To celebrate! Black Artists, Designers, Storytellers – OZY

Fashion Pioneers

Fatima Kanji

In 2014, Tanzanian entrepreneur Fatima Kanji noticed a disturbing trend when she started checking the labels on her clothes. Many of the “African” clothes she had purchased were, in fact, mass-produced in Asian countries like Bangladesh or India. So she founded Pensar Africa, which ethically sources fabrics and other products from African artisans and sells them to buyers across the Americas.

Yvonne Jewnell and Tandra Birkett

This powerful mother-daughter duo is the driving force behind Harlem Fashion Week, which showcases global color designers and puts Harlem on the international fashion stage. Highlighting trends from communities of color, Harlem Fashion Week goes against cultural appropriation and has attracted many designers and sponsors.


The fashion industry has notoriously pandered to racist stereotypes in the past. But now? The revolution goes far beyond Harlem. There’s Kerby Jean-Raymond at Pyer Moss, Shayne Oliver at Helmut Lang and, of course, the late Virgil Abloh – Louis Vuitton’s first black creative director who was a rare black designer at the top of a French heritage house. Meanwhile, Kanye West has his own clothing line, and Rihanna and Jay-Z served as creative directors at Puma. Will the next Karl Lagerfeld be black?

music masters

Baha Bank $

When Vivian Bolden – better known as Baha Bank$ – released “Shake Dat A$$” with Chance the Rapper, it was a surprise to everyone: the music industry, her friends – even herself. same. “[Rap] was never originally planned,” Bank$ told OZY. “My grandfather still doesn’t know.” At the time, she was completing her degree in biology and sustainability at Roosevelt University. Today, she’s fast emerging as rap’s latest sensation, releasing “Drip” and even landing a spot as a performer at the Summer Smash Festival.

Terence Blanchard

Many fans know composer Terence Blanchard for his collaborations with Spike Lee on films ranging from “Jungle Fever” to “Mo’ Better Blues.” But Blanchard has now premiered “Fire Shut Up in My Bones,” a lyrical adaptation of the 2014 memoir by fellow Louisiana native and New York Times reporter Charles Blow. In 2021, Blanchard’s opera became the first production created by an African American to appear at the New York Metropolitan Opera in its 138-year history.

Britney Carter

Write, rap, shoot, upload… repeat. That’s how Carter practiced his craft, and it worked. His process led to hundreds of thousands of views on various platforms, a local distribution deal, and shoutouts from rap royalty like Missy Elliott and TDE label members. Carter’s talent comes from his spoken roots, and his must-have debut album “As I Am” is the culmination of that talent blended with faith and perseverance.


Poets and storytellers

Amanda Gorman

We saw the inspiring young wordsmith make history with her poetry and performance at the 2021 Presidential Inauguration. Today, 2017 OZY Genius Award recipient Amanda Gorman speaks to the next generation of writers, poets and thinkers with his children’s book, “Change Sings”, with illustrations by Loren Long. The lyrical picture book, described as a “musical journey of hope and inspiration that will remind us all that change is good and necessary”, was released alongside “The Hill We Climb and Other Poems” by Gorman.

Funa Maduka

Nigerian American director Funa Maduka, famous for her international films on Netflix, is dedicated to raising the voices of the unseen. During his tenure, Netflix acquired dozens of titles from across Africa and commissioned original films in Nigeria and South Africa. She has since left the streaming giant to work on her own projects and intends to elevate other unheard voices.

Stacey Abrams

The best-selling legal thriller “While Justice Sleeps” is actually the ninth novel by former Georgia House of Representatives Minority Leader Stacey Abrams, whose previous eight novels are novels published under her pseudonym, Selena Montgomery. . The tension-filled “While Justice Sleeps” centers on a young legal assistant who unexpectedly becomes the legal guardian of her boss, a Supreme Court Justice, who has fallen into a coma. But this is only the beginning of this novel with many twists and turns. OZY first featured pioneering Abrams in 2016.

Community corner

Which black artist, designer or storyteller would you add to this list and why?

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