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REVOLT Power List 2020: 25 people who moved the culture this year

REVOLT presents our first ever “Power List” to highlight key public figures, disruptors and visionaries in Black culture in 2020.

REVOLT Power List

Between a scary pandemic, a teeth-grinding election cycle and the height of the Black Lives Matter movement, 2020 was a whirlwind of events. However, throughout it all, there were a few power players who caught the eye of the nation and the world through their groundbreaking work.

REVOLT is honoring these individuals with our “Power List 2020,” where we are highlighting 25 entities that shifted the culture this year. From athletes, designers, actors, activists and more, check out the full list below of those who deserve much respect put on their names across social justice, entertainment, art, fashion and sports.

From disruptors who created the fashion industry’s first 3D fashion shows to others who unapologetically spoke up about social justice for their people, these Power Listers are truly did it for the culture in an unconventional, yet historic year such as 2020. And we thank them for it.

SOCIAL JUSTICE:

Black Lives Matter protesters - REVOLT Power List

Victims of Social Injustice (George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Aubery, etc.)

Succeeding their deaths, these victims of social injustice at the hands of trigger-happy officers and white men have continued to live beyond their physical state, as we continued to say their names. Saying their names is more than just a hashtag and Black Lives Matter is more than just a movement. These victims from Breonna Taylor to George Floyd have moved the culture in such powerful ways that have stricken the Black community with a blunt force and fire under our asses to fight for the justice we deserve. We refuse to let their deaths be in vain.

It didn’t seem too long ago where we were mourning the deaths of Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner and Sandra Bland. Before that, Emmitt Till. Though we have been suffering from the familiarity of Black brothers and sisters dying at the hands of those who were sworn in to protect us, the news does not become any easier to swallow. 2020, for these victims, is more than just posting a simple black photo on Tuesday to represent solidarity. It’s using their names to humanize those who we have lost and uplifting their names to speak life from the fallen for the next generations to follow. From H.E.R.’s “I Can’t Breathe” to Alicia Keys’ “Perfect Way To Die,” these victims from 2020 and back may be gone, but they’ll never be forgotten.

Black Lives Matter Protesters

If nothing shifts without the culture, then it’s more than fair to say nothing moves without protesters. The Black Lives Matter protesters of 2020 amplified the voices of the Black community and uplifted the names of those we lost throughout the year to let everyone know that enough was enough, and changes had to be made. Whether it be in the streets with Chelsea Miller and Nialah Edari’s Freedom March NYC, pushing their pen as a revolutionary strategist and writer such as Brea Baker or using their social media platforms to record the everyday injustices of police like Christian Keyes and Kendrick Sampson, these protesters demonstrated that activism comes in different shapes and forms.

What may now be considered the largest movement in United States history, Black Lives Matter has expanded more than the wildest dreams of its founders Alicia Garza, Opal Tometi and Patrisse Cullors-Brignac. These feelings of activism and advocacy extend far beyond George Floyd’s inhumane death at the hands of a police officer in a painful video gone viral — but this was the final spark that lit the fuse. According to the NY Times, the movement peaked “on June 6, when half a million people turned out in nearly 550 places across the United States,” but that doesn’t even touch how many people worldwide stood up and showed out for the Black community. 2020 Black Lives Matter protesters proved that this was more than just a moment in time that would pass us by or some hashtags that would get lost in the sauce of social media. It was a movement that will forever shift the history of this country moving forward.

Tamika Mallory

Former Women’s March leader Tamika Mallory did not slow down on her activism when it came to 2020. This year alone, she covered VOGUE’s September 2020 “Activism Now” issue and announced the release of her literary debut, State of Emergency, through Charlamagne Tha God’s Black Privilege Publishing. In her first book, the award-winning social justice leader will be sharing her experiences on the frontlines of activism, organization, and fighting for social and racial justice. As one of the most influential activists of 2020 — and beyond — Mallory can always be counted on to speak the truth powerfully and be a strong force behind the Black community through her advocacy.

