Black History Heros
While celebrating Black History Month, it’s important to remember that history is being made in our community each and everyday. This is a time to honor the greats of our nation’s past, but it is also a time to explore the exceptional contributions being made by black men and women in current day. All month long, we’ve been sharing stories of black greatness in our #LivingLegends series on both Facebook and Instagram. Make sure to follow us on these platforms to learn more about hardworking black men and women making an impact on our society.
Robert L. Curbeam
We kick off our #LivingLegends recap with Robert L. Curbeam, an engineer that left a lasting mark on aeronautics. Born in 1952 in Baltimore, Maryland, Curbeam because a graduate of the US Naval Academy in 1984. He went on to receive degrees in aeronautical engineering in 1990 and 1991. Recognizing Curbeam’s greatness in the world of science and space exploration, NASA recruited the engineer in 1994. After being recruited, he completed his first mission in 1997, followed by another in 2001, ending with his final flight in 2006. From these missions, Curbeam now holds the record for the most spacewalks during a single spaceflight.
A pioneer for black women in the world of academia, Ruth Simmons is best known for becoming the first black woman to head a major college in 1995. She was elected the president of Smith College, where she started the college’s first engineering program. Simmons continued to defy the odds by becoming the president of Brown University. It was here that she became the first black president of an Ivy League college, while also becoming the college’s first female president. Simmons was born on a sharecropping farm in Texas, but knew that she could #DoAnything if she set her mind to it. Her introduction to the world of higher education began with her acceptance to Dillard University, an HBCU in Louisiana.
Guion (“Guy”) Steward Bluford Jr. Ph.D.
Back in 1983, Guion “Guy” Steward Bluford Jr. earned his place in the history books by becoming the first African American in space. Born in Philadelphia, PA, became interested in math and science while in high school. This is also where his high school counselor reportedly told Guy that he wasn’t suited for college. Instead of giving up, Guy decided to pursue his #SquadGoals, becoming the only black engineering student at Penn State in 1960. He is remembered as a monumental influence in black and American history and is remembered as an influential aerospace engineer, retired Air Force officer, fighter pilot, and former NASA astronaut.
If there was ever a woman that exemplified #BlackGirlMagic, it would be Toni Harris. Harris proves that you can #BeDifferent with her love and dedication for the sport of football. Making her way in a male-dominated industry, Harris’ skills on the field have earned her a scholarship offer from Bethany College to play football for the NAIA school. If she accepts this offer, she will become the second female player to receive a scholarship offer for football. She will also become the first black American woman to receive such an offer. Toyota even featured the story of her rise to greatness in a recent Super Bowl advertisement!
If you’re a fan of Spiderman, then you’re a fan of great filmmaker Peter Ramsey. a co-director of “Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse”, Ramsey received a Golden Globe for his work this past year. However, Ramsey’s filmmaking is doing more than just winning awards. He is also the first black filmmaker to have a budget of over $100 million on an animated movie with his work, “Rise of the Guardians” in 2012. After receiving his Golden Globe, Ramsey utilized this platform to speak to the importance of the diversity shown in the film during his acceptance speech. Now that’s a real superhero!
When it comes to #BuyingBlack, many of us have entrepreneurs like Richelieu Dennis to thank. Dennis is the founder of Shea Moisture and owner of Essence. By purchasing Essence, he made the company black-owned again. Dennis has earned a fortune for himself by creating and selling natural hair products mostly intended for black women. Not only do we love how Dennis promotes a love of natural #BlackGirlMagic, we love that he is dedicated to supporting black-owned businesses in the marketplace with his New Voices Fund. This program creates a platform for black female entrepreneurs to gain funding for their business ventures.
Dr. Mae Jemison
Dr. Mae Jemison is a strong black female role model that has risen to greatness both in and out of this world. In 1992, she became the first black woman to travel to space. Born in Alabama, Jemison began pursuing further education at Stanford University in 1977. She went on to receive a medical degree from Cornell in 1981. From this point, Jemison practiced medicine, carried out medical research and even joined the Peace Corps. But her #BlackGirlMagic didn’t run out here. Jemison then became the first black woman to be accepted to NASA’s astronaunt training program and later became a member of the Endeavor flight team.
Just like Toni Harris, Arlan Hamilton is also making moves in a male-dominated industry. She is a venture capitalist and founder of Backstage capital. Backstage capital works to help those that receive less than 10 percent of funding: women, people of color, and members of the LGBT community. She dares to #BeDifferent by being one of the women that comprise just 8 percent of senior investment teams among the top venture capital firms.
If you’re a fan of football, you should be a fan of the inspirational Shaquem Griffin. Griffin was born with a complication that prevented one of his hands from developing, but he won’t let anything stop him from playing the sport that he loves. In fact, he is the first one-handed football player to become a member of the NFL. The Central Florida linebacker even received the NFL Game Changer Award for his athletic prowess. He continues to exceed the skeptics expectations, holding the fastest 40-yard dash time in the league in over a decade.
Another proponent of black greatness in business, Shareef Abdul-Malik is the founder and CEO of We Buy Black. This is an online marketplace with products for black entrepreneurs so that we can focus on #BuyingBlack. This is the largest online marketplace for black businesses and individual sellers. A graduate of Howard University, Abdul-Malik saw a lack of opportunity for the black community to create bonds and business. Instead of accepting this fact, he worked hard to change it.
It’s be difficult to talk about football greats without mentioning Tony Dungy’s name. Dungy is the first black head coach to win the Super Bowl, and is also the first to take his team to the playoffs for 10 years in a row. Not only does Dungy make an impact in the world of football, he is also a national spokesman for the non-profit organization, All Pro Dad. This is a Tampa-based organization that educates the public on the importance of being a good father. Now that’s what we call #SquadGoals!
A world-class gymnast, Simone Biles is America’s sweetheart full of #BlackGirlMagic. She is the most decorated gymnast in US history, with her 17 medals won in the Olympics and World-Championship competitions. But she doesn’t stop there. Biles also holds the record for most gold medals won by a female athlete in World Championship history. If you’re looking for some inspiration before playing your next big sports game at school, we recommend checking out her Nike campaign. After all, she’s jamming out to Beyonce in her Nike videos. What more could you need?
Perhaps best known as Diane Johnson on ABC’s “Black-ish”, Marsai Martin in a 14-year-old talent making waves in the entertainment industry. She has become the youngest executive producer in history with her project, “Little”. Whether she’s on the small screen, the big screen, or behind the camera, we’re bound to see nothing but great things from this historical talent.
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