• by Monah Water

In FOCUS: Top 10 Highlights of 2018


2018 was quite a year! Although it went by so swiftly, we gathered many things along the way that will be cherished well into 2019. As a way to end the year off feeling elevated, we're bringing things into focus with our top 10 highlights of 2018. We've also dropped a bonus highlight since we love entering the new year with reconciled differences and bad energy at an absolute minimum!

First up we've got...

1. BLACK PANTHER GROSSING $1.346 BILLION WORLDWIDE

| Source: YouTube

​The highly-anticipated Marvel film directed by 32-year-old Ryan Coogler, made it's mark as the highest grossing film in America and the first Marvel superhero movie with an African-American lead, played by Chadwick Boseman. The film premiered this year in Los Angeles on January 29th and made a grand box-office debut upon its official release in February. According to the studio, the production, excluding marketing, totalled to $200 million. It grossed $700 million in North America and $1.346 billion worldwide at the box-office.

What made Black Panther so special was not only its significance to the Marvel realm, which is filled with comic books and superheroes dating back to 1939, but the film's importance and relevance to African culture and the diaspora. The digital, new-age portrayal of black characters in film was phenomenally supported by the production's predominantly black cast and strong black female leads including Angela Bassett (Ramonda), Lupita Nyong'o (Nakia), Danai Gurira (Okoye), and 25-year-old Letitia Wright (Shuri).

Black Panther was very influential in challenging industry norms and promoting the roles of black actors and filmmakers in an elitist sector. Beyond film, the movie was celebrated by black audiences internationally who further embraced the film's cultural relevance and diversity; its multidimensional depiction of black stories and identities in mainstream media; and the empowering effects of positive representation in the lives of some of its youngest viewers.

If you haven't watched Black Panther by now, and if you haven't been affected by all the movie spoilers floating around the internet since its release, hopefully seeing the trailer again will give you that extra nudge to get a jump start at crossing it off on your movie playlist in early 2019!

2. TYLER MITCHELL MAKES HISTORY IN SEPTEMBER ISSUE OF VOGUE

| Source: It's Nice That

Respect the shooter.

If you haven't heard of 23-year-old photographer Tyler Mitchell, you'll definitely recognize his work, which was featured on the cover of Vogue Magazine's September issue. Mitchell, who is presently based in New York, became the first African-American photographer to shoot for the legendary fashion publication—and if that isn't already a boastful achievement, he was hand-picked by the one and only, Queen Bey!

Despite the publication's 126-year history and its reputation as a globally renowned source in fashion, the publication still has a very long way to go as far as genuinely reflecting the diversity of the industry. However, we're extremely happy that more and more doors are being opened by influential black figures who are using their platforms to create access and opportunities for young, talented black creatives who wouldn't otherwise be given the spotlight to garner the exposure that they're undoubtedly deserving of.

Moreover, Mitchell had a few words to share with his followers via Twitter:

Be sure to follow Mitchell and view more of his work here.

3. LEBRON JAMES OPENS THE I PROMISE SCHOOL

| Source: The Associated Press

Over the course of his 15-year NBA career, 34-year-old basketball player Lebron James has scored his way onto the league's roster of NBA greats—and it hasn't ended there. We couldn't help but highlight his off-the-court accomplishments, one of which gained coverage on June 30th with the grand opening of his I Promise School based in Akran, Ohio, James' hometown. The $8 million school is supported by the Lebron James Family Foundation, and is designed to serve underprivileged students from grades 1-8.

Since its inauguration this summer, the school has welcomed 240 students enrolled in the 3rd and 4th grades for the 2018-2019 school year. By 2022, James has projected that the institution will be fully operational, serving all eight grade levels. Taking pride in its motto, "Nothing is given. Everything is earned.", James has drawn from his early lived experiences to create something special in the schooling system for a younger generation building their futures on the margins.

The I Promise School will aid students in the classroom, while also providing them with the tools and financial supports to equip them for their future ventures. Students are also being provided with free bikes, meals, postsecondary funding and parent resources to further support and enhance their educational experience.

Here's what James had to say about his new institution.

| Source: CNN

We can't wait to hear of the many success stories as we follow the growth of the I Promise School in 2019 and the years to come!