The New York City native is also the co-founder of Until Freedom, a social reform organization that was a driving force behind the fight for justice for Breonna Taylor. Mallory’s Until Freedom hosted BreonnaCon weekend in Louisville to raise awareness around the causes of police brutality, social injustice and racial inequality with the approval and support of Taylor’s family. Besides her organizing and advocacy chops, her 2020 was by far coined by her viral speech at a Minneapolis press conference following the death of George Floyd. “We are in a state of emergency. Black people are dying in a state of emergency,” Mallory said powerfully during the rally. The social justice leader will not stop until every voice is lifted and every fight has been fought for the betterment of the Black community.

Mysonne

United Freedom cofounder and self-proclaimed raptivist Mysonne Linen used 2020 to focus on liberation work and uplift the Black community during their time of need. He has used his platform as both a criminal justice reform activist and independent hip hop artist to shift his audience’s attention to the issues that matter: getting justice for the victims of police brutality and supporting the families, friends and loved ones of those in the communities heavily impacted.

Earlier this July, the Bronx native, alongside fellow rapper and activist Cordae, was arrested during a protest in Louisville in lieu of the fight for justice for Breonna Taylor. Taking place on the lawn of Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, nearly 100 attended the protest. Afterward, he took to his social media to share with his followers his thoughts on the unfortunate encounter. “This is the FELONY CHARGE @danieljaycameron and Louisville Metro Department of Corrections think applies to peaceful protestors. BUT #breonnataylor MURDERERS are still free!” the caption read. “They released about 20 of us (protesters) but @ybncordae and @kstills has still not been [released] along with many others. This is unacceptable for a peaceful protest. And they have charged all the protesters with a FELONY for a peaceful protest because @danieljaycameron feels intimidated. But the murdering cops are still free.”

Back in March, “the General,” as he calls himself, released a children’s book titled “I Know My Rights.” The colorful book is chock full of digestible content that educates children on the basic knowledge of the first ten amendments, the U.S. Constitution and more. It even found its way into the hands of Snoop Dogg’s grandson Zion who was “getting his read on” as the rapper said on his Instagram.

Brittany Packnett Cunningham

This award-winning activist, educator and writer has demonstrated true leadership in the social justice space during 2020. As an avid valuer of “truth,” as she said during an interview with Harvard Politics, Packnett Cunningham has been using her platform to share facts about politics and how it directly impacts Black America. The Campaign Zero founder has been featured on the cover of VOGUE alongside Tamika D. Mallory, Bernice A. King, Patrisse Cullors-Brignac and more activists to highlight her work in the media and on the frontlines.

As a podcast host for the newly launched “Undistracted,” Packnett Cunningham tackles all subject matters from voting to national news from a lens of intersectional feminism. Thus far, guests have included Soledad O’Brien, Representative Ayanna Pressley and LaTosha Brown. “We want to build a group of people who are relentlessly undistracted — who are focused on matters of intersectional justice, who are focused on leveraging all of their power toward that end, and who are committed to doing the work necessary, even when it’s difficult,” she told W Magazine in an interview about her podcast. Way to shed a light on femme power!

MUSIC:

Lil Baby - REVOLT Power List

Hit-Boy

While you may not know Chauncey Alexander Hollis, you may recognize his super-producer alias Hit-Boy as the creative brains behind some of the biggest artists and projects of the year. From Nas’ latest King’s Disease to Vic Mensa’s V Tape, Hit-Boy is the hitmaker who any artist or label would want to be associated with in order to get to the top of the charts, especially with his rolodex of hits in 2020. When you get a shoutout from Drake on his “0 to 100” hit single, you might want to dub yourself as a big deal in the industry. For anyone trying to get a hit from Hit-Boy, take a number because this Fontana, CA native is working with the best and is showing no signs of slowing down.

