All month we’ve been celebrating our achievers and dreamers and doers and thinkers and creators that prove the old adage that life begins at 40. If you’ve missed any honorees, check out the list so far: 40 – 30: Lucy McBath, Anthony Lynn, Broderick Johnson and more and 30 – 20: Chadwick Boseman, Kamala Harris, Regina King and more then continue on to next list of honorees.
19. Jesmyn Ward
Who She Is: Author and Tulane professor
Where She’s From: DeLisle, Mississippi
Why She Made Our List: Ward is a 2-time National Book Award winner – and rightfully so. Her books “Sing, Unburied, Sing”, “Men We Reaped”, and “Salvage The Bones” are beautiful odes to the community and culture she grew up in. Despite the heavy themes in her novels, Ward has the uncanny ability to lace her words with a poetic touch that keeps your pages turning. She was also named a MacArthur fellow in 2017.
18. Kenya Barris
Who He Is: Producer, Writer
Where He’s From: Los Angeles, California
Why He Made Our List: When Barris hopped on the scene in 2014 with “black-ish”, he injected a dose of creativity into a tired and monolithic depiction of Black people on television. We like to think “black-ish” was a springboard for other shows to challenge the status quo and now he is set to do the same at streaming giant Netflix.
17. London Breed
Who She Is: Mayor of San Francisco
Where She’s From: San Francisco, California
Why She Made Our List: London Breed made history after being elected San Francisco’s first Black woman mayor in 2018. Now she is using her power to promote more affordable housing in the city and job growth beyond Silicon Valley.
16. Channing Dungey
Who She Is: Vice President of Original Content, Netflix
Where She’s From: Sacramento, California
Why She Made Our List: Channing Tatum is a major player in television. After leaving her position as the president of ABC Entertainment, Tatum joined forces with Netflix to become their Vice President of Original Content. Now she’ll be overseeing the company’s deals with Kenya Barris, Shonda Rhimes and the Obamas’ production company Higher Ground to name a few.
15. Prentice Penny
Who He Is: Writer, Producer
Where He’s From: California
Why He Made Our List: Prentice is tied to two iconic black-female led TV shows. He served as a writer on “Girlfriends” and currently he is the showrunner for “Insecure”. It is great to have Black faces on camera, but it is vital to have them in the writers room and behind the camera to make sure our stories are told as accurately as possible.
14. Wendy Ida
Who She Is: Fitness experts
Where She’s From: California by way of New Jersey
Why She Made Our List: Wendy shows us that there is no time limit on living our healthiest lives. The 65-year-old lost 80lbs and completely transformed her life after leaving an abusive marriage. She told Guiness World Records, “When you go above and beyond and prove what is possible regardless of age, where you come from or what you’ve been through, there can be no excuses left for anyone to use.”
13. Akbar Cook
Who He Is: Principal
Where He’s From: New Jersey
Why He Made Our List: Principal Akbar Cook gained national attention after he built a laundry room in his school after realizing students were in homes where they didn’t have access to clean clothes. After making the change, it reportedly decreased bullying in the school and improved students overall wellness. We salute you Akbar!
12. Letitia “Tish” James
View this post on Instagram
Thank you New York. Tonight we made history. This is a night for justice, a night for our future. I am proud to be a New Yorker who knows it's our diversity, strength, courage and determination that makes us great. As your Attorney General I promise to fight for all of us.
Who She Is: New York’s Attorney General
Where She’s From: Brooklyn, New York
Why She Made Our List: James is New York’s first Black and first female Attorney General. The Brooklyn native began her career as a public defender for the Legal Aid Society, which helps provide legal services to those in need and has continued to put people as the cornerstone of her mission.
11. Kimberly Bryant
Who She Is: Engineer, Founder Black Girls Code
Where She’s From: Memphis, TN
Why She Made Our List: Bryant founded Black Girls Code in 2011. Since then, the program has trained over 3,000 girls across the country in major cities like Boston and New York. There’s still a long way to go but programs like this are helping teach young black women that they too can be leaders in STEM.