Following the height of the COVID-19 pandemic that kept much of the world indoors without a clue of when their freedom would be returned, 2021 saw somewhat of a return to normalcy. With that came the re-emergence of many power players who were finally allowed to showcase their skills while others kept their strides from previous years through a continued effort of remaining at the top of their game.
REVOLT shines a light on these individuals with our “Power List 2021,” where we highlight 25 people or groups who went above and beyond in their respective fields. Musicians, athletes, designers, entertainers, and social activists all appear on the full list below as they’re all deserving of additional praise for their work throughout the year.
Boundaries were pushed, new heights were reached, and new concepts were introduced. It all combines for a storybook of memorable moments in 2021. You’ll be sure to find some names you recognize and others that will be new to you. All in all, this cast collectively stands as a source of inspiration for those with dreams and aspirations as big as theirs.
Everyone loves a good comeback and that’s exactly what Jazmine Sullivan delivered to us in 2021 with Heaux Tales. Before its release, the last time we received music from Sullivan was back in 2016 with her third album, Reality Show. That project was an excellent addition to a discography that boasts highlight records that include “Let It Burn” and “Forever Don’t Last.” Five long years went by before Sullivan and her undeniably excellent vocals returned with her latest effort. As she’s done time and time again throughout her career, the star delivered a body of work that gracefully traversed through a new world of love while boldly portraying all of the emotions that come with it. From passion and pain to a deep desire for intimacy and an added dose of self-love, Heaux Tales brings it all to the door of listeners.
In the end, the album provided music that helped Sullivan become a recurring moment throughout the year. That included performances on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,” “Jimmy Kimmel Live!,” the 2021 BET Awards, and more that left us completely blown away as listeners. Furthermore, Sullivan earned notable wins this year. She, along with Eric Church, delivered an impeccable rendition of the national anthem at Super Bowl LV. Sullivan later won Album Of The Year awards at the BET Awards and the Soul Train Music Awards, where she was won Best R&B/Soul Female Artist. She also received three nominations for Grammy Awards: Best R&B Performance and Best R&B Song for “Pick Up Your Feelings,” as well as Best R&B Album for Heaux Tales. 2021 was absolutely Jazmine Sullivan’s year to shine and she did just that by bearing her true colors for the world to see and enjoy.
This year may not have been Drake’s most dominating year in terms of overall chart performance, but 2021 sure was another example of his reign on hip hop’s throne. The key to Drake’s tenure here is never leaving the game for too long. Even though he was forced to delay his highly anticipated sixth album Certified Lover Boy for eight months after knee surgery sidetracked his work on it, Drake remained present in the game. Whether it was through the release of his Scary Hours 2 project – which showed his chameleon ability to shine as a traditional wordsmith and a party-booster trap star – or countless guest features with the likes of Young Thug, Drakeo The Ruler, Nicki Minaj, Brent Faiyaz, DJ Khaled, and more, Drake always kept his name in the conversation.
Finally, at the beginning of September, Drake arrived with Certified Lover Boy, and through 21 songs, he put his undeniable versatility on display for the world to see. We received R&B Drake through records like “Get Along Better” and “Race My Mind” as well as battle rap Drake on “7am On Bridle Path” and “You Only Live Twice.” His connection with the new generation and knowledge of who’s up and coming were on full display as the album features work from Giveon, Yebba, Tems, and others. Drake’s latest album and his year altogether are proof that the Toronto rapper is very much at the top of his game and the rap game.
There are very few musicians in today’s day and age who can capture the attention of the world with the simple move of a muscle. Kanye West is, without a doubt, one of those individuals. He’s long proven his genius status as a musician through his ability to create a new era for himself and fans to encapsulate themselves in with each project that he’s released. After going more than two years without a solo album, Kanye opened the doors to a new era on a faithful day in July with the announcement that his tenth album, Donda, was on the way. Just like that, the attention of the music world was back in his hand. Instead of leading us on a smooth journey towards the album’s arrival, Kanye opted to withhold our attention for an extended period all for one reason.