4. 'BEY' MAKES GROUNDBREAKING HEADLINING COACHELLA PERFORMANCE

| Source: Larry Busacca/Getty Images for Coachella

Bey, done did it again! Prior to hitting the road this year with her husband, rapper Jay-Z, for their On the Road Tour II which kicked off on June 6th in Cardiff, UK, Beyoncé made history—yet again, as the first woman of colour to headline for the 2018 Coachella music festival. Since her original Coachella performance was postponed in 2017 due to her pregnancy with twins Rumi and Sir Carter, fans have been anxiously on edge, but the wait was well worth it! Queen Bey took to the stage with a complete drum line, marching band, and a luxury wardrobe comprised of five custom-designed looks by Balmain during her 2-hour set.

If that wasn't enough, Bey surely shut it down on stage, making her performance an empowering, yet highly political celebration of black excellence, culture and womanhood. She opened up by singing "Lift Every Voice and Sing", historically known as the black national anthem; she infused symbolic references that were strikingly reminiscent of Historically Black Colleges and Universities' (HBCUs) homecoming half-time shows; she tactfully paid homage to the Black Lives Matter movement; and incorporated the vocals of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Malcom X into her set.

This, also, was just a fraction of the star's grand ensemble. Beyoncé served fans with a long-awaited Destiny's Child reunion, bringing former group members Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams to the Coachella stage to perform a three-song medley comprised of D.C's hit singles "Lose My Breath", "Say My Name" and "Soldier". She was also joined in a dance-off with her sister Solange Knowles, and welcomed her boo to the stage for a power couple performance of her Grammy-nominated single "Déjà Vu".

| Source: Raven Varona

Let's unanimously agree that DJ Khaled was accurate in coining the festival #Beychella!

5. SIMONE BILES BREAKS 30-YEAR RECORD AT THE WORLD GYMNASTICS CHAMPIONSHIPS

| Source: USA Gymnastics

After a long-standing record held by Daniela Silivas of Romania, 21-year-old gymnast Simone Biles claimed the title this year, winning four gold medals out of the six medals she was awarded at the World Gymnastics Championships in Qatar. Her wins qualified her to be the first woman in 30 years to surpass Silivas' record, which was set at the 1988 Olympics.

After bringing home six medals, Biles now owns a total of 20 across the span of her career, tying her with Svetlana Khorkina for the career record held by a female gymnast.

Get it, girl. Keep winning young queen!

6. MICHELLE OBAMA LAUNCHES AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL MEMOIRE, BECOMING

|Source: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Remember when Michelle Obama announced the release of her memoire Becoming? Many of us just couldn't wait to grab a hold of our copies! Since winning hearts as one of the dearest First Ladies of the United States—for Americans and non-Americans alike, FLOTUS has continued to spread her impact globally, empowering young women—and men—to maximize their potentials, live healthy lives, and boldly manifest their destinies.

Her warmth, wisdom, passion and enthusiasm, which she exhibited throughout her husband's presidency has created her into a beacon of inspiration and a voice of true influence in our era. With the release of her book on November 13, 2018, her story is now resonating with audiences on a more intimate level. Prior to its release, Becoming topped Amazon's best-seller list domestically and internationally—and to date, the memoire has maintained its ranking.

Moreover, along with her new successes, Mrs. Obama has also embarked on a multi-city Becoming book tour, which launched in her hometown of Chicago, Illinois in November and will be ending in Nashville, Tennessee on May 12, 2019.

Although we haven't yet purchased a copy of the memoire, it is definitely on our reading list for 2019!

View the video below to see what inspired the title of Becoming.

|Source: OWN TV

7. JADA PINKETT SMITH LAUNCHES RED TABLE TALK

| Source: BOTWC

This year, Jada Pinkett Smith invited us on a journey with the launch of her web television talk show titled Red Table Talk, featuring her mother Adrienne and daughter Willow. The three generations of woman invited us into their home for the first time on May 7th with the show's premiere. Since then, each episode has dived into thought-provoking topics that initiate deep, authentic, heartfelt conversations that leave us wanting more. We're super excited to see the growth of this show and we're eager to tag along for the journey in 2019.

