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20 Black Women Worth Celebrating

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Happy International Women’s Day. As the years roll by, we continue to celebrate the progress made by women against all odds and the shattered glass ceiling left behind as we continue to march towards the mark. Across the world, today marks another 8th of March, set aside to acknowledge the achievements of women, celebrate the power of femininity, and also continue to press for equality.

and change on the many challenges we still face..

The campaign theme of International Women’s Day (IWD) 2022 is “Break the bias.” This envisages a society where women not only crawl or walk, but take flight to heights unimagined. With perseverance, doggedness and vision, women across the globe continue to apply pressure, layering more hard work atop of the success and impactful voices of the women who came before them. And while we might have not ticked all the boxes of equality and equity yet, it is a positive move to acknowledge that we are far from where we journeyed from, and the vagueness which seemingly covered the future seems clearer with every stride.

The vision remains that of a world that functions effectively without the bias of gender inequality and discrimination. As though the pain of gender inequality wasn’t bad enough, for Black women across the world, the bias is often two-fold: gender-based and racially motivated. Still Black women continue to stand on the forefront of the battle for change, justice and equality, advocating not just for ourselves but for all.

In honor of this year’s International Women’s Day, we’re celebrating some of the most inspiring Black women for their work in activism, sports, technology, entertainment, science, culture and many other fields. These women have proven countless times that being impactful and beneficial to society isn’t particularly gender-based. These are Black women paving the way against all odds, overcoming racial and gender-based discrimination, and putting an end to a long-standing chauvinistic past while carving a more inclusive future.

Here are 22 of the most inspiring Black women as we celebrate International Women’s Day 2022…

#1. Allyson Felix

Photo: @allysonfelix | Instagram

Why she’s famous: Track and Field Athlete, Olympian

Why she inspires: Not only does Felix hold the record for most gold ever won at the track and field world championships (13), but last year at the Tokyo Olympics she continued to impress. She earned a gold in the 4×400-meter relay, marking her 11 medal and becoming the most decorated US runner in history. She accomplished this feat, which happened to be her fastest record in six years, two years after birthing her daughter, Camryn.

#2Angelique Kidjo

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Photo: @angeliquekidjo | Instagram

Why She’s famous: Singer, Advocate

Why she inspires: A powerful singer and tireless performer, Angelique Kidjo has been one of the most successful performers to emerge on world music stages since the 1990s and 2000s. Her 30-year career has earned her several awards including multiple Grammy Awards. Also known for her advocacy, Kidjo has served as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, campaigned for OXFAM, and created the Batonga Foundation, which provides secondary school and higher education to girls in Benin and other West African nations.

#3. Ava DuVernay

Photo: @ava | Instagram

Why she’s famous: Writer, Director, Producer

Why she inspires: She was the first African American woman to win Best Director at the Sundance Film Festival, be nominated for a Best Director Golden Globe, direct a film nominated for a Best Picture Oscar, and direct a film with a budget over $100 million. Her work has made her the highest grossing Black woman director in American box office history. Her project, When They See Us, was nominated for 16 Emmy awards, making her the first African American women in Primetime Emmy history to receive multiple nominations in their careers for directing.

#4. Beyoncé

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Photo: @beyonce | Instagram

Why she’s famous: Singer, Actress, Producer, Director

Why she inspires: Beyoncé Knowles-Carter is one of the most celebrated stars in the world. As Beyoncé’s career evolved over the course of three decades, the Texas-born artist has topped the charts with countless hits, such as Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It), Savage (Remix) and Formation. She’s won 28 Grammys, dabbled in acting, producing, and directing, and launched an activewear collection, Ivy Park. She was also the first Black woman to headline Coachella and got the event for that year named after her.

#5. Bozoma St John

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Photo: @badassboz | Instagram

Why she’s famous: Businessperson and Marketing Executive

Why she inspires: Ghanaian-American woman, Bozoma St John is a highly decorated professional in the marketing industry. In 2015, she was named one of Billboard‘s Top Women in Music, and the following year, she was named the Female Executive of the Year by the outlet. She was part of Forbes “40 Under 40” list in 2016, and has been named one of Ebony’s “100 Most Powerful Executives.” In 2020, she became the Chief Marketing Officer of Netflix Inc., one of the most coveted positions in Silicon Valley.

#6. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

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Photo: @chimamanda_adichie | Instagram

Why she’s famous: Writer, Author

Why she inspires: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a Nigerian-born writer who is best known for her published works that have garnered both public and critical acclaim. From her writing career to her personal life, Chimamanda has stood out as an inspiration to both the younger generation of girls and the younger generation of African writers keen on telling the world their story through the voice of fiction. Adichie has been awarded multiple honorary degrees including Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa degrees from Johns Hopkins University and Haverford College.