With Donda, Kanye reminded the world that he is still a superstar across fronts, and with that, comes the ability to oftentimes do things on your terms. He took over stadiums to perform unfinished versions of the album, slept in them to finish it, landed features from nearly all of the culturally relevant acts of today, released the album on a Sunday as a complete version where not a curse word was uttered. Sure, there were controversial moments through appearances from DaBaby and Marilyn Manson, but it all plays into Kanye’s insistence to show his power whether it be for better or for worse. In surface-level terms of success, Donda proved to be just that for Kanye as it debuted at No. 1 and earned Grammy nominations that included Album Of The Year for the 2022 ceremony. Just like many of the albums that shine throughout his discography, Donda was another example of Kanye doing what he wants, when he wants, and how he wants.
Tyler, The Creator
Tyler, The Creator’s career can be divided into two chapters with the first marking him as the defiant teen and young adult who sought to make himself fit into an industry regardless of whether or not there was space for him. The second, which began with the 2017 release of Flower Boy, saw the arrival of a man set on creating in the way he desires without any concern or worry for whether or not he would be accepted. Ironically enough, the second chapter brought in additional interest in Tyler as well as critical acclaim on multiple fronts. He ventured further into this period in his career with his sixth album, Call Me If You Get Lost.
The project combines ingredients that lay on the opposite side of the spectrum for what amounted to an impressive work of art from an artist who learned to tone down the obscenities he launched into the world. Call Me If You Get Lost sets forth the nostalgia of a Gangsta Grillz mixtape without sounding outdated thanks to crisp production from Tyler himself. New names like 42 Dugg, Teezo Touchdown, and Fana Hues stand beside well-established acts like Pharrell Williams, Lil Uzi Vert, and Lil Wayne. Nowadays, Tyler seeks to enjoy the world around him as it naturally stands. This relaxed approach earned him a Grammy nomination for Best Rap Album, but it also provided another contribution to his legacy that will certainly see him go down as one of the more unique acts of this generation.
One could argue that Summer Walker had the most captivating entrance into R&B since Bryson Tiller’s arrival with TRAPSOUL back in 2015. Her 2019 debut, Over It, was an instant success as it broke Beyonce’s record set by Lemonade for the most-streamed R&B album for a female artist ever. Summer’s success can be credited to her unfiltered honesty and storytelling through her songwriting, as Over It displayed, in addition to her off-kilter social media that earned her attention in many ways. Two years removed from that project, Summer prepared to return to her fan base, one that grew heavily in the time between her first and second albums, leaving to wonder what they would receive next.
Still Over It is exactly what they received and by the end of the album’s 20 songs, there was no doubt that everything about Summer’s music improved. Her overall conceptual vision and her ability to relay it in her trademark blunt and unfiltered way. Additionally, Still Over It was drowned in a pool of authenticity as it results from the real-life struggles with love and parenting that Summer experienced with her producer London On Da Track, who shares a child with the singer and is credited on several of the album’s songs. These tracks are far from fictional accounts of her life and that’s what makes the project so enjoyable and real. Her pain, joys, love, and more can be felt, and it all combines to be another, and even better reason, to love Summer Walker.
There’s no question that the global popularity and interest behind Afrobeats has grown year after year for about a decade now. Nigerian singer Wizkid plays a large part in helping to propel this growth. Just like Afrobeats counterparts Burna Boy and Davido were able to do, he attained interest in his work in North America, which helped to open doors for him. Collaborations with the likes of Drake, Future, Ty Dolla Sign, Jeezy, GoldLink, Metro Boomin, and more arrived over the last few years. While these all helped to boost his stock, the most admirable aspect of Wizkid’s artistry is his commitment to his culture, its sound, and bringing people into his world and not the other way around.
This was evident on Wizkid’s fourth album, Made In Lagos. As he’s done several times in his career, the star’s success promoted the many different corners of Nigerian culture that helped to make him the artist and individual he is today. Grace, sheer confidence, a yearning for love, and a promise for better days are some of the many themes of Made In Lagos. In the end, Wizkid’s endearing love for his home was returned, as the album’s most popular song was a record that couldn’t be more tethered to Nigeria. “Essence,” with breakout singer Tems, was not only a favorite from Made In Lagos but a track that was also more than worthy for a song of the summer title. Just like that, Wizkid helped to propel Afrobeats to a new level that will allow for only more success and recognition for himself and its genre’s artists in the future.