Before hitting the play button, grab a box of tissue and a notebook, you may want to dry off a few tears as you record all the life lessons that are dropped in this episode!

| Source: Facebook

8. AFROTECH HOSTS ANOTHER SUCCESSFUL CONFERENCE IN ITS 3RD YEAR

| Source: Taylor Alarcón (@philosomatician)

AfroTech hosted its third successful annual conference, which took place in Silicon Valley from November 7-11. This year, the event gathered over 4,000 attendees! AfroTech is widely embraced as the largest black tech event in San Francisco, California. The conference, which was founded in 2016 by Blavity Inc. co-founders Morgan DeBaun, Aaron Samuels, Jeff Nelson and Jonathan Jackson, is steadily expanding its reach and attracting black tech lovers in neighbouring states and countries.

2018's conference featured guest speakers such as Blavity's Creative Director Quinnton Harris, Ovetta Sampson the Design Lead at IDEO, and Adil Kadir the Product Manager at Tinder. This year's event schedule also offered sessions such as the Tech and Activism Panel Discussion, the Design Thinking/Rapid Prototyping workshop, and the Startup Pitch Competition, which were included amongst others on the agenda.

The conference has become more than an innovative, technology-driven learning platform. AfroTech has become a community which has cultivated meaningful relationships and partnerships in the world of tech and digital media—and that's amazing!

Even if you're located away from the region, the trip is a valuable investment. Early Bird General tickets to AfroTech 2019 are currently on sale and can be purchased here.

9. SERENA WILLIAMS VOTED AP'S 5-TIME "FEMALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR"

| Source: Today.com

Save all the disputes for another day—Serena Williams is hands down the G.O.A.T. in our books on many levels. In addition to being a four-time Olympic gold medalist, the winner of 72 singles career titles, 23 doubles titles, two mixed doubles titles, and the highest paid female athlete, Williams can proudly add Female Athlete of the Year to that list. Voted for the fifth time by The American Press, Williams earned the title this year on the merit of her perseverance.

Despite celebrating the birth of her first child, Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr., Williams experienced a challenging year—facing everything from a health scare following the birth of her daughter to subsequent blood clots; four surgeries; physical injuries; her catsuit ban in the 2018 French Open; and penalties by Chair umpire Carlos Ramos for allegedly being coached during her match against Naomi Osaka at the U.S. Open final.

Nevertheless, Williams has combatted her obstacles with grace and has remained optimistic while channelling her energy to make a stronger comeback in the new year.

We're rooting for you all the way, queen!

10. WIZKID WALKS FOR DOLCE & GABBANA AT MILAN FASHION WEEK

| Source: Getty Images/Andrea Rentz

2018 was a big year for Nigerian Afropop artist WizKid. The 27-year-old has gained international acclaim while contributing largely to the evolution of contemporary African music and culture. He has forged his imprint on the industry by taking on cross-genre and cross-continental collaborations with artists such as Drake, Skepta, Kranium and Ty Dolla $ign, to simply name a few.

His striking sense of style, makes his venture into fashion not much of a surprise. In August he launched his new capsule "Starboy" collection in New York, which is also labelled after his alias. According to Vogue, WizKid explained, “For me, when I dropped my last project, I just felt it was time to do something for my fans, so they could have almost like, a piece of me.”

WizKid was also a part of the 2018 World Cup campaign for the Nigerian National Team's collection.

| Source: FOOTBALLLIVE.NG

Nevertheless, it was his monumental debut on the Milan Fashion Week runway in Italy that made history this year. Walking alongside British supermodel Naomi Campbell, the Afropop star became the first African artist to model at the fashion house's show during the premiere of the 2019 Spring/Summer collection. His hit record "Soco" could also be heard streaming in the background as the D&G collection graced the runway.

Nigeria, stand all the way up!

BONUS | DRAKE AND MEEK MILL SQUASH 3-YEAR RAP BEEF

| Source: HipHopDX

Rap beefs can go from "0 to a 100 real quick", but we're glad this one was squashed! Cheers to new music and future collaborations. All the best to Drake and Meek Mill in 2019.

We've now come to the end of our list and we're all in our feelings. 2018 was an eventful year, and though we're unable to bring each moment into 2019, we can definitely draw from our 2018 memories and experiences to make the new year a year full of much depth and meaning.

Happy 2019, family!

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Please feel free to like, share, and let us know if any of our 2018 highlights made it on your year-end list.


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