When it comes to empowerment, nothing makes us feel more inspired here at Blended Designs than seeing examples of #BlackExcellence. This is why we've celebrated Black History Month by highlighting our favorite #LivingLegends that are breaking barriers and shattering ceilings in modern day. These #LivingLegends serve as a reminder that we all can reach our #SquadGoals with a little hard work, vision and inspiration.
Misty Copeland & Calvin Royal III
Of the countless professional fields that black men and women have been forced to break down barriers, that of arts and entertainment has been long anticipated. Misty Copeland and her dance partner Calvin Royal III have done just this. With their performance in Harlequinade, the duo has become the first African American duet to be cast as a lead couple for America’s National Ballet Theatre (ABT). Before landing the coveted roles of Pirette and Pierrot, Copeland and Royal faced adversity as dancers of color, performing for years before securing positions as soloists and principal dancers with the ABT.
Can you imagine being named one of the most powerful people in the world? Well Ursula Burns used her drive and #BlackGirlMagic to do just that in 2014. This year, Forbes rated her the 22nd most powerful woman in the world. This was because of Burns’ wild successes in business, becoming the CEO of Xerox in 2009. This made her the first black female CEO to head a Fortune 500 Company in history. Raised by a single mother in a low-income housing project located in Manhattan’s Lower East side, Burns defied all odds to break barriers and made history.
Sometimes the biggest barrier that you can break down is inspiring others to break down their own. This is exactly why we’ve fallen in love with the inspiration and encouragement of Eunique Gibson. Gibson a social media guru, influencer, and founder of Because of Them We Can, an award-winning campaign and platform that teaches our community about daily changemakers that are shattering ceilings. By providing a daily showcase of #BlackExcellence, Gibson reminds our people to dream bigger and to appreciate those who are breaking barriers.
Born in Texas in 1996, Simone Manuel may not be who you’d first think of when you picture a world-class swimmer. But with her 2016 win in the Rio Olympics at the age of just 20, Manuel made history. Her win in the 100-meter freestyle race made her the first black woman to receive a gold metal in the sport. After starting swim lessons at the age of 4, she continued to pursue her dream of becoming a star athlete, attending Stanford University to show off her skills. Educated and an athlete? Now that’s what we call #SquadGoals!
Shirley Ann Jackson
Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson may be the first black woman to receive a doctorate from MIT and to be awarded the National Medal of Science, but we have just one more test for her to take. Our #BDSquad Character Quiz! If we had to guess, she would be Carter™ if she were a #BDSquad member. Just like Carter™, Jackson fell in love with all things math and science when she was a student. She took this love of all things STEM to become the first black woman to receive a PhD in theoretical solid state physics. But she didn’t stop there. She also became the first black woman to be elected president and then chairman of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the first female chairman to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
This member of our #LivingLegends series takes #BlackExcellence to all new heights. Barrington Irving is the youngest person to pilot a plane solo around the world at the age of just 23. He is also the first black man to do this and the first Jamaican ever to do so. But Irving didn’t stop there when it comes to achieving his #SquadGoals. He went on to graduate magna cum laude from the aeronautical science program at Florida Memorial University. Using his education and expertise, Irving has established his empowering aviation educational program “Experience Aviation”, which encourages minority youth and others to explore careers in aviation.
This may not be our first time honoring the legend of Linda Brown, but there’s a good reason for that. At a young age, Brown got thrust into the spotlight as a spokesperson and forerunner of the civil rights movement. Brown, along with over 200 other plaintiffs, worked to end segregation and the legal precedent set by cases like Plessy v. Ferguson that established Jim Crow era laws. These laws held that as long as the public facilities available for blacks and whites were equal, then segregation in these spaces was equal. On May 17, 1954 Brown made history as Chief Justice Earl Warren found that “in the field of public education, the doctrine of ‘separate but equal’ has no place.” He also found that black schools had a “detrimental effect” on students due to their inferior resources. It was Brown’s bravery and persistence that created a new legal precedent that was used to desegregate other public facilities in the future.
Looking at our nation’s past, Superbowl XXII was a victory for more than just the Washington Redskins and the Denver Broncos. This was the year that the first black woman ever performed the coveted role of Rockette at Radio City Music Hall. The Rockettes, an exclusive dancing troupe established in 1925, barred black women from joining the group before moving the show to New York City in 1932. It wasn’t until 1987 that Jennifer Jones became the first black woman to secure this largely sought-after role. After this groundbreaking performance, she continued to dance professionally for another 18 years.
A favorite of 1954, Shaun King is fighting in modern day for the type of equality and justice that we seek to perpetuate through our own products. A graduate of Morehouse College, King has utilized his platform as a professional journalist to call out injustice and police brutality. A former senior justice writer for the New York Daily Times, he now writes for Harvard and The Intercept. King inspires us all to use our voices to speak out against injustice, as he’s shared his important message in 35 states. He has dedicated to sharing his experience and knowledge with all walks of life, speaking everywhere from colleges and boardrooms to jails and prisons.
In the world of arts and entertainment, Ava DuVernay has shattered ceilings behind the camera as a director, producer, screenwriter, film maker and distributor. DuVernay’s variety of skills has made her the first black woman to win the US Directing Award, while also becoming the first black female to director to be nominated for four Golden Globes and to win an Academy Award with her work Selena. What really makes DuVernay a #LivingLegend is the fact that she uses her wide-reaching platform and successes to encourage and empower other female filmmakers and filmmakers of color.
If this #LivingLegend were more accurately named, we would call him Steve McKing! McQueen is an artist, director and screenwriter that was the first black actor to win an Academy Award for Best Picture with his work 12 Years a Slave. A son of two working-class immigrants, McQueen proves to us all that by combining hard work with our talents, we can achieve anything.
Ruth E. Carter
Just this very month, Ruth E. Carter made history during the Oscars. Carter became the first black woman ever to receive an Oscar for Best Costume Design with her work in Black Panther. A box office hit, Black Panther provided an opportunity to create a story representative of black history an excellence, with a majority black cast both in front and behind the camera. Following her success, Carter is reported as stating that “Marvel may have created the first black superhero, but through costume design we turned him into an African king”. We think that these are some pretty wise words coming from the costume queen!
Harris County Judges
Of course we couldn’t talk about #LivingLegends without mentioning the Harris County Judges that made history in 2018. This was the year that a record number of 17 black women were elected to Texas’ most populated county. Amazingly, the group ran on a campaigned with the slogan “Black Girl Magic Texas” and ran away to victory. These female judges used their combined 200+ years of experience to lead one the most ethnically and racially diverse metropolitan areas in the country. Now that’s what we call #BlackGirlMagic!
If you chose to watch the ABC network, you are partaking in a part of black history. How you ask? Well because ABC appointed the first black president of a major broadcast television network ever in 2016 when they appointed Channing Dungy. Dungy joined ABC in 2004, quickly rising to success as an executive. By 2013, she held the title of executive vice president, drama development, movies and ministries, and ABC Entertainment Group. Dungy has made her talents known through launching television smashes, including Scandal, Quantico, How to Get Away with Murder, and more.