What started in 2008 as a studio session between fellow producer Chase N. Cashe and legendary singer Brandy to create “1st and Love (Human)” forged a path to success twelve years later where he would work with Mariah Carey, Nicki Minaj, Beyonce, Kendrick Lamar and JAY-Z — just to name a few. The 33-year-old producer’s genius was spotlighted back in March during a friendly head-to-head Verzuz battle with Boi-1da, where he threw a curveball in the game by playing a then-unreleased Big Sean and Nipsey Hussle collaboration, “Deep Reverence,” which was later released on Detroit 2.

Swizz Beatz and Timbaland

Verzuz has by far been quarantine’s greatest gift to and from the hip hop community. This “for us, by us” platform which originated as a battle platform between producers as a way to bring people together during COVID-19 has since evolved into a global sensation to enjoy some of your favorite classic hits of hip hop and R&B. With friendly amounts of shade, throwback jabs and a technical difficulty every now and again, the Verzuz sessions were the perfect at-home concert atmosphere whether you’re in the living room with fam or chilling in your apartment by your lonesome. Timbo and Swizz really knew what they were doing with this one.

Though the hip-hop community is known for pitting artists against one another in comparing chart-topping hits, social media beef and streaming numbers, Timbaland and Swizz have taken it upon themselves to create a space for artists to “duke it out” in a friendly musical and digital manner. From Babyface versus Teddy Riley for the old school R&B heads to Bounty Killer versus Beenie Man for the “Sound Clash” edition paying respects to the West Indies, Verzuz has undoubtedly created a space for a feel-good community while safely practicing social distancing. Did we forget to mention that we even got our praise on with Fred Hammond versus Kirk Franklin? The Lord won on that one.

Roddy Ricch

The music industry has welcomed Roddy Ricch’s success with open arms this year. Recognized by some of the biggest music publications and co-signed by major names in hip hop from Meek Mill and Post Malone to “ROCKSTAR’’ collaborator DaBaby and DJ Mustard, Ricch has only begun to put the gas in his tank to dominate the coming years of his career. The 22-year-old Compton native has made waves with his incomparable hit “The Box” and has proven that his 1998 birth year means absolutely nothing when it comes to hanging with the big boys of the industry.

At the top of 2020, he was awarded with his first Grammy for his appearance in the late Nipsey Hussle’s “Racks in the Middle,” and was recently announced to be a six-time nominee for next year’s 63rd annual Grammy Awards. The “High Fashion” artist has showed a lot of growth since his 2017 mixtape Feed Tha Streets including accolades such as earning the No. 1 spot on the Billboard Top 100 for viral hit “The Box” and Please Excuse Me for Being Antisocial being the longest-running debut rap album to hit the Billboard 200 in almost 20 years since 50 Cent’s Get Rich Or Die Tryin’. The official visuals for “The Box’’ currently sits at 272 million views on YouTube, making Ricch the second most played artist on this platform, according to TIME.com. This Best Rap Song Grammy nominee has completely dominated 2020 and it’s apparent that 2021 is for the taking, as well.

Lil Baby

Lil Baby has completely owned 2020. While his streaming numbers on all platforms speak for themselves, the rapper born Dominique Armani Jones has become a trusted voice for the younger generation inside and outside of hip hop. The 26-year-old “Errbody” rapper received recognition from Variety with their Hitmakers Voice of Impact Award, which is well-deserved considering the use of his sought-after music platform to deliver messages around social justice and racial inequality. “I really don’t like tweeting or posting to my Instagram because it might get interpreted the wrong way so making a song would be easier for me,” Lil’ Baby told the publication earlier this month about translating his feelings on the state of Black America.

Not to mention, his philanthropic and community outreach efforts have not gone unnoticed. Last week, he threw George Floyd’s 7-year-old daughter Gianna an L.O.L. Surprise Dolls-themed birthday party. Earlier this year, the Atlanta native released his single “The Bigger Picture” to show support for the Black Lives Matter movement, which has amassed over 102 million views since its video release in June. Not only is the My Turn rapper plastering Atlanta’s west end on the map, but he’s driving forth difficult conversations in hip hop and holding those accountable in a language we can all understand: music.

