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12 African-American women shown at different events.

12 African American SHEroes

By Leslie E. Royal

These Women Are Changing the World Before Our Very Eyes

An Ashro Contemporary Salute to Black History Month
12 African-American women shown at different events.

February is that special time of year in which we remind ourselves and educate others on all of the profound things that African American men and women have accomplished over the years. Initially, in 1926, historian Carter G. Woodson and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History proclaimed Black History Week would take place the second week in each February. Subsequently, Black History Month was celebrated for the first time in 1970 at Kent State University. In 1976, President Gerald Ford officially recognized Black History Month during America’s Bicentennial celebration. Over the decades, we have looked back proudly on the accomplishments of our forefathers and foremothers in the fields of education, science, politics, religion, medicine, technology, art and journalism, among other genres.

But today, as we celebrate Black History Month, we do so with newfound meaning and renewed expectations.  We’re spotlighting women who stand on the shoulders of historic giants. As they shatter glass ceilings and defy society’s norms and expectations, we’ve noticed that they don’t just check off one box in the career category.  These nonconformists are magnificently multifaceted, multitalented and multidisciplinary. Read their stories below. Follow them on social media. And watch them, in living color, as they serve their beloved communities—even as their meteoric stars are on the rise!

Tiffany “The Budgetnista” Aliche Finance Expert, Speaker & Author

A smiling African-American woman in a green blouse, in a blue blouse, and in a grey 'Dream Catcher' T-shirt.

Friendly and down-to-earth, while being a great expert on becoming financially empowered, Tiffany “The Budgetnista” is certainly someone from whom you should seek advice.  In a fun and easy-to-understand manner, she quickly sets audiences of hundreds of thousands of women globally on the right track to achieving their financial goals. Author of the Amazon #1 bestsellers The One Week Budget and The Live Richer Challenge,  she is a much sought-after speaker. Since 2008, The Budgetnista has served as brand ambassador, spokesperson and a featured speaker for companies such as American Express and MegaFest. In 2014, she founded the LIVE RICHER Challenge Movement, a powerful virtual community of over 700,000 thousand women from more than 100 countries. She has served as a personal finance expert on The Real Talk Show, and her financial advice has been featured in The New York Times, the TODAY show, Good Morning America, CNN, PBS, Fox Business, MSNBC, CBS MoneyWatch, TIME, ESSENCE Magazine, FORBES and others. A personal finance blog/ger for The Huffington Post, The Budgetnista co-hosts an award-winning podcast called Brown Ambition.

Tonya P. Anderson Pastor, State Senator & Military Reservist

A black woman in an orange jacket, with a church billboard, in military attire, and with a flag in the background.

A warm, kind and gentle person, Tonya has spent her lifetime serving her God and church members, adulthood serving her country, and the last decade serving constituents of her district. In 2012, she retired honorably from the United States Air Force Reserve after more than 21 years of service. An ordained minister, she and her husband, Houston, co-pastor Stronghold Christian Church East. Formerly a Mayor of Lithonia, Georgia, she now represents Georgia’s 43rd District as state senator.  She has served as the Chair of the Women’s Legislative Caucus as well as worked on the Defense and Veterans Affairs Committee and Working Families Caucus.

Devoutly dedicated to her community, Tonya is a member of many local and national organizations such as the Women in Government, NCNW, NAACP, 100 Black Women, Junior League, Senior Connections and several nonprofit boards. She holds a degree in Business Administration with an emphasis in Management from Alabama State University as well as a Master of Divinity from Luther Rice University.  In April 2018, she earned a Humanitarian honorary doctorate degree from The Global International Alliance.

Dr. Annette Boone-Hicks Doctor of Chiropractic, Business Owner & Humanitarian

A black woman with blonde hair wearing a black and pink shirt, a white blouse with ripped jeans, and a black top.

Dr. Annette Boone-Hicks, friendly, welcoming, humorous, smart and well-informed, is the type of doctor that everyone wishes to have. She cares for her patients both medically and holistically. When patients walk into her beautiful office, they feel right at home. Establishing The Boone Clinic in 2003, her passion for Chiropractic care results in individuals leading healthier and happier lives. Holding an undergraduate degree from Mississippi State University in Starksville, MS, Annette received her Doctorate Degree from Life University.  In addition to chiropractic care, her practice specializes in physiotherapy, massage therapy, nutritional cleansing and weight-management programs.

A member of Free Chapel Buford in Buford, Georgia, Annette also volunteers as Coordinator for the Parents Prayer Group at Killian Hill Christian School in Lilburn, Georgia and Boots On The Ground Ministry. Believing in reinvesting in the community in which she serves, Annette gives Free Chiropractic Spinal Health Screenings and Complimentary Consultations for churches, schools and businesses as well as outreach programs at Health Fairs for Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.

Shantay Carter Registered Nurse, Nonprofit Founder & Author

An African-American woman at a book signing, in a pink dress, and in a blue top with a stethoscope around her neck.

Serving others is both the passion and purpose of Shantay. Whether making her rounds as a registered nurse at the hospital or arranging donation pickups and deliveries as the founder of Women of Integrity, Inc, she is committed to helping others move to the next level in their lives. Inspired by the “superwoman” role models in her family, she says that she allows her caring nature to be her guide.

Her foundation was laid when she volunteered as a Candy Striper while in high school. She would go on to Binghamton University where she received a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing. After working for two years at Binghamton General Hospital as a registered nurse, she advanced her career at North Shore-LIJ Health Systems where she currently works as an Orthopedic/Bariatric nurse.

