It’s been a HELLUVA year. From the inauguration of a heartless, bigoted, egomaniacal, neo-fascist ass President of the United States to the Muslim Ban to numerous mass shootings, each day of 2017 has given us at least one WTF moment to steal our joy. But you know what? Black women pushed through with unmatched tenacity, audacity, and creativity and somehow found a way to show up and show out.
Black women are ALL.THE.THINGS—melanated magic human beings who are perfectly imperfect in our beauty and brilliance. We did work for our people, the culture, and the nation this year. Although it was challenging to narrow it down to just a few things worth celebrating in 2017, each of these things give us a little taste of why the legendary DJ Beverly Bond proudly and rightly coined the mantra “Black Girls Rock.”
It baffles me how Hollywood still doesn’t respect the power of Black women at the box office. The funniest film of the year, Girls Trip starred FOUR STUNNING BLACK WOMEN. Despite critical acclaim and commercial success, Hollywood executives still seem hesitant about betting on Black women. Girls Trip not only ruled the summer box office and exceeded all of Hollywood’s whitewashed expectations, it gave us the breakthrough comedic performance of Tiffany Haddish, reunited Queen Latifah and Jada Pinkett-Smith on-screen, and made thousands of Black girl crews plan our own girls’ trips for 2018. See y’all at Essence Fest—just be sure to bring your own grapefruit.
THE PRIMETIME TAKEOVER
Speaking of Hollywood, can we talk about how Black women are running TV, too? From Insecure to the continued dominance of T.G.I.T B.g.k.a (Black girl known as) Shondaland, both behind and in front of the screen, the creative ingenuity of Black women made for must-see TV. Queen Sugar, Being Mary Jane, Star, Empire, The Quad, Greenleaf, She’s Gotta Have It and Power all either star or are helmed by Black women. These shows gave us arresting visuals, powerful storytelling, complicated and fully developed characters, sublime musical scoring, memorable performances, and countless watercooler moments. Web series produced by folks like Black and Sexy TV are making waves as well. Lena Waithe’s historic Emmy win for her pitch-perfect writing for the “Thanksgiving” episode of Master of None and her heartfelt acceptance speech encapsulated the significance of Black women, and more specifically, Black queer women as the future of television.
SOCIAL JUSTICE WARRIORS
One of the most powerful social justice campaigns launched in 2017 was the #BlackMamaBailout action. Spearheaded by Mary Hooks and Southerners On New Ground, groups around the U.S. raised money to bailout Black mothers on Mother’s Day. This action highlighted the failures of our bail/bond system and its disparate impact on Black women and Black families. Building on and in conjunction with the tremendous work of Black women, femmes, and trans people around issues of mass incarceration, police violence, and poverty, #BlackMamaBailout once again proved that when it comes to grassroots organizing, TRUST BLACK WOMEN.
BREAKING THE SILENCE, ENDING THE CYCLE
In the latter part of 2017, we witnessed an astonishing moment of reckoning around sexual violence. Although widely popularized through the hashtag #MeToo in the wake of numerous allegations and admissions of sexual misconduct in Hollywood and in electoral politics, MeToo was founded over a decade by a Black woman, Tarana Burke. For over a decade, her trailblazing work alongside the work of organizations like A Long Walk Home and Black Women’s Blueprint as well as artists/activists like filmmaker Aishah Simmons pivot around ending sexual violence against Black women, girls, and femmes. It’s never been a moment for us, it’s always been a movement.
RECLAIMING OUR TIME AND TAKING YOUR ELECTORAL COOKIES
I knew it was going to be a memorable year when the Honorable Maxine Waters asserted these three little, but meme-worthy words: “Reclaiming My Time.” One of the main ways Black women enacted this reclamation was through heading to the polls in important elections throughout the country. Too often we feel compelled to vote from a position of harm reduction and are “supporting” candidates who do not specifically address the various disparities and inequities Black women encounter. It is sad, but notable that we are the only demographic that can be wholly trusted to vote against sexual predators (You’re welcome, Alabama). We also helped elect three Black women as mayors of major cities and Andrea Jenkins, the first ever out Black trans woman to a public office. The further cultivation of progressive Black women candidates is on deck for the upcoming year.
WRITING OUR STORIES
Black women published some incredible books this year. Jesmyn Ward won her SECOND National Book Award for fiction for her most recent novel Sing, Unburied, Sing. Angie Thoms’ young adult novel The Hate You Give was a New York Times Best Seller and is being adapted into a film. Taraji P. Henson, Gabrielle Union, Jenifer Lewis, Janet Mock, Roxanne Gay and Gabourey Sidibe each penned deeply personal and uniquely dynamic books about their lives. Black women are telling our own stories—and debunking all myths about Black people not being voracious readers.
SHE GOT GAME
Although I was cheering my heart out for Venus Williams to get another Grand Slam, it was a joy to witness Sloane Stephens win her first major. The Nigerian Bobsled team will be competing in the 2018 Winter Olympics. Maame Biney became the first Black woman to make the U.S. Olympic Speedskating Team. Serena Williams just gave birth to her first child and is already preparing to return to being the most dominant player in tennis history. Also, Nike named a new building at its global headquarters after Serena. When you are the greatest to ever do it, nothing less should be expected.
MY MIC SOUNDS NICE
One of the most exciting things about this year has been women in hip-hop. Rapsody’s Grammy-nominated album Laila’s Wisdom to new tracks and forthcoming projects from Lil’ Kim, Remy Ma, Nicki Minaj, Missy Elliot, Young M.A, Cardi B and Trina are reasons to be enthused about the future of women in hip-hop. Female rappers are coming for the top spots in the rap game.
THEY SEE PICTURES, THEY SAY GOALS!
Cardi B was the undeniable champ of 2017. Talk about a glow-up. Love it or hate it (but why?), “Bodak Yellow” was everywhere this year and so was the Bronx born IG personality turned Grammy-nominated rapper. She is the first female rapper to hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100 list since 1998. She is also the first person of Dominican descent to hit number one. One time for our Afro-Latinx fam. She got engaged, bought herself a bright orange Bentley, and received numerous accolades and magazine covers. Shining!
Congratulations to all my sistas on surviving this TRASH AF political climate and finding ways to thrive in unprecedented and game-changing ways. The #Stunna in me recognizes the #Stunna in you.
Wishing all my sistas a 2018 that is as off the rails as Cardi’s 2017, as ’bout that justice life as Mary Hooks was this year, as effortlessly fly as Munroe Bergdorf was in her unapologetic call out of white supremacy, and as successful as Fenty Beauty at killing the game.
Treva B Lindsey, PhD is a professor and author of Colored No More: Reinventing Black Womanhood in Washington D.C.