In what’s proven to be a never-ending cycle, tensions between police officers and Black lives, as well as the people who support them, were renewed thanks to several highly publicized incidents in 2020. They included the death of George Floyd, which saw officer Derek Chauvin be arrested and charged with second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter. While his arrest and indictment certainly left injected hope for justice to the Black community, an underlying doubt remained as police brutality has gone unpunished on several occasions over the past decade whether it be Mike Brown, Sandra Bland, or Breonna Taylor.
However, to the absolute delight of the Black community, Chauvin was convicted on all three of the aforementioned charges and later sentenced to 22 ½ years in prison. It was a major accomplishment for Ben Crump, a Florida-based civil rights attorney who fought for Chauvin’s prosecution. He looked at Chauvin’s conviction as a “turning point in history” on the journey towards equality. His work would be recognized by multiple entities and Reverend Al Sharpton who called him “Black America’s attorney general.” Crump’s work as a civil rights attorney this past year is also highlighted through his representation of the family of Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man who was shot and killed after an altercation with three white men: Travis McMichael, Gregory McMichael, and William “Roddie” Bryan. In the end, the McMichaels and Bryan were found guilty on charges that included felony murder and aggravated assault.
Crump also represented the family of Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old African American who was shot and killed by Brooklyn Center Police Department officer Kim Potter, who was recently found guilty of manslaughter. It’s the work like that of Crump’s that helps to provide the average Black life with the hope of a better and more equal tomorrow.
Following four years of turmoil and chaos by government leaders, starting at the top with Former President Donald Trump, many officials around the country fought to shift control away from Republicans. This includes politician and lawyer Stacey Abrams who was previously a minority leader of the Georgia House Of Representatives, a position she held for six years. Abrams is credited with helping to increase voter turnout in the 2020 election which helped to turn Georgia, a notoriously red state, into a blue one, a swing that helped secure Joe Biden’s win and Trump’s removal from office.
Furthermore, her work also influenced Georgia citizens, as enough voters turned out to help to issue a run-off election for the state’s Senate positions in Jan. 2021. The run-off came as a result of Democrat Jon Ossoff and incumbent Republican Senator David Perdue’s, as well as Democrat Raphael Warnock and Republican incumbent Kelly Loeffler’s failure to receive a majority of the vote during the 2020 election. Two months later, in Jan. of this year, the run-off election was held and Ossoff won with 50.6% of the vote while Warnock won with 51%. This effectively granted Georgia a Democratic-led Senate, and it also helped to give the Democrats control in the Senate as Ossoff and Warnock’s wins caused a 50-50 tie, which was broken by Democratic Vice President Kamala Harris.
Abrams voter activism through meetings with entertainment executives, managers, agents, and more to appeal to a new class of voters that would help issue the run-off. She also founded her Fair Fight organization, whose website said it “promote[s] fair elections in Georgia and around the country, encourage[s] voter participation in elections, and educate[s] voters about elections and their voting rights.” Last November, Fair Fight announced that it raised $6 million in support of Ossoff’s and Warnock’s runoff bids, a contribution that certainly aided their efforts towards an eventual win.
Tulsa Race Massacre Survivors
This year marked the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre, an incident that places itself beside countless examples of racism and white supremacy in America. A group of white residents in the Greenwood district of Tulsa, Oklahoma – some of which were given weapons by city officials – attacked Black residents and destroyed their homes and businesses that were in the district. The massacre resulted in 800 hospitalizations and more than 6,000 Black people wrongly detained and held for several days. Oklahoma Bureau Of Vital Statistics says the massacre saw 36 deaths while a 2001 state commission confirmed 39 deaths while estimating that between 75 and 300 were killed in the massacre.