Chloe x Halle

Watch out world, they’re grown now. This dynamic alternative R&B duo has definitely proven that the kids are more than alright. Since their days of covering Beyonce’s “Pretty Hurts” on YouTube, Chloe and Halle Bailey, known in the industry as Chloe x Halle, have skyrocketed into superstardom and have left no stone in the studio unturned. The “Busy Boy” baddies have used 2020 to amplify their music modestly, but ended up releasing their sophomore album Ungodly Hour — filled with grown and sexy melodic vibes of drunk texts, sex and living life carefree — arguably the best R&B album of the year. Though in lieu of the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others, they postponed the release of the album, the duo has demonstrated their sensitivity and grievances to the Black community, and proved that their music was worth the wait.

The 20- and 22-year-old Parkwood Entertainment signees have not let any pandemic slow them down and surely their tennis court performances have demonstrated their creative capability — including the iconic “Do It” performance for the “TODAY” show. The powerhouse songstresses have even managed to secure a few acting bags while we await the fourth season of “Grown-ish” due top of 2021 with Chloe due to star in The Georgetown Project and Halle in the live action remake of Disney’s The Little Mermaid. It’s clear that the Billboard Music Awards “Rising Star Award” recipients have only scratched the surface of what’s to come, but no need to rush because we’re still catching our breath from their soul-snatching Tiny Desk performance.

FASHION/ART:

Rihanna - REVOLT Power List

Anifa Mvuemba

Anifa Mvuemba is undoubtedly one of the major culture shifters of 2020 when it comes to fashion and art. When the opportunity to host her first fashion show during New York Fashion Week approached, the Congolese designer was elated at the thought. However, when the Coronavirus pandemic peaked, she used the power of the pivot to give the culture creativity, innovation and originality in a way never done before. As a pioneer in the merge of technology and fashion, the Hanifa fashion label founder hosted a virtual 3D fashion show earlier this year that shook the tables and turned the fashion industry on its head. Though the models weren’t visible to the human eye, each fabric perfectly hugged every curve to give audience members an intangible experience that will go down in the fashion history books.

The Instagram Live streamed showcase featured 3D garments against an all-black backdropped and was flaunted by ghost models — this description doesn’t even touch how incredible the experience truly was for the tens of thousands of virtual viewers. While the Nairobi, Kenya-bred trailblazer responsible for the digital runway show did not attend an esteemed fashion school or have a The Devil Wears Prada fashion internship experience, Mveumba managed to bring to us the groundbreaking phenomenon that circulated on social media. The use of 3D animation took the high-tech presentation over the top and ultimately launched the viral success of the Morgan State University graduate.

Telfar Clemens

This designer is singlehandedly responsible for creating the most raved about Black-owned brand on Black Twitter. TELFAR, founded by Telfar Clemens, is a gender non-conforming fashion label quickly generating buzz in the fashion world this year. Queens native Clemens was born to Liberian parents and originally gave birth to his fashion empire during his undergraduate days at Pace University, where a small cohort of classmates would casually sport his work. Who would have thought that nearly 15 years later, his vision would blossom far beyond a designer’s wildest dreams and lead him to his Paris debut and a Fall/Winter collection fashion show in Florence, Italy? Clemens is redefining luxury retail for the Black community and fashion lovers. Move over Birkin and Hermes, Telfar bags are taking our coins now!

The 35-year-old CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund recipient is the mastermind behind what is jokingly being dubbed as the “Bushwick Birkin” formally known as the Telfar Shopping Bag. Available in three sizes and originally modeled after the Bloomingdale’s shopping bags, Telfar products start at the affordable price of $150, but that doesn’t mean that you’ll be able to get your hands on one. They have been spotted on several celebrities including Solange and A$AP Ferg, and even made an appearance at last year’s Met Gala on Moonlight actor Ashton Sanders. This is more than just a bag — it’s a Black culture fashion staple and symbol of community building.

