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Celebrating Black History Month: True Icons Through Time

Starting over a 100 years ago in the US, Black History Month takes place every October. A celebration of the achievements of black people throughout history, its goal is to bring black voices and stories to the forefront of discussions, helping people around the world share and understand the impact of black heritage and culture. To celebrate this month, we are sharing a list of the men and women who have helped shape British and American history, as well as some of the modern trailblazers.

Modern Trailblazers 

Edward Enninful

As the youngest ever fashion editor for an international fashion magazine, Edward has surely broken boundaries. Elegant but with an edge, he has taken the fashion industry by storm! Not only has he worked as an editor, he also has experience modelling and as a contributing editor for Italian and American Vogue. In 2017, Edward became the first Black editor-in-chief of British Vogue, a position he has held ever since. Don’t miss his memoir “A Visible Man”, published in early September this year, which stunningly portrays his journey within the fashion industry as a Black, gay and working-class refugee. 

Melissa Holdbrook-Akposoe (Melissa Wardrobe)

Melissa Holdbrook-Akposoe, also known under her alias Melissa Wardrobe, is a beauty and lifestyle entrepreneur working as a celebrity fashion stylist and interior designer. Her list of previous clients includes David Guetta, Anthony Joshua and Stormzy. Melissa is also the founder of itsalifestylehun, an online community and lifestyle site which she describes as “A one-stop-shop for all things fashion, beauty, lifestyle, finance, food, travel, dating and much much more.” In other words, everything you may need! 

Misan Harriman

Capturing present moments is a way to remember, honour and appreciate occasions that eventually will become history. Misan is an expert at this with his captivating images from the Black Lives Matter Movement, which have been incredibly widespread. About two years ago (September 2020), his name became extremely well known as he became the first Black photographer to shoot a Vogue cover. He has also worked with some of the brightest shining stars in the celebrity sphere, such as Jay-Z, Rihanna, Julia Roberts and Angelia Jolie.

Fisayo Longe

Founder of the clothing brand Kai Collective and a member of the Forbes 30 under 30 crowd, Fisayo is making waves in the fashion industry. The origins of Kai Collective came from her love of collecting fabrics during her gap year travels, and her blog featuring fashion and travel eventually became a success. This sparked her to launch her own brand and bring her vision of female empowerment to life, crafting clothes to make multidimensional women feel like the most confident version of themselves. 

Nana Agyemang

Nana is a multitalent with many notable achievements. She kicked off her career writing for magazines and newspapers, such as The New York Times, ELLE and Refinery29. She also worked at The Cut, where she excelled in increasing their Instagram following through an 80% growth rate. However, throughout her career she noticed that there was a lack of Black and Brown women in media and fashion. This inspired her to eventually launch her own business EveryStylishGirl. EveryStylishGirl helps Black and Brown women advance in the fashion and media industries. By following her dreams, she is now helping other women follow theirs. 

Historical Figures

Mae C. Jamison

Born in 1956 in Alabama, Mae has always reached for the stars, working as a doctor, engineer and NASA astronaut. Inspired by African American actress Nichelle Nichols who played Lieutenant Uhura on the Star Trek television show, Mae was determined to one day travel in space. In 1992, her dream came true when she became the first African American woman to do so. She has also written several books and appeared on many television programs including an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. In addition to her many awards, Jemison has been inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame and the International Space Hall of Fame.

Walter Tull

Born in 1888 in Kent, Walter was the first black outfield player to feature in the English top flight, spending two seasons at Tottenham Hotspur before going to play over 100 games for Northampton Town. He quit football to join the British Army during the First World War and became the first black officer to lead troops into battle. After serving on the Western and Italian fronts, he was killed in action on 25 March 1918 aged 29. He was recommended for a Military Cross and is seen as one of the forgotten heroes of the war, with his story serving as a real inspiration.

Maya Angelou

Born in 1928 in Missouri, Maya was an American author, actress, screenwriter, dancer, poet and civil rights activist. Having experienced firsthand racial prejudices and discrimination, she wrote her memoir ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings’ in 1969, making literary history as the first nonfiction bestseller by an African American woman. Maya received several honours throughout her career, including two NAACP Image Awards in the outstanding literary work (nonfiction) category, in 2005 and 2009. 

Jackie Robinson

Born in 1919 in Cairo, Georgia, Jackie became the first African American to play Major League Baseball in the modern era, spending 9 years with the Brooklyn Dodgers, and became the first African American inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962. Before his career as a baseball player, he also served in the U.S. Army during World War II after graduating from UCLA, but was court marshalled and honourably discharged for standing up for his rights when he refused to move to the back of a segregated military bus. He would later become the first African American named a Vice President at a Fortune 500 company and was a key figure in advancing equal opportunity and first-class citizenship for all Americans during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 60s. Hailed a “freedom rider before freedom rides,” Robinson’s name has become synonymous with breaking barriers. 

Bessie Coleman

Born in 1892 in Texas, Bessie soared across the sky as the first African American, and the first Native American, female pilot. Known for performing flying tricks, Coleman’s nicknames were; “Brave Bessie,” “Queen Bess,” and “The Only Race Aviatrix in the World.” She refused to perform in Texas (a segregated state at the time) unless the Managers would use one gate for African Americans and white people to enter the stadium, which they eventually agreed to. Her goal was to encourage women and African Americans to reach their dreams, becoming famous for standing up for her beliefs. Unfortunately, her career ended with a tragic plane crash, but her life continues to inspire people around the world.

These men and women are aspirational and motivate people to follow their dreams, showing that hard work can pay off, even when the odds are against you. Who are your personal heroes?