Every day is a new opportunity to make history!
While we aren’t strangers to Black excellence here at Because of Them We Can, we still get excited every time we see a Black person make history. As a result of centuries of systemic oppression, our accomplishments have not always been recorded in the history books; at times we have been overlooked, dismissed, or outright stolen from. That’s why we make it a point to take note of every single time someone of African descent makes history, keeping record to the best of our abilities. Even though the year isn’t over yet, there has already been a plethora of history-making that’s worthy of celebration. In our latest roundup, here are 8 times a Black person made history in 2022 thus far:
(January 2022) Ken Welch makes history as the first Black mayor of St. Petersburg, Florida.
A St. Pete’s native, Welch was one of the last in the city to attend segregated schools during his elementary years. His family has a long history of civil engagement. His father, David Welch, made history as the first Black man to serve on the St. Petersburg City Council and he also ran for mayor in 1991. Now, Welch is carrying the torch, recently making history as the 54th and first Black mayor of St. Petersburg, Florida.
“As a child of the civil rights era, I grew up in the areas of our city where my family lived not by choice, but by sanctioned discriminatory practices that defined where African-Americans could live in our city. But during the Great American Teach-In in November, I returned to Melrose and spoke to students in the classrooms of two great teachers, Delia Michelle Doss and Natalie El Amrani. I spoke to those wonderful and engaging students as Mayor-elect of our city! That’s a story of progress…Today we embrace the people’s desire for a community where every person is valued, every idea is considered based on its merits, and where a common vision is forged, based upon progress that is inclusive, innovative, informed, intentional and in touch with all,” Welch said during his swearing in ceremony.
(February 2022) Trinity Rodman inked a $1 million soccer deal, making history as the highest paid player in the league and the youngest to receive such a deal.
Rodman is the 19-year-old daughter of NBA Hall-of-Famer Dennis Rodman who wasted no time on making a name for herself. In 2021 she was drafted to the Washington Spirit, becoming the youngest player to be drafted in National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) history. Her national debut with the league was impressive as well, many soccer fans tuning in to see what Rodman was going to bring to the table.
"The kid is just brilliant. She's a machine as an athlete, just unbelievable. When you play against her, you train with her; you see how quickly she closes you down. She's deceptively quick to close you down. But now she's getting tactically better, too," said former Washington Spirit coach Richie Burke.
Last season she finished with seven goals and seven assists netted for her team, which won their first NWSL championship this past year and earned Rodman the 2021 Rookie of the Year honors. Eager to lock in the budding soccer star for next year, the Washington Spirit signed a $1.1 million guaranteed contract with Rodman, making her the highest paid player in NWSL history. The four-year deal with an optional fifth year is historic for any women’s soccer player, much less one of the youngest. Rodman hopes that this deal will set the tone for other players going forward and spark a conversation about better compensation for NWSL players.
(April 2022) Cavalier Johnson makes history as the first Black mayor of Milwaukee.
Johnson got his start as a member of the Common Council, getting elected in 2016 and eventually becoming president in April 2020. When longtime Milwaukee mayor, Tom Barrett, decided to resign in December 2021 to become the U.S. ambassador to Luxembourg after a nearly two decade run, Johnson jumped at the opportunity to finish Barrett's last two terms.
After his resignation, Johnson served as acting mayor, the Wisconsin Democratic Party investing $100,000 into his campaign to run for mayor. This past April, Johnson claimed his victory, defeating a former alderman, winning the seven-person primary by 20 points with 68 percent of the vote, making history as the first African-American mayor of Milwaukee.
Johnson previously spoke to reporters about his passion for the city of Milwaukee and his desire to be mayor, saying, “I’ve been serving this community for 20 years, and have the opportunity to walk back into this office that I have wanted to serve for a number of years. After all the experiences that I've had growing up in the city, living in 53206, I’m ready. I’m ready to serve the city. I’m ready to be the mayor.”
(April 2022) South Carolina Gamecocks head coach Dawn Staley makes history as the first Black coach, male or female, to win two Division I NCAA Tournaments.
In 2017, South Carolina Gamecocks head coach Dawn Staley made history as one of two Black women to coach a national championship team, marking South Carolina’s first women’s basketball national championship. In 2021, she did it again, this time making history alongside Arizona Wildcats Adia Barnes, the two becoming the first Black women to simultaneously lead their teams to the NCAA Women’s Final Four tournament. By the end of that same year, Staley shattered the glass ceiling, becoming the highest-paid Black women’s basketball head coach, signing a seven-year $22.4 million extension with the University of South Carolina.
