The Biggest Winners of 2018

As we reach this final day of the year in 2018, The Root takes our annual look back at the people, organizations and movements that captured our attention over the past year. From a Bronx rapper who was unapologetically herself to a former first lady who wrote candidly about her experience in the White House to the movement that held Hollywood and men in general accountable for their transgressions—the list of winners is a reflection culture, politics, womanism and a creative energy we hope to carry with us into the new year.

Cardi B

Say what you want about Belcalis Almanzar, but she once again ruled the world in 2018. Her glow up continued, and we watched her grab headlines and keep her foot on the necks of her naysayers.

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Nicki Minaj tried to come for her, and Cardi kept the hits coming—both lyrically and physically.

Her line with Fashion Nova was wildly successful. She gave birth to a daughter over the summer and fully embraced her motherhood. She separated from a cheating husband, but let us know it’s perfectly human to go back just for the D, and if that wasn’t enough, she completely slayed the game with the video for her hit single “Money”—a video that was her personal homage to her own past, present and future.

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She secured multiple bags, managed to outshine her haters and become an even bigger star than her husband and his rap group Migos—a testament to the selling power of a great woman artist in today’s rap landscape.

We are here for Cardi, as evidenced by her inclusion on The Root 100 this year. We want her to keep glowing and growing.

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Michelle Obama

When she was the first lady of the United States, Michelle Obama faced every type of negative criticism imaginable. She was disrespected repeatedly, had ugly and racist comparisons made about her, and she endured it all while keeping a beautiful smile on her face and avoiding sinking lower than her critics.

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While we may not all necessarily follow her “when they go low, we go high” philosophy, we can’t help but respect it. She knows how to rise above her haters. She’s like the popular girl who went to your high schoolpeople just can’t get enough of her.

She took over the last months of 2018 with her best-selling memoir, Becoming, and the subsequent sold-out book tour was the very definition of Black Girl Magic. People turned out in droves just to hear the former forever first lady speak of her experiences and retell stories from when “Barack Met Michelle.”

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She proved that she is both a captivating storyteller and a fashion icon.

Nothing but respect for our forever first lady. No one has done it better.

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The Incoming Freshman Congressional Class

If nothing else, 2018 proved that it was time to breathe new, younger life into the U.S. Congress, and we managed to accomplish just that in the midterm elections.

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From Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to Jahana Hayes to Lucy McBath to Rashida Tlaib to Ayanna Pressley and Ilhan Omar—big changes are coming to Congress in 2019. As we look toward the swearing in of the new class, we are hopeful that with them will come the type of changes we have time and again hoped that the old stalwarts would give us—only to be left high and dry.

New blood in Congress means new ideas—something we definitely need going forward if we want to make any type of positive change in this country.

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Here’s hoping these newbies can get the job done where the old guard failed.

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#MeToo

If 2017 marked an awakening of the #MeToo movement, 2018 was the year the movement held men’s feet to the fire and made them responsible for their actions over and over again.

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In Hollywood especially, women called out the men who both took advantage of and exploited them. And even as the movement appeared to be co-opted by those who would neglect to give credit to its founder, Tarana Burke continued to work tirelessly to make sure people understood just who #MeToo was founded for and who continued to be left out of it.

As we move into 2019, let’s not forget that we watched the Senate railroad a survivor and install her reported attacker on our nation’s highest court. We have watched a sexually exploited teen come of age in prison as she is repeatedly passed over for the type of leniency that has been shown white male perpetrators of sexual violence.

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If that is not reason enough to keep this movement uplifted in 2019, we don’t know what else is.

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Black Lives Matter Sacramento

If the Trayvon Martin case defined the founding of Black Lives Matter and the Ferguson protesters exemplified what it means to be activists in the age of police impunity, then Black Lives Matter Sacramento set the standard for continuously applying pressure to a systemic institution that continues to harm black folks with the continued killing of black people at the hands of police and the blind eye our “justice” system seems to turn toward it.

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Since the March killing of 22-year-old Stephon Clark by two officers from the Sacramento Police Department, Black Lives Matter Sacramento has sat outside the office of District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert three days a week, demanding that she give Clark’s family and the city of Sacramento as a whole justice.

They have attended every city council meeting, where they have been a loud, outspoken force. They showed up at a wedding event of one of the officers responsible for Clark’s death and personally shamed him for the killing of his fellow black man.

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Their loud protests have made many uncomfortable and have helped prompt change within the Sacramento Police Department.

And as we have yet to hear what is going to happen to the two officers who killed Clark and have been back on the job since a month after the shooting, we need the energy of Black Lives Matter Sacramento to continue well into 2019.

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Black Hollywood

Ava DuVernay. Jordan Peele. Ryan Coogler. Lena Waithe. Steven Caple Jr. Cicely Tyson.

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2018 has been quite the year for Black Hollywood.

Cicely Tyson became the first black woman in history to win an honorary Oscar. Ava DuVernay, Steven Caple Jr. and Ryan Coogler put out the kind of Black Box Office Magic that made us all proud. Lena Waithe came through with so many new deals, we wonder if there is a cable channel or streaming service that isn’t clamoring for her “Midas Touch” on a project.

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And now, with Jordan Peele’s upcoming Us project, we are wondering if our minds are going to be able to handle all that Black Hollywood will bring us in 2019.*

*The answer is yes, and we are here for it.

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Black America

We want to give an extra special shout out to Black America. This country has tried to hold us down all year, but guess what? Still, we rise, bitch.

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We have had the police weaponized against us and called on us for everything from selling water, to going swimming, to trying to get into our own apartments to taking a phone call from our mama in a hotel lobby.

We have not let it keep us down.

We have continued to press forward with our heads held high and our chins stuck out because that is what being Black in America means. Capital B-black. Blackety-black. Unapologetically black.

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There would be no American culture if it were not for black culture, and we don’t care who is afraid to admit that.

We are America, and we are not going anywhere.

If 2018 was the year black people resisted, 2019 is the year we can triumph.

And you know this, man.

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The Writers, Editors and Video Producers at The Root

This is a personal note from me. I want to shout out my fellow writers, editors and video producers at The Root. We did that shit this year, you guys. If it happened and it affected black people, we were here to talk about it. We covered politics, entertainment, criminal justice, and everything in between.

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We have clapped back at our haters, tried to explain the most basic principles to white people, and championed black causes like no other.

We are at the top of our game, and we can only go upward from here.

This year was the 10th anniversary of The Root, and here’s to even more years of us being everything that is the essence of progressive black media.

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About the author

Monique Judge

News Editor for The Root. I said what I said. Period.