We know about the influential and powerful Black leaders of the past, but what about the ones making history today?
I think it’s important that we not only honor our heroes and heroines from the past but also acknowledge the ones who are living in the present and will still be relevant in the future.
During this Black History Month I want to take time to honor them—and as always, ladies first. Here are four Black women who made strides in my generation.
Tyra Banks is one of the most powerful supermodels and television personalities in the media today. She was born in 1973 in California.
After shooting a print piece for Seventeen magazine, she quickly rose up the fashion modeling ranks. During her first season in Paris in 1991, she booked 25 runway shows.
Tyra was the first African American woman to appear on the cover of GQ, the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition, and the Victoria’s Secret lingerie catalogue.
She created the show America’s Next Top Model in 2003, and has been producing and hosting the popular hit reality series ever since.
Tyra hosted her own ever-popular talk show, The Tyra Show, for five years until it ended in 2010. In early 2012, she finished a special course for CEOs and top executives at Harvard Business School.
Born in Chicago, Michelle Obama is now a figurehead. Prior to her marriage, Michelle LaVaughn Robinson studied law at Princeton and Harvard before working at the law firm Sidley Austin.
While working there as the only African American woman, she met the man who would later become her husband and change the lives of millions: Barack Obama.
In 2009, when her husband was sworn in as president, Michelle Obama became the first Black First Lady in the history of the United States.
Her different engagements (Red Cross, the Let’s Move campaign, etc.) and her elegance make her a well-known personality around the world. She is constantly featured in magazine best-dressed lists, and wears the top fashions, like the Carolina Herrera dress she recently wore to a state dinner.
Michelle Obama has made the fight against obesity and for childhood fitness a major focus of her role as First Lady.
She has worked with celebrities like Beyonce to bring awareness to childhood fitness, and through her Let’s Move campaign, she has encouraged children across America to get active.
She now works with Dr. Jill Biden on the Joining Forces initiative to help support American soldiers and military families across the nation.
Robin Roberts of Good Morning America is not only a role model for African American women, but for all women and all African Americans. It’s a position she is proud of and has worked hard for.
“I think being a woman and a woman of color, I’m always looking for equality both for my gender and for my race as well,” she told Scholastic News in an interview. “It’s kind of hard because people will say to me, ‘Is it more difficult being Black or more difficult being a woman?’ And I’m like, ‘I’ve always been a lack woman, so I don’t know! I don’t know what it’s like not to.’”
In her more than 20 years in broadcast news, Roberts has won numerous awards and honors for her work. She got her start in journalism as a sports reporter, where breaking gender barriers was harder than breaking color barriers.
Condoleezza Rice has earned distinction as a scholar, expert on international politics, and with her appointments as the first African American woman National Security Advisor and Secretary of State of the United States.
Rice was born on November 14, 1954 in Birmingham, Alabama to John Wesley Rice, Jr., a Presbyterian minister and school counselor and Angelena (Ray) Rice, a public school teacher. Influenced heavily by her parents, Rice, their only child, showed an exceptional intelligence and scholastic focus at a very early age. Despite growing up in the Black middle-class neighborhood of Titusville in Birmingham, Condoleezza and her family could not escape the ‘Jim Crow’ policies of that city.
When George W. Bush was elected President of the United States in 2001, he chose Rice as his National Security Advisor, making her the first woman and only the second African American (after Colin Powell) to hold the position. In 2005, after Colin Powell’s resignation as Secretary of State, Rice was chosen as the 66th United States Secretary of State, one of the most powerful positions in Federal government. She was the second woman (after Madeline Albright) to hold this position. As a principal architect of the foreign policy of the Bush Administration, Condoleezza Rice has had both proponents and detractors in the United States and abroad. There is no denying, however, that her focus, determination, scholastic prowess, professional achievements, and expertise in international politics have led her to hold this pivotal post in the government of the United States.