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The Boss Watch List: 10 Films & TV Shows With Black Women Beating The Odds

Get inspired by these stories of black women winning boldly and unapologetically.

Culture & Entertainment

There's so much to be said about black women who not only beat the odds, but do it with power, class, style and dignity. And who doesn't need a dose of inspiration right now in the form of a good show or film depicting us living in our truths, pursuing our passions, bossing up, overcoming obstacles, and pulling one another up to continue a legacy? Check out this list of 10 TV shows and films that give us life and teaches us how to conquer it. Pass the popcorn, sis!

Uncensored

This TV One series has gone deep into the real professional and personal journeys of some of our favorite entertainers and bosses, including Eve, Tisha Campbell, and Tyra Banks. Watching this show is like having spiked sweet tea with that favorite cool auntie who has seen it all, done it all, and came out on top. The latest shows feature Debbie Allen, the dance industry legend behind TV and film hits including A Different World and Amistad, and our favorite TV mom Jenifer Lewis (of Black-ish and Think Like a Man, Too). (Watch via TV One.)

The Forty-Year-Old Version

If the title isn't clever enough to peak your interest, the lead character, an unfulfilled teacher who morphs into a rapper named Rahdamus Prime, should at least raise an eyebrow. The Forty-Year-Old Version proves that 40 might actually be the new 20, and that even if you're years away from even thinking about a mid-life crisis, changing gears to pursue what really makes your heart sing shouldn't be something that has an age requirement. (Watch via Netflix.)

Miss Virginia

Uzo Aduba won an Emmy for her portrayal of a Washington, D.C. mom you don't want to play with. The film is inspired by the story of Virginia Walden Ford, a woman affectionately called "Miss Virginia" who fought to create a scholarship program for her son and children in her community. Up against systemic racism, economic hardship and even her own fear of public speaking, she was able to get legislation passed that would ensure access to safe, high-quality schools for at-risk youth everywhere. (Watch via Netflix.)

(In)Visible Portraits

Oge Egbuonu, a Nigerian-American director who's gotten a major co-sign from celebs including Halle Berry, offers an amazing portrait of black female resilience and intellectual prowess. This film is our history told via our lens---as they should be, and it includes authentic narratives covering the history of black women in the U.S. The scholars featured include Patricia Hill Collins, a Distinguished University Professor at the University of Maryland, College Park, Joy DeGruy, a leading publisher and author on the intersection of racism, trauma and violence, and Ruha Benjamin, sociologist and an associate professor at Princeton University, along with other activists and educators. (Watch via Vimeo.)

All Rise

Seeing a black woman behind the bench instead of in front of it as a defendant is always a good look. Simone Missick, the actress who made history playing kick-ass superhero Misty Knight in Luke Cage, shines as a Lola Carmichael, a former prosecutor and Los Angeles County Superior Court judge. If you love a good crime drama, this fictional series that gets into the thick of the drama of working in the legal system is a perfect pick to binge on. (Watch via Amazon.)

Industry

Set to be released in November, this British series follows a group of recent college graduates competing for a limited number of permanent seats at a top London investment bank. Myha'la Herrold plays a young woman named Harper who confidently rocks box braids and a nose ring in a cut-throat environment run by entitled white men. She arrives in London from New York and sets her eyes on winning over executives, facing tough opposition among the global elite. (Watch via HBO.)

Lovecraft Country

This show, in its own ingeniously shocking way, mixes sci-fi with the realities of racism and comes just at the right time. If the slaying of wicked wizards masquerading as cops, time travel of black women seeking to tap into their voice and rename themselves victorious, or in-your-face depictions of the horrors in murdering innocent black folk aren't enough, just watch for the sheer magnificence of black female acting prowess in the likes of Jurnee Smollett, Wunmi Mosaku, Aunjanue Ellis, and Jada Harris. These women will literally have you screaming, crying, laughing, and gasping all in one sitting, and that's just after watching one episode. (Watch via HBO Max.)

Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am

She's a Nobel Prize winner who is known for her best-selling books that have had Oprah, Michelle Obama and Beyonce raving, and her legacy as a truth-teller and advocate for women's voices is undeniable. This film gets into the what, when, and why of Morrison's life as a writer and educator who got her start in New York as the first black woman senior editor in Random House's fiction department. It includes exclusive interviews, detailed accounts of how her books came to be, and the people in her life who inspired her. (Watch via Amazon.)

A Ballerina's Tale

Get a behind-the-scenes view of the life, struggles, and triumphs of Misty Copeland, the first African-American principal ballerina of the American Ballet Theatre. What's interesting and a bit bittersweet about this first is that it happened in 2015, more than 70 years after the prestigious global dance powerhouse was founded. In the film, you get to know Copeland, her family and the people who are part of her rise in becoming a pioneer and inspiration for girls all over the world. (Watch via Amazon.)

About Her Business Series

If hard work and no excuses were people, this series would be their life stories. Launched by BET Her, these shows include tell-it-like-it-is insights from contemporary entrepreneurs who have literally turned nothing into something to become self-made global brands and millionaires. Get your life and your motivation via the likes of bosses including IG sensation and founder of The Crayon Case, Reynell "Supa Cent" Steward, Mane Choice CEO Courtney Adeleye, Slutty Vegan restaurateur Pinky Cole and xoNecole's own Necole Kane. These millennials have taken the baton from their predecessors and have proven they can hold their own and inspire a whole new generation of go-getters and financial success stories.

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Featured image by Shutterstock

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
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