Gibson Hazard

Twenty-three-year-old Gibson Hazard originally started in the art world as a graphic designer and photographer, but later turned his attention to tour documentation and eventually evolved into a 3D visual artist and editor. While his most clients range include Diddy, Future, Drake, Travis Scott, The Weeknd and even Nike, you might recall Hazard’s short film Eternal Atake co-directed by Lil Uzi Vert. Released three days prior to the drop of Uzi’s album — which the visual artist also designed the cover art for — of the same name, Eternal Atake received over 2 million views after two days on YouTube. This success guided Hazard to becoming one of the most sought after artists in the music industry.

Who can say that they directed this year’s MTV Video Music Awards before the age of 25? The Boston native received his big break when he photographed rapper Sammy Adams. Though Hazard may have attended USC film school post high school, no class would ever prepare him for the amount of raw talent he had for dope visual lexicons and revolutionary style. “I’m really just focused on creating the best s**t ever because I have seen what happens when you take your time to perfect it,” he said in an interview. Don’t worry, Hazard. You’re well on your way and we can’t wait to see what comes of your multi-hyphenated career next.

Kerby Jean-Raymond

When you hear Kerby Jean-Raymond’s name, you think of the Pyer Moss brand. When you think of Pyer Moss, you think of shifting the culture through fashion, style and slayage. The fashion label founder has no problem plastering a political message on a tee, jacket or any other apparel item for that matter to cause conversation around the social injustices against Black America. The New York-based designer has unapologetically challenged the term “activism” by demonstrating that you don’t need a picket sign or megaphone to make noise. This fashion visionary has carved quite the lane for himself as a leader and activist.

Since its conception seven years ago, Pyer Moss has received praise from acclaimed public figures in the Black community from Usher and fellow REVOLT Power Lister Rihanna to our favorite first lady Michelle Obama. Now named as Reebok’s VP of Creative Direction, Jean-Raymond will also be releasing the debut products of their Products with Purpose program in 2022. In other philanthropic efforts of the Flatbush bred designer, he has been hands on with the relief of those directly impacted by COVID-19 by setting aside $50,000 for minority and women-owned creative small businesses. The visionary even managed to convert his famed studio into a donation center for N95 masks and latex gloves.

Rihanna

We don’t know when we’re going to get the album at this point, but Rihanna can do whatever she pleases if it means she’ll keep slaying us in fashion and beauty. With the growing FENTY Beauty empire and the skyrocketing success of the Savage x Fenty lingerie line, it’s no wonder the Bajan beauty hasn’t dropped music recently. She’s too busy counting her coins and minding the business that pays her — as she should.

Hands down, the most memorable moment of Rihanna’s 2020 has to be her Savage x Fenty Vol. 2 fashion show. The event, which was released exclusively through Amazon Prime, turned virtual heads and gave viewers a one-of-a-kind experience from the comfort of their own home. Performers from Miguel and Travis Scott hit the Savage stage while familiar faces including Laverne Cox, Lizzo, Willow Smith and Normani strutted their stuff in the lingerie’s latest capsule. The broadcast runway presentation was chock full of bras, boxers and body positivity as each model from male to female, cis to transgender, and slim to thick flaunted their unique shapes and sizes for the world to see.

ENTERTAINMENT:

Tyler Perry - REVOLT Power List

Chadwick Boseman

Chadwick Boseman’s untimely passing shook the entertainment industry to its core to say the very least. Though he had been silently suffering from colon cancer, the 43-year-old Black Panther star demonstrated sheer ambition and perseverance throughout his work. During his final performance as Levee in the Denzel Washington-produced Netflix adaptation of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Boseman took his bow out with an applaud-deserving performance. He was the true definition of a superhero inside and outside of the fictional Marvel Universe.

