As we near the end of Black History Month, we would like to give one last recognition for those, both real and fictional, that we think are inspirational to all people of color.
Danielle Paige (author of “Dorothy Must Die” series)
Danielle Paige is the queen of YA fairytale retellings. Not only does the Dorothy Must Die series turn the world of Oz on to its head and make childhood heroes into terrifying, convincing villains, it puts an underprivileged teen named Amy Gumm in a position to change the world. They’re dark and edgy, so this series could have been a total nightmare, but Danielle Paige is a great writer crafting a fascinating world.
Nicola Yoon (author of “The Sun Is Also A Star”)
Of the course of two YA books, Nicola Yoon has wowed readers all around the world. Her books feature modern day POC teens and interracial relationships, sending messages of love and inclusion while still recognizing individual experiences. Nicola’s latest novel, The Sun is Also a Star, focuses in on the hot button topic of immigration, following a character who falls in love the day before her family is deported back to Jamaica. She knows how to bring stories with real issues and humanity to the forefront, giving readers warmth and perspective all at once.
Jason Reynolds (author of “All American Boys”)
Is there anyone more real than Jason Reynolds? The award-winning author tells the story of young black men– perhaps the rarest protagonist in YA literature– with a storytelling style that feels so strong and authentic. He doesn’t hold back on major issues like violence and racial divides. Instead, he makes those the main plot points. He’s confronting and challenging his readers to see the world differently, and we think it makes us better readers and probably better people all at once.
Ava DuVernay (director)
This powerhouse director doesn’t back down from anything. She portrays race relations frankly in films like Selma and the documentary 13th, both of which drew in audiences while really forcing them to think about the way the world works differently for different people. She’s also the first female director Disney has ever entrusted with a film budgeted over $100 million for A Wrinkle In Time, which boasts a diverse cast and a story we can’t wait to see!
Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monáe (actresses from “Hidden Figures”)
It’s not like these three actresses haven’t been making a name for themselves already, in both TV and movies, but the fact that they brought to life the story of three major black women, both smart and beautiful, responsible for helping make the US Space program successful in its early years is an amazing thing. To be able to recognize their talent in a way that reveals the talent of the black women back then is awe-inspiring indeed.
Amandla Stenberg (actress)
Ever since her role as Rue in the YA adaptation feature film The Hunger Games, we’ve been following Amandla throughout her career, watching her grow into a fierce and beautiful actress, an insanely talented musician, and an amazingly influential activist. We can’t wait to see her continue to grow as a role model for all POCs, and we are so looking forward to seeing her more on the big screen as she has several upcoming major roles in Everything, Everything (adapted from the book by Nicola Yoon,) The Darkest Minds (adapted from the book by Alexandra Bracken,) and The Hate U Give (adapted from the book by Angie Thomas.)
Mahershala Ali (actor)
What better way to celebrate Black History Month than for this guy to win the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in the Best Picture winner, Moonlight. You may have heard of him only recently, but he’s been around in some very recognizable TV shows that range from his first role as Dr. Trey Sanders in Crossing Jordan to Remy Danton on the highly acclaimed Netflix series House of Cards to baddie Cornell ‘Cottonmouth’ Stokes on Netflix’s Luke Cage. But his presence didn’t stop on the small screen as was also major feature films like Predators, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Parts 1 and 2, Free State of Jones, and another Academy Award 2017 Best Picture nominee Hidden Figures. The biologically named Mahershalalhashbaz Gilmore became the first Muslim to win Best Supporting Actor. Here’s hoping for more amazing roles from this majorly talented star.
Luke Cage (character in “Luke Cage”)
This hero for hire is tough, but he’s so much more than that. The most recent Netflix revival of the character shows his depth following trauma and personal reinvention, his Harlem culture, and his power as a person choosing to fight corruption. Luke Cage isn’t a person with influence in the beginning of the series. Instead, he represents the common man discovering his strengths to fight for what’s right.
Maia Roberts (character in “Shadowhunters”)
Sassy nerd girl Maia hasn’t had it easy. She’s was turned into a werewolf as a teen and forced away from her family. Still, she found her own place in the pack, worked hard, and fought for what’s right, all while maintaining her wit and her geek girl sensibilities. It ultimately pays off for her as she finds herself in a position to make a real difference in the Downworlder community.
Iris West (character in “The Flash”)
It’s not easy being a superhero’s love interest, but Iris West is no damsel in distress. More often than not, she’s giving Barry Allen the encouragement he needs to do what he believes is impossible. Beisdes working at STAR Labs with Team Flash, Iris is no slouch. She helps crack cases with her intrepid reporting skills and fears no one, giving her superhero friends an extra edge.
- Angie Thomas (author of “The Hate U Give”)
- Dhonielle Clayton (author of “Tiny, Pretty Things”)
- Lupita Nyong’o (actress, Queen of Katwe, The Jungle Book)
- Sonequa Martin-Green (actress, The Walking Dead, Star Trek: Discovery)
- Stella Meghie (director, Everything, Everything)
- Finn (character from Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens)
- Michonne (character from The Walking Dead)
- Randall Pearson (character from This Is Us)
- Andre and Rainbow Johnson (characters from Black-ish)
- Ginny Baker (character from Pitch)