February is dedicated to remembering black women and men, who have defined history by innovating and excelling in their respective fields. Though there are countless extraordinary black people across the globe, the following 28 represent each day of Black History Month. Some of them continue to inspire our hearts and minds to this day. Some have passed, but their legacies live on through their art form, their entrepreneurial ventures, their contribution to the sciences, their sportsmanship, their research, their social activism, and their ceaseless perseverance against all odds. Each day for the final week of this month, we will highlight a few influential black people, and show gratitude for their originality and brilliance. Take a moment to regard these honorable people, and share their greatness with a friend.
Brooklyn, New York native Jean-Michel Basquiat's artistic talents were noticed from a very young age. His mother Matilda's efforts to immerse him in fine arts while growing up ultimately formed his own style of visual genius. The book "Gray's Anatomy," which she gave him as a boy, remained a constant reference in his depictions of human imagery mixed with text throughout his career. Sadly, his contribution to the art world was short lived, but to this day he remains one of modern art's most influential entities of the 20th century. Heavily influenced by Egyptian Deities and ancient history, his work aimed to elevate black people, giving the focal characters crowns and often making them prophets. Basquiat's work has been auctioned off for the highest value of any American artist in history, selling for a cool 110 Million to a Japanese collector in 2017.
Emerging from the era of New York City's infamous Studio 54, Grace Beverly Jones was a pioneer in the androgynous fashion movement with her flamboyant and sexually charged performances. Born in Jamaica, and relocating to NY at the age of 13, Grace studied theatre at Syracuse University before launching her career as a model and cultivating her musical abilities. Her music is a culmination of new-wave, disco, reggae, dance, post punk and rock. In 2016, Billboard Magazine ranked her as the 40th most successful dance artist of all time. She had an uncanny ability to appear both beautifully exotic and terrifying at once. Her strong facial features and stature made her the object of inspiration for many artists from the 70's to present day including Jean Paul Goude, Annie Lennox, Lorde, Lady Gaga, Brazillian Girls, and Santigold to name a few.
"The ladder of success is never crowded at the top," words of wisdom from Olympic gold medalist Florence Griffith Joyner. Coming from a true rags-to-riches story, Flo was no stranger to hard work. She began running at the age of 7, and continued to strengthen her skills throughout high school. During the 80's and 90's, Florence elevated track to a higher level as she broke world records. She became a household name in the 80's with her eccentric style, never getting on the track without her hair done, and her often 1.5 inch manicured nails. A fashion icon to the sports realm, she single handedly made popular the one-legged track suit. To this day no one has beaten her record in the 100 & 200 meter dash!
2017's February issue of TIME Magazine listed Shamayim Shacaro as one of "12 African American Photographers you should be following right now". Global fashion photographer Shamayim's work can be seen gracing magazines and advertising campaigns in the United States, South Africa, Egypt, United Kingdom, France, Italy, The Caribbean, and the United Arab Emirates. He recently created The Shacaro Luxury book, which is published quarterly and with several special editions throughout the year. Each issue showcases independent and emerging brands in fashion, exotic travels, and luxurious lifestyles.