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Black History Month: Five Notable People Currently Making History

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Rochester chapter.
It’s February, and that means it’s time for the annual celebration of Black History Month!
Black History Month was started in 1915, but wasn’t officially recognized until 1976. The month is dedicated to honoring black history and the accomplishments of those who impacted the world for the better. 
The celebration of influential black people shouldn’t be limited to a month, but remembered year-round. The influence of these leaders and pioneers is undeniable, regardless of the month.
Everyone knows the big names in history, like Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks and Harriet Tubman. But here are five figures who are currently making black history.
1. Shonda Rhimes
Shonda Rhimes is a TV writer and producer. The great mind behind popular shows like Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, and How to Get Away with Murder, her shows always feature a diverse cast of actors and actresses. She doesn’t shy away from controversial storylines, incorporating topics of abortion, racism and corruption into her shows. 
Often dubbed as a trailblazer for always including a diverse cast in her shows, Rhimes responded, “It’s not trailblazing to write the world as it actually is … [I] created the content that I wanted to see and I created what I know is normal.” 
2. Frank Ocean
Frank Ocean is a singer, songwriter, and rapper. He worked with big names like Beyoncé, Nas, and Justin Bieber before embarking off on his own as a solo artist. His first album, channel ORANGE, was released in 2012, winning a Grammy for Best Urban Contemporary Album. His highly anticipated second album is expected to drop soon! 
After the success of his first album, Ocean came out on the LGBT spectrum, one of the few rappers in the industry to do so. He writes, “I don’t know what happens now, and that’s alrite. I don’t have any secrets I need kept anymore…I feel like a free man.” 
3. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a Nigerian writer. She’s written numerous novels, short stories, and poems, including We Should All Be Feminists, published in 2014. The book defines the new age of feminism sweeping through the 21st century. Because of its popularity and impact, several organizations in Sweden, including the Swedish Women’s Lobby, supported the decision to distribute the book to every 16-year-old high school student in Sweden. 
Adichie is also featured in Beyoncé’s song, “***Flawless,” which stresses women’s empowerment. In the song, she speaks the powerful words, “Feminist. A person who believes in the social, political and economic equality of the sexes.”
4. Jesse Williams
Jesse Williams is an actor and activist. In addition to starring in Grey’s Anatomy, he’s the executive producer of Question Bridge: Black Males. This multimedia project aims to create a platform that will showcase the diversity of the black male population. It seeks to redefine the stereotype. 
In 2014, Williams participated in the protests that occurred in Ferguson, Missouri after the killing of unarmed teenager Michael Brown. In response to the hate he’s received after taking a stance on racial injustice, he says, “I was an activist first … I happen to act now. That really has zero to do with … my giving a damn about human life, about brown life, about disenfranchised people, about indigenous people, about us holding ourselves up to the ideals that we claim to pledge to every day.”
5. Amandla Stenberg
Amandla Stenberg is an actress. She’s best known from her portrayal of Rue in the The Hunger Games. Though she’s only 17, she has a strong influence on today’s youth generation, using social media as a tool for spreading awareness. She’s not afraid to speak out about topics like cultural appropriation and racial and gender inequality. 
Recently, through a Snapchat video, she confidently came out as bisexual, acknowledging her place in society as a black, bisexual woman. She continues, “We cannot be suppressed. We are meant to express our joy and our love and our tears and be big and bold and definitely not easy to swallow … Here I am being myself and it’s hard and vulnerable … but I’m learning and I’m growing.”
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Emily Zhu


Emily is a sophomore at the University of Rochester, planning to major in English Lit. Hailing from New York City, she has an insurmountable love for bagels, and she always has her earphones and a cup of coffee in her hands. She's passionate about Netflix marathons, dyed hair, and intersectionality.