Five Black women were named to the TIME’s 2022 Women of the Year List.
Allyson Felix, Amanda Gorman, Sherrilyn Ifill, Jennie Joseph, and Kerry Washington were all selected because of their commitment to creating a better future for women, across generations, communities, and borders. In their respective fields, they fight for the rights of women, Black women specifically, and continuously strive toward making a more equal and just world.
Below are the reasons why TIME magazine chose these extraordinary leaders to be on their Women of the Year list.
Allyson Felix, a seven-time Olympic Gold medalist, had another banner year in 2021. She won two medals at the Tokyo Olympics becoming the most decorated woman in track and field, wearing shoes made by Saysh, a brand she launched just weeks before the Games. Felix also pointed out the double standard between female and male athletes in the sports industry. In 2019, she wrote an op-ed for the New York Times alleging that Nike, her sponsor, wanted to pay her 70% less after she had a child, pointing out that the industry made rules mostly for and by men.
Amanda Gorman busted onto the national stage when she recited her poem The Hill We Climb during President Joe Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris’ inauguration, becoming the youngest Inaugural poet in U.S. history. She was also the first person to be named National Youth Poet Laureate. “Girls have spent so much of their lives being told to be seen and not heard, and you can see how they might bring that fear to the page,” she said. Last year, Gorman published three books: The Hill We Climb, a hardcover edition of her Inaugural poem; the picture book Change Sings: A Children’s Anthem; and Call Us What We Carry, her latest collection of poetry.
Sherrilyn Ifill has been the president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund for the last nine years. The law professor has implemented an intersectional focus with her work at the nation’s oldest civil rights organization arguing that everything the NAACP does impacts the lives of women. Although she will resign from her position on March 14, Ifill says that NAACP is committed to fighting for equality. “I think it has mattered, my voice not only as a Black civil rights leader but as a Black woman civil rights leader, to speak with power, authority, and knowledge,” she says. “It is important to show that women who have chosen a path of service [can] rise to the highest level.”
Jennie Joseph is a British-trained midwife, who has made maternal mortality crisis that Black women face her life’s work. She has become one of the world’s most highly-regarded midwives and foremost authorities on women’s health concerning healthy pregnancies, healthy deliveries and healthy babies. She’s an advocate for the maternal well-being of Black women and believes her vocation is to create a safe space for Black families. “You need to feel safe, you need to feel whole, you need to feel supported,” explains Joseph. “People come here because they want to feel heard. There’s the calling to midwifery. It’s been my entire life. Because you cannot stand by and tolerate injustice. Not when you’ve found ways that do actually make a difference.” With the U.S. having the worst maternal death rate of any developed country in the world and impacting Black women, even more, Joseph’s work is essential for the Black community to flourish.
Kerry Washington is not only an Emmy Award winner, but she’s also a political activist with plans to make an impact in the world. She views her work as an actress as an extension of her activism. She gave a speech at the Los Angeles Women’s March in 2017, campaigned for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris in 2020, and worked with Stacey Abrams to get out the vote in the 2021 Georgia runoff. In fact, it was her role as Olivia Pope of the hit ABC drama Scandal that catapulted her as an activist. “In a world that marginalizes people of color and women, to center a Black woman and make her fully human became perceived as a political act,” she said.