On the massacre’s 75th anniversary in 2021, state legislature was authorized to investigate the incident. Five years later, a report was finalized and even though it recommended direct payment of reparations to survivors and their descendants among other things, it never arrived. Twenty years later, the last three survivors of the massacre – 105-year-old Lessie Benningfield “Mother” Randle, 107-year-old Viola Fletcher, and her brother 100-year-old Hughes Van Ellis – returned home to Tulsa to file a lawsuit against the city at the end of 2020 demanding that they “repair the damage” caused by the massacre. During a May 2021 hearing, which occurred weeks before the tragedy’s 100th anniversary, Randle, Fletcher, Ellis testified before the U.S. House and Senate Judiciary Committees to call for centennial recognition of the massacre on May 31 and June 1.
The survivors’ lawsuit against Tulsa is still ongoing, but it uses a public nuisance argument – which suggests a group of people had their health, safety, welfare, and/or general comfort unequally affected by a person or group – to hopefully bring reparations to survivors and their descendants after previously failed attempts due to statute of limitations. Age means nothing when fighting for what’s right and the survivors are living proof of this.
Activists/Everyday People (National And International) Fighting For Change
The change we seek in this world can only be fight for and initiated by those most affected by it. As history has proven time and time again, those in the majority groups, whether it be in the scene of race, socioeconomics, sexuality, and more, are less likely to fight with the same passion and fervor that their minority counterparts would. It’s why those who continuously push back at their oppresses day in and day out are more than worthy of recognition and honor for their efforts. It’s through this that members of the majority community often join their cause and help to amplify it and speed up the process toward change. However, if any year proved this, 2021 showed that when minority groups stand together with arms locked, they have more than enough to force the attention of their oppressor.
Racism tensions between Black lives and police officials reached monumental heights in 2020 following the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Rashad Brooks, and many more. In response, protests filled with overflowing emotions and a desire to do whatever was needed until they felt heard took place all over the country. The #ENDSARS movement also spilled into 2021 with activists in Nigerian for the removal of SARS – the Special Anti-Robbery Squad – which is responsible for countless killings, injuries, and continuous harassment of Nigerians. This situation was also amplified by citizens’ exhaustion with SARS’ abuse.
Additionally, 2021 will go down as the deadliest year for transgender people with at least 47 people killed since Jan. 1. It’s a continued fight and push toward equality and peace in this community that is, at the moment, far from arriving.
Violence and other acts of inequality against minority groups won’t be solved tomorrow, but its eradication is long overdue. Our continued fight for social justice, racial equality, and the removal of forces that enable and induce brutality will bring us closer to a better society hopefully sooner than later. Shout out to the activists fighting every day for a better tomorrow.
Sixteen years ago, JAY-Z uttered one of his most famous lines on a remix of Kanye West’s “Diamonds From Sierra Lone.” “I’m not a businessman, I’m a business, man,” he rapped, and 2021 has been a testament to that line. From money moves made in the fitness, tech, alcohol, and marijuana industries, JAY-Z was certainly set on elevating himself and his business in 2021. This year also saw rap’s beloved wordsmith take more of a step into the film and TV world. He reportedly filed a trademark through S. Carter Enterprises for the name “2/J” and placed it under the category of “entertainment services in the nature of creation, development, and production.” While it remains to be seen what arrives from that, JAY-Z’s directorial and production skills were on full display in 2021.
A prime example comes with his executive producer role in the Jeymes Samuel-directed The Harder They Fall. The film is a Western that became one of the few whose main cast members are all Black. JAY spoke about the intention behind this in a press release for the film. “The westerns influenced the musicians of the time and now musicians are influencing the genre,” he said. “Now, this music is informing the film and the western. It’s the full circle.” Recently, Hov teamed up with Will Smith to executive produce the Emmett Till docuseries Let The World See which debuts Jan. 2022. JAY-Z has plenty of stories to tell, some being his own while the rest belong to others. However, just as he did through his music, these stories will get told whether it be on the big or small screen.
For the last five years, Issa Rae made Black people all around the world feel more comfortable with the everyday struggles, successes, failures, and much more in their lives. Her trademark television show ” Insecure” focused on the normalcies in Black people’s everyday lives, something she stressed before the show’s start in 2016. “This is not a hood story,” she said. “This is about regular people living life.” Year after year, more and more people tuned in to watch Rae grapple with her tumultuous love life, a career path that featured numerous obstacles, friendships that emulated the unsettling highs and lows of a rollercoaster, and many more aspects of the adulting world that we all deal with daily.
