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The women who rocked the world

HONOURED: Selma director Ava DuVernay

WOMEN OF colour have continued to define themselves in 2015 across spheres such as entertainment, business, arts and culture from award-winning director Ava Duvernay’s sell-out Barbie day to the Brazilian sisterhood who organised the South American country’s first natural hair empowerment march. Women of colour belong to a group that, historically, is systematically silenced often while others shout over them about their lived experiences. This year, I salute the trailblazers who are helping all of us – our girls, our boys and our men – see a reflection of themselves that's inspiring, self determined and ultimately possible.

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MICHAELA COEL

The actress and writer gave the UK the ultimate lesson in what #CarefreeBlackGirl means when she hit TV screens on E4 with her debut comedy series Chewing Gum. The show is a clever portrayal of the rawness that's only found on London council estates that put community first and effortlessly transcends race, gender, sexuality and class. The series follows Tracey Gordon who is on a quest to lose her virginity with the guidance of her ever-experienced best friend and the fear of her Pentecostal mother and sister. It's the weirdest recipe for TV gold I've ever seen, but it works and Michaela is my new shero.

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OSHUN

The US musical duo comprising Niambi Sala and Thandiwe, aged 19 and 20 respectively, met in 2013 when they were both visiting NYU. They describe their sound as ‘Iya-Sol’ – a refreshing mix of neo-soul, hip-hop, and spiritual music. Their goal is to share the goddess Oshun’s divine and peaceful omnipresence for the bigger purpose of empowering women and all people, instilling confidence, cultural pride, and self-respect. These girls create with purpose and at such a young age, to be connected to the spirit is refreshing and much-needed to tackle the newfound reality we call life everyday. 

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SERENA WILLIAMS

I think it's safe to say, she's the world’s greatest athlete and one of the most accomplished (black) female tennis players that ever was. Serena embodies black excellence. She's in fierce competition with herself and ever winning in a world, industry and society that cannot bear for a woman of colour to be rewarded rightfully for her amazing feats. We salute you, Ms Williams!

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VIOLA DAVIS

She always has the right thing to say, at the right time and in the right way. I love seeing her melanated skin on my TV screen glistening with talent, resilience and opportunity. She embodies what it means to be ‘possible’ by simply being and cradling sisterhood to its next destination of success. Viola is everything!

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CHARDINE TAYLOR-STONE AND SIANA BANGURA

These breath-taking, astute, fierce, resilient, considered sisters make me really excited about what the future for women of colour in the UK could look like. Chardine (left) describes herself as cultural producer, DJ and activist and her most recent piece of activism has got the British LGBTQ community to look a lot harder at themselves and the harmful and pernicious stereotypes that are casually perpetuated by entertainment acts from the community. Her rightful and systematic take down of offensive drag act 'Laquisha Jones' who essentially is in black female blackface for laughs has been banned and a LGBTQ entertainment venue has signed up to a 'anti-racism code of practice' to avoid repeats of such base humour at the expense of black women.

Siana (above) had an unfortunate incident on a packed train this year in which she was racially and physically abused by a white man as her fellow passengers sat and watched or did very little to intervene and then turned on her blaming her, the victim, for his reprehensible behaviour. Her candid account of the incident on social media helped uncover the underbelly of UK racism which is often swept under the “illusion of inclusion” carpet. We have to keep telling our stories to keep our humanity thriving and prevent others from overstepping our boundaries.

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