2014: The Year of 'Black Girls Are Magic'

4 years ago
"Black girls are magic!"

When blogger Cashawn Thompson coined the phrase earlier this year, I don't think she imagined that Black girls (and women) would collectively embody the very essence of magic and spend 2014 breaking down barriers, setting records, and shattering pervasive negative stereotypes.

Or maybe she did … and she simply declared this truth as the premonition of a wise sister who has always believed in us.

If you haven't heard of the hashtag or seen the T-shirts, you've missed out on one of the most important movements of 2014. This was the year that we, Black girls and women, came out in force to make sure the world could no longer ignore our intelligence, talent, beauty, diversity, and magic.

Black girls and women made power moves in every arena, from arts and entertainment, to sports, to activism. We showed up, showed out, and proved just how influential our magic is and how we can use it to change the world.

So why does the world continue to treat us like invisible second-class citizens?

Read on for a remarkable year in review.

Film and Television

Actress Lupita Nyong'o. Image: © Yang Lei/Xinhua/ZUMAPRESS.com

This year, we saw a distinct increase in the numbers of Black women in front of and behind the cameras, both in film and in television. Shonda Rhimes dominated Thursday night television with three consecutive shows (Grey's Anatomy, Scandal, and How To Get Away With Murder).

"Shondaland" is now home to veteran film actresses Kerry Washington and Viola Davis, who bask in the primetime spotlight portraying complex, imperfect characters and showcasing the diversity of Black women's talents.

Laverne Cox became the first transgender person to be nominated for an Emmy—and she graced the cover of TIME magazine, in which she explained why she is an advocate for transgender people around the world.

Black women dominated primetime TV this fall, as Washington, Davis, and actresses Jada Pinkett-Smith, Gabrielle Union, Tracee Ellis Ross, and Nicole Beharie each had leading roles on major networks.

Directors Ava DuVernay, Gina Prince-Bythewood, and Amma Asante garnered critical and mainstream acclaim with their movies Selma, Beyond the Lights, and Belle.

DuVernay is the first Black woman to be nominated for Best Director at the Golden Globes for the powerful, must-see movie, Selma.

Academy Award nominee Quvenzhané Wallis ended the year on her own magical note, portraying one of the most iconic characters in cinematic history, Annie.

Despite the backlash from those who struggled with accepting that Annie was being played by a Black girl, audiences flocked in droves to see the remake to the tune of $45 million in its first two weeks.

Academy Award winner Lupita Nyong'o was named Glamour Woman of the Year (2014) after daring the world to accept the beauty of Black girl magic. After becoming only the fifth Black woman to win the award for Best Supporting Actress, Nyong'o went on to grace the cover of Vogue and use her celebrity and platform to advocate girl power and show the world that Black girls and women matter, too.

Sports

Swimmer Alia Atkinson. Image: © Imago/ZUMA Wire

Jamaican swimmer Alia Atkinson became the first Black woman to win a world swimming title when she clenched the 100M breaststroke win at the FINA World Swimming Championships in Qatar this year.

New Yorker magazine named tennis phenom Serena Williams America's Greatest Athlete, and Forbes magazine ranked her as the third-highest-paid female athlete in the world.

Williams also finished the year ranked as the world's number-one female tennis player, having won the most Grand Slam titles this year.

But the year belonged to Little League sensation Mo'ne Davis, who was the first girl to ever pitch a shutout game in the Little League World Series. Named Sports Illustrated Sports Kid of the Year, 13-year-old Davis was the first Little Leaguer to ever make the cover of Sports Illustrated, and is also the Associated Press' Female Athlete of the Year (2014).

Beyoncé

Beyoncé Knowles. Image: © Nancy Kaszerman/ZUMAPRESS.com

Of course King Bey gets her own section.

At the end of 2013, Beyoncé broke iTunes sales records, selling 617,000 copies of her self-titled album exclusively through iTunes (in THREE days)—with zero promotion, lead-ins, commercials, videos … nada.

We just woke up one morning and had an entire album and accompanying videos awaiting us, and they were AMAZING.

Mrs. Knowles-Carter sampled Nigerian author and feminist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's TEDx talk, "We Should All Be Feminists" on her song, "****Flawless," declaring herself a feminist woman in the process.

There were so much criticism of Beyonce's assertion that she is, in fact, a feminist woman that this year, she penned her own essay about gender equality and basically shut her haters down.

She spent the summer touring with her husband, Jay Z, and rounded out the summer at the VMAs with a 15-minute medley during which she proudly stood in front of an illuminated sign that read FEMINIST, proclaiming, once and for all, that she is, indeed, a feminist woman.

Most every pop star followed King Bey's lead in 2014—but face it, her shoes are impossible to fill.

Activism

A rallier in Ferguson, Missouri. Image: Daniel Arauz via Flickr Creative Commons

2014 brought forth an emergence in Black women activists across the country.

In response to what has seemed like an increase in police brutality against Black people with many incidents resulted in the loss of life (including (Eric Garner and Mike Brown), Black women took the lead in resistance movements.

From organizing international vigils, nationwide marches, and local protests, Black women have shown that they will not remain silent while the people in their communities are being horribly mistreated.

"Black lives matter!" declared three queer Black women who had had enough of the anti-Black state violence.

Police brutality has not been the only issue Black women worked on this year. Black women led conversations and activism around street harassment and sexual assault in 2014, refusing to be erased from the violence against women narrative.

When 16-year-old Jada was drugged and raped and images of her in the moments after the assault went viral, she came out and decided to take a stand to use the incident to advocate for victims of sexual assault and cyber bullying.

Black women were such a powerful force that The Root declared Black women the Change Agents of 2014.

Education and Politics

Utah Representative-Elect Mia Love. Image: Gage Skidmore via Flickr Creative Commons

Astrophysicist Dr. Jedidah Isler became the first Black woman to earn a PhD in Astronomy from Yale University, Alexis Wilson became the first Black woman president of Harvard University's Harvard Lampoon, and Paulette Brown became the first Black woman to head the American Bar Association.

In November, Mia Love of Utah made history by becoming the first Black Republican woman and first Haitian-American to be elected into Congress.

Across the country, Ollie Tyler became the first Black female mayor of Shreveport, La., a predominantly Black city in a state with a long history of strained relations with members of Black communities.

In 2014, Black girls and women embodied their magic. We exhibited our intelligence, wit, talent, skills, drive, and determination in the face of systemic obstacles and naysayers.

We came together, lifted each other up, supported each other's hopes and dreams, dried each other's tears, and refused to let anyone or anything steal our joy.

We're going to shine our lights even brighter in 2015 and years to come.

Don't believe us? Just watch!

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