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7 Times Black Americans Inspired the Nation in 2016

Ninety-three percent of online experiences begin with a search engine query, but this year you didn’t need Google to show you the incredible power of Black pride among the African American community. If you are among the 80% of Internet users who frequent social media networks and blogs, then you’ve read the news and seen the viral videos depicting 2016’s most captivating moments featuring Black Americans. Let’s recap.

Black Lives Matter Protests and Mannequin Challenge

Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Syville Smith — These are just a few of the more familiar names of unarmed Black men shot and killed by police this year. The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement was born in 2012 after the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting fatality of Trayvon Martin, yet it gained incredible momentum in 2016 as protesters took to the streets in record numbers, demanding accountability from law enforcement.The movement has been fueled by the violence that has been captured on video and posted online. Experts predict that by next year, around 74% of 8955511_20161212_0181407all Internet traffic will be driven
by video, so it’s no surprise that viral videos of police brutality have spread like wildfire. Actress, writer, and director Simone Shepherd used a social media video-craze as a wakeup call, conducting a “mannequin challenge” depicting the terror of police brutality to drive home the importance of the BLM movement.

Michelle Obama’s Exit Interview with Oprah

Monday, December 19, the First Lady of the United States sat down with television royalty Oprah to discuss her accomplishments and regrets over the last eight years. She spoke candidly on air about life in the White House, the legacy she hopes to leave, and her plans for the future. She discussed with Oprah the immense pressures that she and her husband felt during his administration, saying that their responsibilities caused them to carry “a weight that is indescribable.”

Yet she also expressed her hope that the American people move forward with a spirit of optimism, saying, “My desire for this country is that we remain hopeful and that we find a place in our hearts to love each other. It’s really simple, you know? Just opening up our hearts to others. Making room.”

Colin Kaepernick’s National Anthem Protest

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick shocked the nation when he took a knee during the national anthem at a preseason NFL game. He explained that it was his way of protesting racial discrimination and oppression in America. His silent protest sparked a dialogue on race and inspired young athletes across the country to take similar action against injustice. While some football fans criticized his act as unpatriotic and disrespectful to American soldiers and veterans, many rallied behind Kaepernick, including military personnel.

“Justice For Flint”

As Flint, Michigan is still plagued by a lack of clean water, many of the city’s residents have struggled silently and invisibly. Back in February, director Ryan Coogler and several other notable Black influencers hosted an event to give those residents a voice as well as to raise money for the cause. The “Justice For Flint” event featured performances by Janelle Monae and Stevie Wonder.

Simone Biles at the Olympics

At only 4’8″, 19-year-old Simone Biles left the country and the entire world in awe after winning four Olympic gold medals, setting a new American record for the most gold medals in women’s gymnastics at a single Olympic Games. This small but mighty gymnast and her teammate Gabby Douglas are the only African American female U.S. gymnasts to ever win both the individual all-around gold and team gold at the same Games.

Beyonce’s Super Bowl Performance

Music superstar Beyonce held nothing back this year, releasing an album with a powerful message on Black beauty, pride, and womanhood that inspired African American woman and girls across the nation. At the 2016 Super Bowl she performed her newly released single “Formation,” with a team of dancers dressed in fierce leather outfits reminiscent of the 1970s Black Panther Party revolutionaries. At one point during the performance, she and her dancers lifted black power fists in the air, making an unapologetic declaration of Black pride that perfectly underscored the song’s themes of Black culture and identity. The sight was both mesmerizing and moving.

Opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture

Celebrating centuries of tumultuous Black history, the brand new museum opened up in Washington, D.C. in September with a three-day festival and dedication by President Obama. It has everything from historical artifacts from the slave era to more current pop culture relics, all created or inspired by Black Americans.

According to a 2011 study published in Applied Psychology, spending just 15 minutes jotting down a few grateful sentiments before bed could significantly improve quality and quantity of sleep. Before we say goodnight and goodbye to 2016, consider the amazing things Black Americans accomplished this year and dream of all the opportunities for greatness to come in 2017.

Photo attribution: By Arnie Papp ( [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

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