara – both responsible for turning Agbaje’s Laurence Olivier award-winning first play, into a film that was released nationwide in October – ‘Gone Too Far‘. It was refreshing to see the British African experience on screen, particularly on the streets of Peckham!
Women of colour directors showed us 2014 was warm-up time! Brit Amma Asante with period true story, ‘Belle’, Ava DuVernay with Martin Luther King biopic, ‘Selma’ and Gina Price-Bythewood with ‘Beyond the Lights’. Getting our stories out there on our terms is the order of the day and it’s here to stay thanks to these talented bunch.
Charlene White, ITV news presenter became the first Black woman to co-host the News At Ten. It took us until 2014, but we did it and Charlene was the one to blaze that trail also a former panellist on the first ImP convo.
Shonda Rhimes – the living embodiment of a trailblazer. Crushing stereotypes, presenting the fullness and vulnerability of Black femalehood and entertaining us, all at the same damn time! In 2014, US TV network, ABC programmed its entire Thursday primetime lineup with ShondaLand dramas ‘Grey’s Anatomy’, ‘Scandal’ and ‘How To Get Away With Murder’, then branded the night as “Thank God It’s Thursday”! We say: “Thank God for Shonda”!
We’re a pretty wonderful bunch of women. That’s amazing, roll on 2015!