Unfortunately, as the saying goes, all good things must come to an end. It was announced that the fifth season of “Insecure” would be the show’s last, leaving many to wonder how a world without it would feel like. As the show finale aired last night (Dec. 26), Rae allowed us to watch her fall and come up short in her life with the hope that we’d learn from her mistakes, or at the very least, be prepared to fall in the inevitable situations. If “Insecure” has taught us anything it’s that the average Black life is far from normal and that the events of tomorrow are anything but secure.
Year after year, a Netflix show goes from an underground and unknown form of entertainment to a cultural phenomenon. “Bridgerton” is a perfect example of this transition. The romance series based in the Regency era and on Julia Quinn’s novels blew all of Netlfix’s projections for out of the water and then some. Its first season was watched in a record 82 million households around the world. In a time where uncertainty for the future was prevalent thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, the show provided the comfort and distraction that the world needed to, for once, not focus on what was unknown. In the words of the show’s creator Chris Van Dusen, it offered an “incredible escape for audiences at a time where that’s exactly what’s needed.”
A large part of the show’s success can be credited to Shonda Rhimes who was tasked with producing it thanks to her background with hit shows like “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Scandal,” and “How To Get Away With Murder.” She announced her 2018 Netflix signing, which made her the highest-paid showrunner in television history. “On behalf of women everywhere, I will brag,” she said. Now, more than three years later, Rhimes has every right to be cocky and smile from ear-to-ear about her accomplishments. “Bridgerton” has also been green lit for season two production, leaving Rhimes and company with another milestone to blow by at the next go around.
Months after “Bridgerton” arrived and smashed Netflix records, the South Korean entertainment industry would put out its own series that became a cultural phenomenon and Netflix‘s biggest show. Yes, you guessed it: “Squid Game.” The show quickly swept the world and grabbed interest while providing new memes and conversations around dystopian societies. Less than a month after it premiered on the platform, it registered 111 million viewers from around the world – nearly 30 million more than the amount “Bridgerton” registered at the beginning of 2021.
“Squid Game” arrived as a nine-episode thriller that followed South Korean contestants as they played childhood games with the hope of winning 45.6 billion won ($38 million USD) while facing death for losing. In the end, the show sparked conversations about the dangers of competitive societies that often promote a “crabs in the bucket” agenda while also pushing viewers to take more of an interest in South Korea’s culture. Its screenwriter and director Hwang Dong-hyuk stands at the helm of “Squid Games” and the show’s success comes in large part from his decision to keep things simple. “As a survival game, it is entertainment and human drama,” he said during an interview with Variety. “The games portrayed are extremely simple and easy to understand. That allows viewers to focus on the characters, rather than being distracted by trying to interpret the rules.”
It’s this intentional simplicity that played into Dong-hyuk’s hands as he quickly watched “Squid Game” reach unchartered levels of success. From Halloween costumes and other real-life emulations of the series, he and the series successfully etched their positions as a moment to remember in 2021.
One of the more shocking losses that the fashion world experience this year was the death of designer Virgil Abloh, who passed away after a private two-year battle with cardiac angiosarcoma, a rare and aggressive form of cancer. His death was an unexpected end to a career that saw him rise and be one of the great creators of the streetwear world. Whether it was through clothing or shoes, Abloh pushed past the limits of design that were set before him before his arrival into the industry. For what it’s worth, his background in architecture allowed him to look at the objects he designed as more than what they were. He saw the endless possibilities they possessed, and whether he approached it simplistically or complexly, Abloh’s viewpoint proved to go against the grain more times than not.
Abloh’s impact was found in much more than the fashion world. He also designed countless album covers for the likes of Kanye West, 2 Chainz, Westside Gunn, A$AP Rocky, Lil Uzi Vert, Kid Cudi, Pusha T, Big Sean, and more. His touch in fashion brought him recognition and collaborations in other fields. In his final days, he served as the artistic director for Louis Vuitton’s menswear ready to wear line while setting out products through his beloved Off-White line and earning increased creative responsibilities at LVMH. The love and respect that was carried for Abloh were on full display at the LVMH spin-out fashion show on Nov. 30, which boasted the theme of “Virgil Was Here” in honor of the late designer. Abloh’s impact will carry on for generations to come with his current creative peers, and those who will soon discover his work and be inspired by his vision.
