Photo illustration by Sam Woolley/GMG; photos via Getty Images

With everything—and everyone—we lost in this past year, there were some big wins. Black women showed up and showed out in various ways. Black men put their careers and livelihoods on the line to speak out against racial injustice, police violence, and sexual assault and harassment. Creative artists experienced amazing glow ups, and black teenagers all over the country showed that no matter what, still we rise. Let’s take a look at some of the biggest winners of 2017.

Black Activism

In a year that began with us getting the worst president in the world, black activists continued to do the work to help black people stay alive and get free. That activism took on many forms—from protests both loud and silent to creative arts projects to writing—and it was prolific in the year 2017.

Black people fought and continued to fight for clean water for the people of Flint, Mich., as well as other cities; social justice; economic justice; and an end to the state-sanctioned murder of black people at the hands of police. These fights are not over, and if 2017 was any indication, our voices will only get louder in 2018.



Beyoncé broke the internet in February when she announced that she was pregnant with twins via an Instagram post, and her year went on an upswing that has not ended. Although we know she has plenty of haters, it’s hard to understand how you can hate on someone so graceful, so beautiful, so talented and so free in her own black womanhood. Her pregnancy led to the birth of beautiful twins— which she has blessed us with time and time again. Oh, and Sir and Rumi were cute, too.


Her charity and generosity are not always made public, but she gives from the heart when it matters most. Not to mention, her after-pregnancy snapback was real and an inspiration to us all. Deep down inside, she is just a “Texas bama” who has her fangirl moments just like the rest of us, and we are here for it. Long live Queen Bey.

Fenty Beauty


We all have our own favorite makeup brands, but when Rihanna announced that she would be launching Fenty Beauty in September, black girls (and the rest of y’all) went crazy. No, she didn’t make it just for us, but she made it for us in that she kept black girls in mind when creating the color ranges. The products flew off the shelves faster than they could be stocked.

Fenty had other beauty lines shook time and time again because Fenty had the range. Just one month in, Fenty had $72 million in earned media value, showing us that the combination of Black Girl Magic and black-girl social media capital is a guaranteed win. Right on, Fenty. Right on.


Black High School Seniors Accepted to College

Despite being told by America every single day that their lives don’t matter, black students continued to push forward and show that yes, the hell they do. Even as people tried to call them underachievers and say they are destined to a life of nothingness, black kids stood up and loudly proclaimed, “Yes, we can!” Whether they were getting accepted to all eight Ivy League schools, heading off to Harvard or fulfilling their dream of going to their favorite HBCU, black high school seniors did the damn thing in 2017, and we are proud of y’all. Keep pushing.


Cardi B


She don’t dance no more, she makes money moves. If you look up the phrase “glow up” in the dictionary, right after the definition of the new vertical on The Root, there will be a picture of Cardi B, her tongue hanging out and the look of win on her face, because she seriously glowed up in 2017. Regardless of how you may feel about her, your hate and a Grammy snub won’t stop her shine. She signed big deals, had one of the biggest hits of the year (my current theme song/anthem), got big props from the Queen herself—and despite rumors of a potential breakup, her boo Offset proposed to her with an 8-carat diamond ring. Cardi did 2017 big as hell, and we can only expect that will continue in 2018.

Terry Crews


It takes a black man who is strong in will and mind to display restraint and not beat the shit out of a perverted white man who gropes his genitals in full view of everyone at a Hollywood party. It takes an even stronger black man to come forward during the #MeToo storm and admit that he, too, was sexually violated by a powerful white man in Hollywood. That strong black man was Terry Crews.

While some questioned why he didn’t just pummel Adam Venit when the Hollywood power broker allegedly grabbed his genitals at a party, Crews showed that it’s a game of chess, not checkers, and in the end, the sound mind wins. He filed a police report, filed a lawsuit and spoke out against sexual assault in Hollywood, letting everyone know that he would not be a victim. He was named one of Time magazine’s “silence breakers.” He dropped WME—the agency Venit worked for that basically did nothing to protect Crews and everything to protect Venit—and moved on to new representation, all without being the stereotypical angry black man that everyone wanted or expected him to be.

That is the very definition of winning. Kudos, Terry.


Barack Obama

Barack Obama won 2017 the day he left office as the president of the United States. I am very sure it was like when Scarface quit his job in Half Baked.

Our president started wearing less and going out more. He sent his wife a cute Valentine’s Day tweet. He got crowds and applause just for being a regular-ass dude. People wanted so much more of him, the bidding war over his memoirs reached $60 million. He received the 2017 JFK Profile in Courage Award. He even reported for jury duty in Chicago. He basically showed everyone that leaving the presidency hasn’t stopped his shine or his charisma, and your orange-colored Oompa Loompa of a president could never. Come through, Barack. Come through.


Colin Kaepernick


NFL ratings are down, and league officials don’t know what to do about it. Good. The NFL deserves whatever “L’s” it gets because the NFL turned its back on Colin Kaepernick. Meanwhile, Kaepernick continues to shine. When he started his silent protests during the national anthem last year, he was widely criticized by people who didn’t understand his need and desire to fight for black lives or the recognition he got for it. None of that matters. Despite it all, Kaepernick is living his best life. He has gotten award after award, and he is even considering buying an NFL team. Take that, NFL. Long live Colin Kaepernick.

Black Women


2017 was the year of the black woman. From your Auntie Maxine Waters to Serena Williams winning the Australian Open while pregnant to Karen Bass’ hilarious takedown of Jeff Sessions to black women showing up to guarantee Roy Moore did not win in Alabama to Tarana Burke and the #MeToo movement, black women were here for you. Black women have always been here for you. Black women will continue to be here for you. Now black women need you to be here for us. Enough said.