We can all agree that a lot of bad things happened in 2016. For instance, Donald Trump was elected president. We also lost legends like Carrie Fisher, Prince, David Bowie, and George Michael. With all the negativity surrounding this year, I think it’s best we shed some light on the good. Here are 16 people of color who absolutely rocked the year 2016.
1. Auli’i Cravalho
Most known for her voice acting debut role in Disney’s Moana, Cravalho has caught the eye of many with her talent and beauty. Born in Kohala, Hawaii, Auli’i is of Chinese, Irish, Native Hawaiian, Portuguese, and Puerto Rican descent.
2. Lin-Manuel Miranda
Lin-Manuel Miranda, who also worked on Disney’s Moana, had a great year. Miranda is of mostly Puerto Rican descent, and he grew up in the Latino neighborhood of Inwood in Manhattan. Lin-Manuel Miranda is best known for creating and starring in the Broadway musical Hamilton. Among all of his success, 2016 was the year Miranda and the cast of Hamilton won 11 Tony Awards in one night.
3. Ibtihaj Muhammad
Ibtihaj Muhammad made history at the 2016 Rio Olympics by being the first hijab-wearing U.S. athlete to compete in the Olympics. She also won her first Olympic medal at the Rio Olympics in August. She was also named one of Time’s 100 Most Influential People of 2016.
4. Chance the Rapper
Chance the Rapper took 2016 by storm with the release of his mixtape The Coloring Book. With his unique sound that blends rap and gospel, Chance produces his music independently, without a label; he’s also a “stream-only artist” meaning he doesn’t “sell” his music and he also produces his music independently. Despite all odds of his choice of production and marketing, he was recently nominated seven times for the 2017 Grammy Awards, including “Best New Artist”.
Beyoncé, who has had success throughout much of her life, had an exceptionally successful year in 2016. Beyoncé released her visual album Lemonade which received worldwide recognition. She pissed off many conservatives when she used her celebrity status and influence to spread awareness on #BlackLivesMatter and the issue of police brutality in the United States.
6. Evan Jaquez
7. Simone Biles
Simone Biles is a 19-year-old distinguished gymnast on Team USA. The world recognized her unmatched success. Simone Biles left the 2016 Rio Olympics with five medals – four gold, one bronze. She also was awarded the honor of being the AP Female Athlete of the Year. Black excellence!
8. Colin Kaepernick
Colin Kaepernick is a professional American football quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers. He rocked 2016 by using his large platform and influence to spread awareness on the issue of police brutality in America. By doing so, Kaepernick caused an uproar from many conservatives which only seemed to fuel his activism.
9. DeRay Mckesson
DeRay Mckesson is a social activist with a large online influence. In the early months of 2016, he made headlines by running for Baltimore Mayor. He did not win the election, but he made a memorable impact. DeRay made headlines again in July after being arrested by Baton Rouge police during a Black Lives Matter protest.
10. Stephanie Murphy
Stephanie Murphy is a Vietnamese-American who immigrated to the United States when she was one year old. During this election, she was endorsed by Barack Obama, Joe Biden, and Human Rights Campaign and was able to beat a 23-year Republican incumbent. She is the first Vietnamese-American woman to hold a spot in Congress.
11. Ilhan Omar
Ilhan Omar made history in 2016 by being the first Somali-American Muslim woman legislator. Omar came to the US as a preteen refugee after escaping civil war in Somalia and spending four years of her childhood in a Kenyan refugee camp.
12. Miguel Ghalichi
Miguel Ghalichi was born and raised in Puerto Rico and is now living in Florida. Miguel is a makeup artist renowned by many. Ghalichi’s tweets and Instagram posts have been liked, retweeted, and shared countless times by thousands of people.
13. Amal Chammout
Amal Chammout is a police officer with the Dearborn, Michigan Police Department. She made history in 2016 as the first hijab-wearing uniformed officer in the country. In an interview with AJ+, Dearborn Police Chief Ronald Haddad said, “Amal is a very educated woman. She has confidence. She also has compassion for the people she serves.”
14. Usain Bolt
11-time world champion Usain Bolt rocked the 2016 Olympics and proved that he is still the fastest man in the world.
15. Marley Dias
11-year-old Marley Dias, from New Jersey, started a book drive called #1000BlackGirlBooks, and she surpassed her goal. “I started this because in my fifth-grade class I was only able to read books about white boys and their dogs. I understood that my teacher could connect with those characters, so he asked us to read those books. But I didn’t relate to them, so I didn’t learn lessons from those stories,” Dias told the Guardian. Marley showed the world that representation of minorities is important to everyone, especially children.
16. Pramila Jayapal
Pramila Jayapal was born in India and raised in Indonesia and Singapore. She immigrated to the United States at the age of 16 to attend university in Washington D.C. She has been involved in politics and social activism for over 20 years now. In 2016 she made history by becoming the first Indian-American woman elected to the US House of Representatives.