Oftentimes in the fashion world, luxury is set as a lifestyle that can only be attained at a certain level of income — one far above that of the average everyday consumer. Liberian-American designer Telfar Clemens sought to change that with the introduction of his Telfar Bag. He first debuted the bag in 2014, but it was until the end of 2020 that it became an internet sensation. Celebrities from Oprah – who added that bag to her annual “favorite things” list last year – Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Issa Rae, Solange, Dua Lipa, and more could be found rocking the bag. However, the bag’s availability to everyday individuals like you and I also contributed just as much to its popularity. While Clemens’ impact and success with his bags should not be downplayed, it often overshadows the company’s work elsewhere, which truly speaks to what he values the most as a designer.
In the past, Clemens collaborated on a design for employee uniforms at fast-food chain White Castle. Proceeds from this partnership were given to minors imprisoned at Rikers Island jail. On one occasion in 2020 and twice in 2021, Clemons launched the Bag Security Jail Program, which guaranteed a bag for each buyer so long as it was purchased within a certain time frame. This year, he also contributed work to his native country of Liberia by designing their uniforms for the Summer Olympics. These collaborations paid off as Clemons received the American Accessories Designer of the Year award at the Council of Fashion Designers of America’s Fashion Awards. With countless more bags to make and additional collaborations to deliver on, Clemens’ work continues to prove that luxury can absolutely be something attained for the average consumer.
At 77 years old, Dapper Dan continues to add to his legacy as an iconic fashion designer. Earlier this year, he was honored at the Council of Fashion Designers of America’s Fashion Awards with the Geoffrey Beene Lifetime Achievement Award. The honor made him the first designer to receive the award without ever hosting a solo fashion show. He’s also the first Black designer to be graced with the honor. In acknowledging his selection for the award, Dan shared a statement that showed his refusal to bite his tongue as well as his continued ability to do things outside of the boundaries set before him. “Isn’t it ironic how the fashion world says that Dapper Dan won the Geoffrey Beene Lifetime Achievement Award, without ever having a runway show?” he said in an Instagram post. “The streets of Harlem have been my runway for 35 years. Isn’t that where the major luxury brands got their inspiration from? Maybe logo-mania is an illusion.”
The honor was the latest in his recent resurgence to the forefront of the design world that after legal action in 1992 shut down his boutique for the illegal use of logos in his designs. The controversy led to Dan being shunned in fashion for decades, but success returned his way in the 2010s with him working his way into the mainstream fashion world over the last half-decade. In 2018, he opened his atelier, with backing from Gucci, in what became the first luxury house fashion store in Harlem. Dan’s impact over the last few decades is undeniable.
Inspiration for creatives can come through both good and bad moments, and as for designer Brandon Blackwood, the latter served as the launching pad that elevated his career. Blackwood, who has spent the past half-decade designing handbags and other accessories, saw things change for himself after he created a mini-tote bag with the words “End Systemic Racism” on them. In an interview with Teen Vogue, he explained what inspired his creation. “I was stuck creatively and exhausted by the daily news,” he said. “I had a pretty solid following and decided I would take this opportunity to make something that could have a direct impact against systemic oppression.” Originally, Blackwood only had 509 bags made with the slogan on them, but he ended up selling thousands of them.
The bags also received plenty of love from celebrities as Lupita Nyong’o, Brie Larson, Amandla Stenberg, Cardi B, Zoe Kravitz, Solange Knowles, Keke Palmer, Saweetie, Kim Kardashian, and more were seen weaning it. With the “End Systemic Racism” bag, it was more than just the slogan that proved to be impactful. Blackwood also donated a portion of the proceeds to the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, an organization focused on helping minorities attain legal representation while fighting civil rights cases. However, this past March, Blackwood discontinued the bag in order to stop it from growing into something that overshadow and distracted from its initial purpose. Now, similar to Clemens, Blackwood is focused on providing luxury to everyday people at an attainable price as his products can be found in multiple stores like Nordstrom and more.