#7. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

Photo: @essence | Instagram

Why she’s famous: Politician

Why she inspires: Internationally known as “Africa’s Iron Lady,” Nobel Laureate Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is a leading promoter of freedom, peace, justice, women’s empowerment and democratic rule. As Africa’s first democratically-elected female head of state, she led Liberia through reconciliation and recovery following the nation’s decade-long civil war, as well as the Ebola Crisis, winning international acclaim for achieving economic, social, and political change. Recognized as a global leader for women’s empowerment, President Sirleaf was awarded the prestigious Nobel Prize for Peace in 2011. She is the recipient of The Presidential Medal of Freedom—the United States’ highest civilian award—for her personal courage and unwavering commitment to expanding freedom and improving the lives of Africans.

#8. Halle Berry

Photo: @halleberry | Instagram

Why she’s famous: Actress, Entrepreneur

Why she inspires: Halle Berry is the first African American to win the Academy Award for best actress. She received the honor for her nuanced portrayal of Leticia Musgrove in Monster’s Ball in 2002. She has also won several Emmy and Golden Globe awards. Halle has also gone to star in roles that have been referred to as pop culture moments including Storm in X-Men and the titular character in Catwoman.

#9. Kamala Harris

Photo: @kamalaharris | Instagram

Why she’s famous: Vice President of the United States of America

Why she inspires: Kamala Harris has made history as the first woman and first woman of color to serve as the Vice President of the United States. But, as a former California attorney general and U.S. Senator, Harris also broke barriers throughout her career. In November 2010, Harris became the first woman and the first black and South Asian American Attorney General of California, narrowly beating Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley in the race. In 2016, Harris became the first South Asian American to enter the U.S. Senate.

#10. Kizzmekia Corbett

Photo: @kizzyphd | Instagram

Why she’s famous: Viral Immunologist

Why she inspires: Dr. Kizzmekia S. Corbett is a research fellow and the scientific lead for the Coronavirus Vaccines & Immunopathogenesis Team at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Vaccine Research Center (VRC). Corbett served as the scientific lead of the Vaccine Research Center’s coronavirus team in the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. There, she developed new mRNA technology used by Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine and others, playing a pivotal role in the global fight against the virus.

#11. Michelle Obama

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Photo: @michelleobama | Instagram

Why she’s famous: Former First Lady of the US, Author, Lawyer

Why she inspires: Michelle Obama is an American attorney and author who served as the first lady of the United States from 2009 to 2017. She was the first African-American woman to serve in this position. She is the wife of former President Barack Obama. Through her four main initiatives (Let’s Move!, Joining Forces, Reach Higher and Let Girls Learn), she has become a role model for women and an advocate for healthy families, service members and their families, higher education, and international adolescent girls education.

#12. Mo Abudu

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Why she’s famous: Nigerian media mogul Mosunmola Abudu became popular through her TV talk show; “Moments With Mo” and is arguably the first woman in Africa to own a pan-African entertainment TV channel called EbonyLife TV worth over two billion Naira. 

Why she inspires: Despite the predominantly patriarchal African society, Mo Abudu has created her own lane as a strong African woman, and is constantly putting the African film-making industry on the global scene with blockbuster movies. Through her Inspire Africa Foundation in partnership with Moreno Construction, The Harbour, Abudu has created shelter for homeless children in Nigeria. She creates job and training opportunities for upcoming creatives in the industry.

#13. Naomi Campbell

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Photo: Naomi Campbell / Instagram

Why she’s famous: Naomi Campbell is a trail blazing Black super model and fashion icon whose modeling career has remained rock solid for over three decades. She was the first Black model to be featured in British Vogue magazine in 1988.

Why she inspires: Campbell’s career has had a positive ripple effect on younger female models. She opened doors in the fashion industry for women of color (Black women especially). She is also known for her active philanthropy works with Nelson Mandela and others. In 2005, Campbell founded the charity Fashion for Relief, a charity organization that addresses global issues, creates awareness and proffers solutions through innovative fashion projects.

#14. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

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Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala | Photo:wto.org

Why she’s famous: Former Nigerian Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is the first woman and African to head the World Trade Organisation (WTO) as the seventh director-general.

Why she inspires: Okonjo-Iweala is continually involved in numerous game-changing projects, from environmental sustainability advocacy to human welfare projects like fundraising for COVID-19 affected nations. In 2010, serving as managing director of the World Bank, she championed various fundraising projects for low-income countries, raising about $50bn.

#15. Oprah Winfrey

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Photo: Oprah Winfrey / Instagram

Why she’s famous: The most influential Black woman in the world, Oprah Winfrey, became a household name through her TV show: “The Oprah Winfrey Show”. This venture morphed into a media empire, and she became the first African American nationally syndicated television host. She is also the first Black female billionaire.