His impact is far beyond his screen time as James Brown in Get On Up, Jackie Robinson in 42 or even our beloved T’Challa, king of Wakanda. The Howard University graduate was celebrated by colleagues, fans and family inside and outside of the world of film. During his moving commencement speech at his alma mater, the Da 5 Bloods actor said, “Purpose is the essential element of you. It is the reason you are on the planet at this particular time in history.” While he may not have known it at the time — or maybe he did — Boseman’s legacy lives on in his speech, his work and those he touched. He fulfilled his purpose as an actor, a friend and a key figure in Black culture and entertainment for generations to come.

Michael B. Jordan

Michael B. Jordan was named People’s Sexiest Man Alive 2020, but for REVOLT’s Power List, we’re digging beyond the surface of his good looks. The 33-year-old Fruitvale Station actor has been utilizing his powers — not from Black Panther or Fantastic Four — to push the truth to the forefront and call out the racial injustices happening behind the scenes.

Earlier this June, Jordan was seen speaking in Hollywood at a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest while calling the entertainment industry out about racial inequality. “You committed to a 50/50 gender parity in 2020. Where is the challenge to commit to Black hiring? Black content led by Black executives, Black consultants? Are you policing our storytelling as well?” the Creed actor said. “Let us bring our darkness to the light.”

Jordan is also reclaiming his power to produce Black stories through his production company, Outlier Society Productions. It was recently announced that alongside Warner Bros., the star will be producing the movie adaptation of DC Comics’ “Static Shock.”

Misha Green

Misha Green has merged horror, sci-fi, drama and historical fiction together while enlisting the period piece queen herself Jurnee Smollett to bring us one of the best binge worthy series to hit TV. “Lovecraft Country,” inspired by the 2016 book written by Matt Ruff, was adapted by Green to demonstrate the true horrors of 1950s Jim Crow America - and it’s scarier than any Frankenstein, mummy or ghoul you could ever conjure in your mind.

In 2020, the show creator has managed to reclaim the sci-fi thriller genre that was originally triumphed with titles such as Alien, The Maze Runner or Divergent by integrating Black culture and tangible experiences relatable to the Black community. “When you’re making art, you have to be making art of the times. And so it was just a natural thing to take the elements from his book that were still so relevant because history keeps repeating itself,” she said during an interview with MarieClaire.com referring to Ruff’s work and its indirect relationship with Black history. This showrunner dubbed Adweek’s Game Changer of the Year has carved a niche in the space of film and entertainment by shedding light on the scariest part of living in Black America past, present and future: survival.

Tyler Perry

If there’s one thing that Tyler Perry taught us, it’s to not wait on an opportunity but go out and create your own. This year, the Tyler Perry Studios mogul officially achieved billionaire status according to Forbes, which is no shocker considering the films, plays, television franchises and production rights all in his name. Perry now sits pretty in the seven-figure club with industry heavy-hitters such as Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey. Can we be like him when we grow up?

The 330-acre studio lot in Atlanta, which used to be a base for the Confederate Army, is now home to the creative mind of the Madea maven and even served as a stage stop for Marvel’s Black Panther during filming. What Perry originally purchased for $30 million in 2015 is now Hollywood’s largest lot, which managed to produce several other projects during the pandemic. With the help of a 30-page proposal and medical professionals, the Diary of a Mad Black Woman creator developed Camp Quarantine, where over 350 cast and crew members were living and working in his studio, to create the magic we see on our televisions today.

Perry has become exemplary in the realm of Black ownership and Black excellence — lifting cast and crew members as he climbs, continuing to produce and diversify Black narratives and giving opportunities to the little guy. We’re rooting for you, Tyler, and thank you for always rooting for us!