“I just want to make people feel sexy,” Jeniece Blanchet, jewelry designer and owner of Jeblanc, said during an interview back in June. “I feel like everyone has a bit of romance and sexy about them, and I’ve always wanted to bring that out naturally just for who they are.” This attention to detail and attention to consumer dates back to her early days as a high schooler in Atlanta. She would often pick up finished jewelry pieces, break them apart, and reconstruct them as one-of-one pieces for friends. A move to Los Angeles at 22 years old nurtured her creative seeds and allowed her to blossom into the jewelry designer that she is today.
For Blanchet, her goals as a designer are ambitious in their own ways, much different than some might expect. “I just hope that my voice is louder and being heard, the purpose is obvious, and I create pieces that trigger others to be gentler and kinder and more loving,” she said in an interview with Who What Wear. It’s a goal that is very evident with her pieces as well as her approach when creating them, which she says is supported by the crystals she uses and the chakras they enhance. It all aligns with Blanchet’s goal of shining a light on the consumer’s most authentic self. A number of celebrities like Doja Cat, Ebonee Davis, Halle Bailey, Jazmine Sullivan, and more have been seen wearing her pieces this year.
Tremaine Emory, an Atlanta-born and New York-raised creative consultant and designer, has quite an extensive background in fashion. He worked with Frank Ocean for the singer’s Boys Don’t Cry zine and collaborated with Kanye West on multiple Yeezy endeavors. Emory also has work with Stüssy, Off-White, Levi’s, Converse, Nike, and New Balance that appear as highlights on his resume. With that being said, at the center of Emory’s creative endeavors is his desire to amplify the Black voice and contribute to social causes like the Black Lives Matter Movement and the Every Mother Counts association.
Another way he fulfills this desire is through his Denim Tears fashion line, or a “storytelling art project” as he describes it, which often uses garments and clothing in many ways to tell stories within Black history. An example of this is his Empire Windrush Nineteen Forty Eight collection that debuted at London’s Fashion Week in September. The title references the year the passenger liner Empire Windrush arrived in London with the first immigrants from Jamaica — a British colony at the time — after they were persuaded to aid the country’s postwar labor shortage. It’s stories told through projects like these that speak to Emory’s one-of-a-kind fashion mind, but as he says during an interview with The Face, his true interest lies with style and not fashion.
“I don’t find fashion important at all,” he says. “I find personal style important in culture and community. Fashion, ready-to-wear, couture and sportswear are advents of late capitalism, so I don’t have much to do with it. I have a lot to do with style, storytelling and community.”
In 2020, former WNBA star and two-time champion Renee Montgomery surprised the sports world with her decision her opt out of a 12th season with the Atlanta Dream. Why? She sought to place her attention fully on social justice reform. Then, Montgomery began working through her Renee Montgomery Foundation and launched the Remember The 3rd campaign at the end that year, an initiative that was aimed at increasing voter turnout in Georgia with the hope of turning the notoriously red state into a blue one. At the beginning of 2021, after helping to successfully to turn Georgia blue, she returned her attention to the sports world to buy her former team after the Dream’s previous owner, former Georgia senator Kelly Loeffler, was forced out of her position.
Loeffler’s exit came after she unsuccessfully ran a political campaign that racially charged among other things thanks to her ire of the Black Lives Matter Movement. She also used her players as scapegoats for “rioters” after George Floyd’s murder, which became far more than what the Dream and the WNBA wanted to deal with. Montgomery’s addition to the team’s ownership group, which also includes Larry Gottesdiener and Suzanne Abair, brought another Black leader to the WNBA and the sports world, which severely lacks it. Shortly after, Montgomery took on the role of a venture capitalist at the Atlanta-based Valor Ventures. The company focuses on financial inclusion and investing in underrepresented founders. She is without a doubt putting in the work on the ground through her social reform work, making her shocking 2020 decision more understanding in 2021.
Home is where the heart is at. It’s a saying that’s proven to be true for decades upon decades, and one of the more recent examples of this comes with WNBA star Candace Parker. In 2021, after 13 seasons with the Los Angeles Sparks, Parker decided to leave her longtime team and take her talents to the Chicago Sky in order to play closer to home and compete for a championship. “Chicago is where my family raised me, where I first learned the game of basketball, and where I first fell in love with this orange ball,” she said at the time of her announcement. “I am excited to continue the next chapter of my career where it all began. To my new teammates, my new organization, and my new fans, I’m home.”