Why she inspires: International Women’s Day 2022 would be inconclusive without mentioning this powerful Black woman. Winfrey is one woman who has thrown down a ladder to elevate others, and her philanthropy works speak for themselves. She founded the Oprah Winfrey Foundation in 1987 to fund battered women shelters, seek out child abusers and mete out justice, and has donated millions of dollars for feeding the less privileged and funding youth education.

#16Serena Williams

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Photo: @serenawilliams | Instagram

Why She’s famous: Tennis player

Why she inspires: Serena Williams is famous for revolutionizing women’s tennis with her powerful style of play and for winning more Grand Slam singles titles (23) than any other woman or man during the open era. Her 1999 singles victory at the U.S. Open made her only the second black woman ever to win a Grand Slam title; Althea Gibson (1927–2003) was the first. Serena quickly became known for her determination, powerful game and flashy fashion sense. Williams is also the only professional tennis player to accomplish a Career Golden Slam in singles & doubles.

#17. Sheila Johnson

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Photo: Sheila Johnson / Instagram

Why she’s famous: Sheila Crump Johnson was the co-founder of the popular Black-centric cable network; Black Entertainment Television (BET). She is the first African-American woman to own stakes in three professional sports franchises: the Washington Capitals (NHL), the Washington Wizards (NBA), and the Washington Mystics (WNBA).

Why she’s inspiring: Johnson is a heavy giver and has shown that through her generosity. She contributed to her neighborhood Virginia’s development and bigger school projects, like scholarships and special programs, to support diversity and character-building initiatives across America.

#18. Shonda Rhimes

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Photo: @shondarhimes / Instagram

Why she’s famous: Shonda Rhimes became popular as the producer of popular American TV series like “Grey’s Anatomy, How To Get Away With Murder and Scandal.” Rhime’s also produced the popular TV series: “Bridgerton” in conjunction with Netflix.

Why she’s inspiring: Rhime’s writing progress and production expertise/platform has changed the perception of diversity, especially for the Black race. She encourages inclusivity through casting character roles with individuals of varying race, gender and sexual orientation, without misrepresentation.

In 2015, Rhimes released the book “Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand in the Sun, and Be Your Own Person.” A book that has inspired many to believe in themselves.

#19. Simone Biles

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Photo: Rahim Fortune for WSJ. Magazine

Why she’s famous: Simone Biles is the most decorated American gymnast of all time, with 32 Olympic and World Championship medals around her neck at the age of 24.

Why she’s inspiring: In addition to not losing a competition since 2013, Biles shows her human and fallible side by being open about her struggles with her mental health. Also a mental health advocate who constantly uses her platform to set standards for prioritizing mental health, by choosing to pull out of a competition for her mental health’s sake and uncovering her abuser. A brave and courageous stand we admire.

#20. Stacey Abrams

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Photo: @staceyabrams / Instagram

Why she’s famous: Stacey Abrams is a popular voting rights activist who served as a minority leader in the Georgia House of Representatives. She was the first Black woman to become the Democratic nominee for governor of Georgia.

Why she inspires: Stacey Abrams founded a voting rights organization and has helped hundreds of thousands in Georgia register and exercise their rights to vote. As we celebrate International Women’s Day 2022, it’s expedient to highlight her role in American history. Abrams empowers people around the world, especially women, to use their voice and votes to effect the change they want to see.

#21Venus Williams

Photo: @venuswilliams | Instagram

Why She’s famous: Tennis player, Businessperson

Why she inspires: Venus Williams is one of the greatest female tennis players of all time, and a path-breaker in many ways. She and her sister Serena have redefined the way women’s tennis is played, bringing unprecedented power and athleticism to the sport. By displaying grace and determination both on and off the court, Venus has transcended the boundaries of tennis and become an exemplary role model for women and people of color. She has been an inspiration to millions of people. On February 25, 2002, Williams made history by becoming the first Black tennis player to be ranked number 1 in the world. Venus is all business as a tennis icon and as an entrepreneur. In 2002, she founded V Starr, a luxury interior design firm that has done work on hotels, high-end condos, and athletic facilities.

#22Viola Davis

Photo: @violadavis | Instagram

Why She’s famous: Actress

Why she inspires: American actress, Viola Davis, is known famously for her roles in Fences, King Headley II and How To Get Away With Murder. For her work in the drama, Fences, Davis won a Golden Globe Award and an Academy Award. She has won Tony Awards for her performances in King Hedley II (2001). Consequently, she became the first Black woman to win an Oscar, an Emmy, and a Tony for acting. She also became the first African American woman to win an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series for her work on the television series How to Get Away with Murder. Viola Davis also uses her platform to speak out against injustices.

Written by Vivian Bens-Patrick and Collins Badewa. Edited by Elfonnie Anusionwu


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