Michaela Coel

Michaela Coel’s may not literally destroy you but her story and acting skills will have any viewer slain. Ghanian Newcomer born Michaela Ewuraba Boakye-Collinson had a fast-paced year in entertainment including being named as an honoree on the 2020 TIME 100 List by Lena Waithe. While directing, writing and starring in one of the most talked about series in 2020, Coel has managed to navigate a difficult conversation about trauma and mental health in the Black community through television and satire. Even after the season finale of “I May Destroy You” back in August, her work is still circulating around the press and social media as we await the next installment.

The triggering series follows London writer Arabella as she struggles with stress, trauma and anxiety while attempting to overcome the reality of being drugged and raped by a stranger. Though the artist doesn’t parallel with her protagonist in every way, she unfortunately was drugged and assaulted back in 2016, which prompted her to take a break from a writing session for the second season of “Chewing Gum.” Coel was able to transform her pain into a public diary entry filled with empathy. While the show is heavy and definitely has an unwritten warning label, she takes every audience member on an emotional journey through graphic, cinematography and music soundtrack selection to accurately depict each and every moment.

SPORTS:

Kobe Bryant - REVOLT Power List

LeBron James

To say that LeBron James had a hell of year would be an understatement. Rightfully named TIME’s 2020 Athlete of the Year, he awarded the Los Angeles Lakers with their 17th championship title, which was their first since the late Kobe Bryant on the team in 2010. To add onto the 35-year-old’s extensive resume, James has officially become the first player in NBA history to be awarded the Finals MVP award with three different teams.

The day before Bryant’s fatal plane crash, James surpassed the late athlete’s record for having the third-most points in NBA history. “I’m happy just to be in any conversation with Kobe Bean Bryant, one of the all-time greatest basketball players to ever play, one of the all-time greatest Lakers,” James said at the time.

After James championship win, on Oct. 14, James took to social media to honor Bryant by saying, “Hope I’m made you proud my brother!! Love and miss you Champ!!” It’s safe to say that proud would be an accurate description seeing as though Bryant tweeted “much respect” after James broke his record. It has been reported that James has extended his contract, which is worth $85 million, with the Lakers for two more years and furthermore used his platform as a well-respected athlete to assist in the launch of “More Than A Vote,” a non-profit organization bringing awareness to and fighting voter suppression.

Bubba Wallace

Darrell “Bubba” Wallace has managed to put NASCAR driving back on the map while calling out social injustices and racism in the sport. NASCAR clearly lacks what is referred to as “diversity and inclusion,” but as a Black driver, Wallace had to speak out against the obvious systemic racism happening on and off the racetrack. Back in June, the 26-year-old called on the famed sports organization to ban the presence of the Confederate flag and though certain groups of people were unhappy, the sport agreed on June 10.

That very same day that victory was met, Wallace raced with a #BlackLivesMatter design on the side of his No. 43 race vehicle. He even wore a paralleling “I Can’t Breathe” shirt as a symbol of solidarity with the Black community. Moreover, after a noose was discovered in the NASCAR star’s garage stall, a federal investigation was launched “to determine whether there are violations of federal law,” according to a statement issued by US Attorney Jay E. Town. Throughout his career, the driver has had no shame in his advocacy and support of Black America.

In September, Wallace announced that after this season, he would not be returning to Richard Petty Motorsports for the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series (NCS) season. During his time as the only Black driver competing full-time in NASCAR’s premier series, he was active when it came to uplifting social justice efforts for the organization and even landed a partnership with Michael Jordan. Starting in the 2021 season, the NBA GOAT will be joining Wallace alongside three-time Daytona 500 winner Denny Hemlin for a single-car NASCAR team.

Naomi Osaka

Naomi Osaka has done far more than be a star athlete on the tennis court this year. As one of Sports Illustrated’s 2020 Sportsperson of the Year, the two-time U.S. Open champion has been highlighted by brands, organizations and other public figures for her outstanding work. Though she didn’t strive for fame and fortune through her talents, Osaka is proudly using her platform to raise awareness around racism, police brutality and social injustices against the Black community. She’s a true power player — and according to Forbes, the highest paid female athlete ever sitting at $37.4 million in combined prize money and endorsements.