The move quickly paid off for Parker as the Sky won a championship in her first season with the team. Despite being the sixth seed in the playoffs, the Sky won a pair of single-elimination games, and upset the Connecticut Sun in the semifinals before beating the Phoenix Mercury in the 2021 WNBA Finals. It was the icing on the cake in a year that proved to be another successful entry onto her resume, as she also appeared on the cover of NBA 2K22, which made her become the first woman to be on the cover popular video game series. For Parker, 2021 proved to be a year filled with continuous full-circle moments that looped their way back to the childhood dreams she possessed as a youth in Chicago.
LeBron James’ 2021 began with a push for the Los Angeles Lakers to string up a second consecutive champion season. Unfortunately, they would fall short in their push as they were eliminated in the first round by the Phoenix Mercury. It marked the first time that he lost in the first round of his career. Despite this, James had plenty of success in other corners of the basketball and sports world in general. He even earned his 17th consecutive All-NBA Team selection despite the disappointing ending to the season. His most notable accomplishment in the year, however, would occur through his first endeavor as an owner.
In March, James joined Fenway Sports Group, giving him an ownership stake in the Boston Red Sox, Roush Fenway Racing, and the regional sports network NESN. He already owned owned 2 percent of Liverpool Football Club. The move, which James made with his business partner Maverick Carter, made both of them the first Black partners in the history of FSG. “It gives me and people that look like me hope and inspiration that they can be in a position like that as well, that it can be done,” he said about the move. “It gives my kids at my I Promise School more and more inspiration as well.”
There’s an idea within the sports world that after a certain age, you’re no longer fit to compete. This belief appears in basketball, football, soccer, track & field, and more. While there can certainly be a drop-off in output after a certain age in the respective sports, one’s limitations should not always be placed on other individuals. Allyson Felix reminded the world of this with her 5th Olympic appearance this year in Tokyo. As a result of her age, which was 35 at the time of completion, in addition to her qualifying time, which was the second-slowest among the field; a cloud of doubts was placed over Felix, but it did nothing to deter her success.
She overcame these critics with an impressive run during the 400 meters final at the international sporting event. Despite the naysayers, Felix ran a 49.46 in the final to claim the bronze medal to give her the 10th Olympic medal of her career. The feat tied her with Carl Lewis to make her the most-decorated American track & field Olympian, while it broke her tie with Merlene Ottey to make Felix the most decorated female track & field Olympian. As if that wasn’t enough, she won gold in the 4×400-meter final with teammates Sydney McLaughlin, Dalilah Muhammad, and Athing Mu, giving Felix her 11th Olympic medal, which then broke her tie with Lewis to make her the most decorated track & field Olympian in American history. So much for those doubts, huh?
Jamaica’s Women’s Olympics Track And Field Team
Jamaica’s women’s track & field team was at its best during the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. Elaine Thompson-Herah, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Shericka Jackson, and Briana Williams took home the gold medal in the 4×100-meter relay race with a national record time of 41.02 that also saw them finish way ahead of the United States and Britain teams. It marked the country’s first gold in the race since 2004 after they took home the silver medal at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics in London and Rio, respectively. The collective success of the Jamaican team in this instance was accompanied by the track stars’ individual success at the Olympics, which altogether, made for an absolutely dominant performance from the country.
Thompson-Herah won gold in the 100-meter race and set an Olympic record with her time of 10.61. She also took gold in the 200-meter race with a time of 21.53, which set a national record in Jamaica. Fraser-Pryce took home the silver in the 100-meter race with a time of 10.74, and Jackson secured the bronze in that race with a time of 10.76. Elsewhere on Jamaica’s women’s track & field team, Megan Tapper won bronze in the 100-meter hurdle race while the country’s 4×400 meter took home the bronze in the race. Jamaica’s women’s track & field team proved that they were beyond worthy competitors for their peers and an exciting group to watch for viewers back home.