Now Staley has racked up another win, becoming the first Black coach, male or female, to win two Division I NCAA Tournaments. She joins iconic Black coaches like John Thompson (Georgetown), Nolan Richardson (Arkansas) Tubby Smith (Kentucky), Carolyn Peck (Purdue), and Kevin Ollie (UConn), who have all had a chance to cut the net after that last victory game.
“I felt a great deal of pressure to win because I’m a Black coach. Because if we don’t win, then you bring in…just scrutiny. Like, ‘You can’t coach, you had enough to get it done but yet you failed. ‘You feel all of that, and you feel it probably 10 times more than anyone else because we’re at this platform. It really makes me emotional. It does. Because I am their hope. I am the person that they strive [to be because of] where I sit winning national championships. That’s what they want to do,” said Staley.
(July 2022) Mike Grier makes history as the first Black general manager in the history of the National Hockey League (NHL).
Grier is a veteran in the NHL, playing 14 seasons in the league for four different teams, including the San Jose Sharks. He retired in 2011, serving in a number of capacities since then including as scout for the Chicago Blackhawks from 2014 to 2018 and, most recently, as hockey operations adviser for the New York Rangers. Now Grier is making history, recently being named GM by the Sharks, becoming the first Black person to hold the title in NHL history.
“It’s something I’m extremely proud of. I realized there was a responsibility that comes with the territory, but I’m up for it [with] how I carry myself and how the organization carries themselves… For me, my job is to do the best I can for the San Jose Sharks organization, and if I do that, hopefully it opens the door to give other opportunities to other minorities to get in front-office positions and maybe lead a team down the road as well,” said Grier.
San Jose Sharks GM Mike Grier spoke to The Athletic Hockey Show about being the first Black GM in league history. pic.twitter.com/XCsrJdGj1m— The Athletic NHL (@TheAthleticNHL) September 21, 2022
(July 2022) Mishael Morgan makes history at the 49th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards as the first Black woman to win Outstanding Lead Actress on a Daytime Drama.
Morgan is an actress on the CBS daytime soap opera, The Young and the Restless. She originally joined the soap opera cast in 2013 playing Hilary Curtis until 2018. She returned in 2019 in a new role as Hilary's twin sister Amanda Sinclair. Little did Morgan know, her new role as a lawyer on the show would lead to a historic win at the Daytime Emmys as the first Black woman to win Outstanding Lead Actress on a Daytime Drama.
"I am so immensely proud of our generation. We are breaking glass ceilings left, right and center," Morgan said in her acceptance speech. “I am so honored to be a vessel and to experience this moment, and it’s because of everybody who’s out there today proving to the world that we can and we will do this thing called equality and unity together."
(July 2022) Sandra Douglass Morgan makes history as the first Black woman team president in NFL history.
Morgan is no stranger to firsts, previously serving as the first Black city attorney in the city of North Las Vegas and the first Black woman to chair the Nevada Gaming Control Board. A native of the state, Morgan has made serious strides, currently serving as an attorney at Covington and Burling LLP and as a member of the board of directors for Allegiant Travel Company and Caesars Entertainment. Now she is making history, recently being named president of the Las Vegas Raiders, becoming the first Black woman in NFL history to serve in such a capacity.
“It is the honor of a lifetime to join the Raiders at one of the most defining times in the team’s history…The team’s arrival in Las Vegas has created a new energy and opportunities we never dreamed possible. I look forward to taking this team’s integrity, spirit, and commitment to excellence on the field into every facet of this organization,” said Morgan.
(August 2022) Dr. Dominique Merriweather makes history as the youngest principal in the Atlanta Public School system and the first African American principal at his school.
Dr. Dominique Merriweather is an Atlanta native, graduating from Westlake High School in 2010 before earning his degree from Morehouse in 2014. At first, Merriweather aspired to have a career as a corporate attorney, but a brief encounter with inner city students changed everything.
Shortly after, he began working as a special education teacher, fast-tracking his way up the ranks. Now at just 30 years old, Merriweather has been named the new principal of Buckhead’s Sutton Middle School, making history as the first Black principal at the school and the youngest principal in the history of Atlanta Public Schools.
Merriweather says he’s ecstatic to lead in the district, really opening himself up to work with his staff and the 1,500-plus students at Sutton. While some may think his accomplishment is an anomaly, Merriweather says anyone can do it.
“When you put your head in it, and never stop learning, and always are open to feedback and being better, the opportunities are there…Age does not equate to ability or capacity. If you are driven and open to learning and if you truly want to be the best at what you are doing, it can happen,” he said.
Congratulations to all the history makers!
8 times a Black person made history in 2022. Photo Courtesy of Sthanlee B. Mirador/Sipa via AP Images