The 23-year-old has also been capturing the attention of the world by saying the names of seven victims on her masks. That’s right, during the U.S. Open, Osaka changed her mask during each round that read a different name of victims of social injustice. They included Philando Castile, Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Elijah McClain and George Floyd. Additionally, she opted to withdraw from the Western & Southern Open and sit out her semifinal match in protest of the shooting of Jacob Blake. Through her leadership, the tennis world paused all matches that same day, and Osaka proved that her impact is one that is far beyond what any trophy or scoreboard could measure.

WNBA/NBA

The saying goes, “There’s strength in numbers,” and both the NBA and WNBA have done their part with nearly all of their active teams to address social injustice against the Black community in 2020. The NBA players took a strike in solidarity with Jacob Blake, a Black man who was shot seven times in the back in front of his children by Kenosha police officers. This strike was initiated by the Mikwakee Bucks who refused to play in Game 5 of the NBA playoffs after white Kenosha shooter Kyle Rittenhouse shot and killed Black Lives Matter protests after Blake’s incident. Aside from boycotting the playoff games, players from the Boston Celtics, Toronto Raptors and more have shown their support for social justice causes impacting the Black community far beyond just sports.

Though they ended their strike, they did not admit defeat as NBA players met with team owners for a “candid, impassioned and productive conversation,” as said in a statement issued by NBPA Executive Director Michele Roberts and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, in an effort to become more dedicated to said causes. From this meeting came an agreement of supporting the Black community when it came to voter access, economic empowerment and criminal justice reform. The NBA has unapologetically resurfaced as a platform where racial justice are a priority from hanging “Black Lives Matter” flags outside of arenas to wearing specially designed jerseys with social justice messaging placed on the back.

In terms of the WNBA, this league of ladies has been speaking out about Black Lives Matter all year — many before their male counterparts — especially in regards to Breonna Taylor. From wearing her name at games to meeting with her family members, the WNBA strived in 2020 to not let Taylor be forgotten. In July, they also announced a 2020 season dedicated to social justice with the Women’s National Basketball Players Association (WNBPA) with the launch of a new platform, The Justice Movement, and the creation of the WNBA/WNBPA Social Justice Council. The Council will continue to push forward conversations surrounding race, voting rights, LGBTQ+ advocacy, and gun control. Council advisors include Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza, and founder and CEO of BLACK GIRLS ROCK! Beverly Bond.

Kobe Bryant

This year, we lost a true MVP. Nearly three years ago to date, Kobe officially retired his jerseys but his legacy will never be forgotten and the impact still remains. Though the 18-time All Star was not physically present to play on the court, give speeches or send out encouraging tweets to fellow players, the everlasting spirit of the Black Mamba — and Mambacita Gianna Bryant — will continue to live on. For their Aug. 24 game against the Portland Trail Blazers, the Lakers honored their late former player with “Black Mamba” jerseys and a patch for Gigi with the number 2.

That day has since been commemorated as Kobe Bryant Day, which happened to be the day following what would have been his 42nd birthday. The numerical significance behind the date represents the two numbers that Kobe wore during his Hall of Fame career with the Los Angeles Lakers. Recognized as one of the greatest basketball players of all time and one of the NBA’s most popular players, the four-time NBA All-Star Game MVP award recipient remains a symbol of pure excellence and still shapes basketball and philanthropy throughout his ominous presence.

The world stood still on Jan. 26 after the official announcement of his and 13-year-old Gianna’s death. Along with seven other victims and the pilot, a fatal helicopter crash took the lives of the beloved legend and his daughter. Kobe and Gianna are carried through mother and wife Vanessa Bryant, and their three daughters Natalia, Bianka and Capri. Worldwide from Asia to Europe to the United States, Kobe has touched the lives of so many through inspirational speeches, games, and being one of the most respected and hardworking figures to ever grace the NBA. Mamba forever.

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