People of color have made tremendous strides in entertainment, politics and sports in 2018. This year, box office records were broken by Marvel’s Black Panther, Crazy Rich Asians became the highest-grossing romantic comedy in a decade and women made history at the midterm elections, helping the Democratic Party regain control of the U.S. House of Representatives.
It was a banner year of firsts for Black people, one that left many people asking why it’s taken so long for Black folks to make history.
Here are 10 historic firsts from people of color that helped define 2018.
Beyoncé- First Black Woman to Headline Coachella
Beyoncé Knowles-Carter made history in April by becoming the first Black woman to headline the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in its 20-year history. She was originally supposed to perform at the annual festival in 2017 but dropped out because of her pregnancy with twins Rumi Carter and Sir Carter.
Beyoncé’s performance, nicknamed “Beychella,” paid tribute to marching bands from HBCUs and featured songs with husband JAY-Z, and former Destiny’s Child members Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams.
The Formation singer electrified audiences, both at home and in the middle of California’s Colorado desert, for the almost two-hour set, which proved, once again, why she’s “The Queen.”
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez- Youngest woman elected to Congress
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez made history in November by becoming the youngest woman elected to Congress. Ocasio-Cortez was a virtual shoo-in after defeating Democrat Joe Crowley in the Democratic Primary for New York’s 14th Congressional District in June, in what was one of the biggest political shockers of the year.
The progressive congresswoman-elect has championed Medicare for All, free higher education and for environmental policies, recently calling climate change “the civil rights movement of our generation.”
Black Panther- The first movie to make over $1 billion at the box office with a predominately Black cast
Black Panther was a tour de force at the worldwide box office. The blockbuster, released in February, has earned more than $1.3 billion at the global box office, becoming the first movie with a predominately Black cast to achieve that feat.
During its meteoric run, Black Panther became the third-highest grossing film at the North American box office, having made $700 million and earned the distinction of being the most tweeted about film of all time.
Director Ryan Coogler has signed on to write and direct a sequel to the record-breaking movie.
The movie also became the first superhero movie to be nominated for Best Picture at the Golden Globes.
Naomi Osaka- First Japanese player to win a Grand Slam title
Osaka, who was born in Japan and represented the country at the Open, began playing tennis when was 3 years old after moving to New York. The tennis champ’s mother is Japanese and her father is Haitian.
The Haitian-Japanese player’s match against Williams made international headlines after the 23-time Grand Slam champion received penalties from the chair umpire, who accused her of cheating.
Ayanna Pressley-First Black Congresswoman from Massachusetts
Ayanna Pressley defeated 10-term incumbent Michael Capuano in September during the Democratic Primary in Massachusetts, all but ensuring that she becomes the first Black female congresswoman to represent the state since she would be facing no Republican challenger in the midterm elections.
Video of a shocked and emotional Pressley after her victory was announced quickly went viral on social media.
— Jesse Mermell (@jessemermell) September 5, 2018
Pressley handily won a seat in November for 7th Congressional District of Massachusetts.
Dr. Patrice Harris- First Black woman elected president of the American Medical Association
Dr. Patrice Harris will become the 174th president of the American Medical Association, the first Black woman to do so.
The West Virginia native, who studies psychiatry and begins her tenure in June, has always known she wanted to be a doctor.
Harris was an honoree at this year’s EBONY’s Power 100.
Tyler Mitchell- First Black photographer to shoot a Vogue magazine cover
Tyler Mitchell made history in September after he became the first Black photographer to shoot the cover of Vogue magazine in its 126-year history. Beyoncé, who was the cover star for the magazine’s popular September issue and was given “unprecedented control” over the shoot, handpicked Mitchell.
“I depict black people and people of color in a really real and pure way,” Mitchell told The New York Times last December. “There is an honest gaze to my photos.”
Deb Haaland and Sharice Davids- First Native American women elected to Congress
The 2018 midterm elections were a historic moment for women. Deb Haaland (D-New Mexico) and Sharice Davids (D-Kansas) became the first Native American women elected to Congress. Haaland, a member of the Pueblo of Laguna, ran against Republican Janice Arnold-Jones for a seat in New Mexico’s heavily Democratic 1st Congressional District.
Davids not only made history by becoming one of two Native American women elected to Congress, but also by being the first openly LGBTQ member to represent Kansas. She defeated Kansas GOP Rep. Kevin Yoder. Davids is a member of the Ho-Chunk Nation.
Vanessa Wyche- First Black person named deputy director at NASA’s Johnson Space Center
NASA’s Johnson Space Center has never had a Black woman as its deputy director until this year, when Vanessa Wyche was named in August.
Wyche began at the Johnson Space Center in 1989 as an engineer and will alongside the director to run the facility, which employs 10,000 civil service and contract workers.
Live Alkaline Water- First Black-owned water bottle company sold at Walmart
Live Alkaline Water is the first Black-owned water brand to sell its products on Walmart shelves.
Founded by Dr. Shayla Creer and Robert McCray, the product began appearing on the shelves of the world’s largest retailer in June.
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Teddy is a multimedia journalist who serves as the culture and political writer for EBONY. His work has appeared in NBC's Owned and Operated stations, as well as DNAInfo, which covered local neighborhood news in New York City. He received his Masters in Journalism from the Craig Newmark School of Journalism at CUNY in 2017.