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The women who rocked 2014

SPOTLIGHT: Director Ava Duvernay

AS THE founder of female empowerment organisation I’mPOSSIBLE, I am wired into women of colour and their talent. In 2014, there were some glittering examples of excellence across the globe from celebrities, scientists, activists and entrepreneurs who all in their own way made a positive difference.

IN SCIENCE

In the world of STEM (science, engineering, technology and maths)
Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock is a positively infectious and empowering advocate for women in science. In February 2014, she took over hosting the legendary BBC show The Sky At Night following in the footsteps of Patrick Moore who hosted the show for 56 years. 

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BUSINESS


DOWN TO BUSINESS: Melanie Eusebe

Melanie Eusebe, former Ernst & Young management consultant, founded and launched the first Black British Business Awards in October 2014 which highlights the economic impact and influence black British people have had on the economy that often gets ignored. Margaret Casely-Hayford, a legal legend walked away with the Black British Business Person of the Year at the awards a month after she retired from her role as head of legal and company secretary for the John Lewis group. Casely-Hayford is now chairman of Action Aid UK. In November, Karen Blackett OBE, chief executive of MediaCom topped the Powerlist which profiles the most influential black Britons.

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IN HEALTH


SUPREME PRICE: Dr Stella Ameyo Adadevoh

Dr Stella Ameyo Adadevoh paid the ultimate price while saving others from Ebola.  Dr Adadevoh was the Nigerian doctor who oversaw the treatment of Liberian Patrick Sawyer who brought the Ebola virus to Nigeria. She was infected and died in August. Without her dedication, expertise and selflessness, Nigeria would not have been declared ‘Ebola-free' in the time it did. Her actions and life need to be celebrated.

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IN SOCIAL CHANGE


ACTIVIST: Sara Myers

Birmingham-based Sara Myers created the petition to get the art show Exhibit B withdrawn from The Barbican. Her efforts led to 23,000 people from all walks of life signing a petition declaring their discontent. Leading an impassioned campaign, she helped to highlight the ownership that people of colour want over their history and imagery which has been withheld from them historically. Across the pond, two young women, Umaara Elliott and Synead Nichols, brought 50,000 people to the streets of New York for the Millions March to protest against police brutality across the US. It's inspiring to see women and young people from all walks of life care and want equality for all sections of their society.

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IN POPULAR CULTURE


OUTSPOKEN: Azealia Banks

Azaelia Banks. You need a full stop after that name because a point has been made. This young woman gave an emotional interview to radio station Hot 97 in December and highlighted the very harsh realities of the music industry and how racism, sexism and ignorance alters what we value. Although her delivery is somewhat controversial, when I tested her thoughts for inaccuracies...nope, I can find none. The truth can sometimes be so brutal and cleansing; you vilify it as it contradicts everything you thought of the world, the people you idolised and ultimately yourself. Solange Knowles-Ferguson, the black hipsters icon and natural hair movement's role model, deserves a medal for coming full circle. From a low point of attacking Jay-Z in a lift in May, by November she showed the world how to throw the coolest wedding ever! We heart Solange.

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IN FILM AND TV


WOMAN OF THE MOMENT: Director Ava Duvernay

Lupita Nyong'o: Oscar-winner, style icon, bright colour-wearer, short afro innovator, classical beauty reinvented, oh, and she's got a brain, uses it for good and is a brilliant actress too. She definitely gets a nod. Bola Agbaje and Destiny Ekaragha collaborated to turn Agbaje's Laurence Olivier award-winning first play, Gone Too Far, into a film that was released nationwide in October. It was refreshing to see the British African experience on screen particularly on the streets of Peckham. And that was just the warm-up. British Ghanaian filmmaker Amma Asante brought us the period drama Belle, American director Ava Duvernay is the woman of the moment because of her Martin Luther King biopic Selma and Gina Price-Bythewood premiered black rom-com Beyond the Lights. Getting our stories out there on our terms is the order of the day and it's here to stay thanks to this talented bunch. ITV news presenter Charlene White became the first black woman to co-host the News At Ten. Shonda Rhimes is the living embodiment of a trailblazer - crushing stereotypes, presenting the fullness and vulnerability of black womanhood and entertaining audiences all at the same time. In 2014, US TV network, ABC programmed its entire Thursday primetime line-up with ‘ShondaLand’ dramas: Grey's Anatomy, Scandal and How To Get Away With Murder. ABC branded the schedule with the tagline: “Thank God It's Thursday!" We say, “Thank God, for Shonda!”

*Simone Bresi-Ando is the founder of I’mPossible, a global social enterprise empowering girls and women of colour.

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