While in the Long Island area, she discovered a lack of guidance and mentorship of you girls. Believing that you get out of life what you pour into it, Shantay decided to create her non-profit called Women Of Integrity Inc. Having a mission to  “empower and educate women of all ages and ethnicities”, its annual signature event includes its prom dress drive, dress giveaway, and makeover project. Author of Destined for Greatness, she is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated,  Black Nurses Rock, Inc.

Jessica Frances Dukes Award-Winning Stage Actress, Screen Actress & College Instructor

A black woman with long curly hair in a polka dot dress, and in a yellow shirt and ripped jeans in front of graffiti.
Photo credits: Jamil Mangan (top left), Christine Chambers (top right), Lelund Durond (bottom left) and Christine Chambers (bottom right)

As a young girl, Jessica Frances Dukes’ creativity was lovingly encouraged by her parents, Jim and Donna. She would dress in her Mom’s clothes and heels and would knock on the front door. Donna would engage her by going with the bit (or skit). Mom would invite her in, offer her a beverage, and they would chat with Jessica in the character of “Shirley.” She was nurtured by great mentors including Jason Cook of the Colours Teen Performing Arts Troup and acting professor Mairzy Yost Rushton.

Today, this New York based, Obie Award-winning actress continues to wow audiences nationwide with her spectacular performances. She’s got that star power for sure. Recently, this brilliant young woman  has appeared in popular television dramas including New Amsterdam (NBC), NCIS: New Orleans (CBS) and The Good Wife (CBS). Her film credits include Bernard & Huey. Off-Broadway credits include IS GOD IS at Soho, Rep. Alma in Yellowman, for which she received an Audelco Best Actress Nomination, and Bootycandy at Playwrights Horizons for which she won her Obie.

Additional performances by Jessica include the Yale Repertory Theatre in Native Son, Intimate Apparel and Chicago’s The Second City. Quite a versatile, electrifying talent, Jessica has graced the stages at Arena Stage, Baltimore’s Centerstage, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Arden Theatre, Geva Theatre, Folger Theatre and countless others. Holding a Master of Fine Arts Degree from the Catholic University, Jessica has taught acting classes at Howard University, Montgomery College, Duke Ellington School of the Arts, NYU and more. She is headlining an Off-Broadway production at The Signature Theatre. She is indeed the star of By The Way, Meet Vera Stark, as she holds the title role of Vera which will run from January 29 to March 3, 2019.

  • Instagram: @JessicaFrancesDukes
  • Twitter: @jessiefdukes


Jessica Frances Dukes will star in the title role in the upcoming Off-Broadway revival.
Lynn Nottage’s By the Way, Meet Vera Stark Finds Its Cast at NYC’s Signature Theatre

Robbie S. Huff Advocate, Educator & Advisory Council Member

A black woman with long, curly auburn hair, in a pink dress on a beach, and in a white dress with a sitting man statue.

Twelve years ago, Robbie’s life changed dramatically. As a result of retinal detachment and glaucoma, she lost her vision. Not knowing what to do or how to do it, her mother gave her sage advice: stay strong and never give up.   She began looking for resources for individuals with disabilities, strengthening her independent living skills and taking computer training. As a caring person, she wanted to share all of this great knowledge and education with others who are disabled. She soon became an advocate for individuals with disabilities having equal rights in transportation, housing, workplace and healthcare. She served on the board for the Center for Independent Living.  Because she wanted to encourage individuals with disabilities to have their own voice and tell their own stories, she joined Respect Institute of Georgia. Further, she stresses the importance of people with disabilities living independently and successfully in their own communities.

Current memberships include Center for Leadership in Disability, The National Federation of Blind of Georgia, People First of Atlanta, Georgians Empowering Mentoring and Georgia Association of Blind Students. Robbie holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Early Childhood Education from Morris Brown College, a Master of Education in Community Counseling, and is currently a doctoral candidate. Her research topic involves the accessibility of colleges and universities for students who are visually impaired as well as educating society on the need for accessible accommodations for those in need.  Look for her to fight fiercely and unwaveringly on a global level.

Angela Marie Hutchinson Writer, Producer, Professor & Author

An African-American woman at an awards ceremony, in a pink dress with a white jacket, and in a blue Japanese print dress.
Photo Credits: Randi Lamey (bottom right) and Melba Abdelaziz (top right)

Lights. Cameras. Action. By way of background, this shrewd, yet glamorous, writer and producer has worked for MGM, Warner Bros. Television and the GRAMMYs. Angela has had the honor of casting legendary actors such as Billy Dee Williams and Lynne Whitfield. Earlier this year, she was bestowed an honor of a lifetime. She was front and center at the 2018 Oscars. Invited by BBC World News, she was a Live Commentator covering the 90th Academy Awards – Hollywood’s biggest night.  Her films have aired on Hulu and PBS.

Angela recently landed a mainstream book deal based on her TEDx Talk “Create Your Own Yes, When You Keep Hearing No.” The book will release in 2019. Founded in 2005, Angela is passionate about helping creative and business professionals through her 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, BReaKiNG iNTo HoLLyWooD. Holding a B.S.E. in Industrial & Operations Engineering from the University of Michigan, she is a Social Media Professor at Loyola Marymount University.

Sydney G. James Art Director, Illustrative Fine Artist & Visual Artist

A black woman in an 'Our Issue' T-shirt in front of a mural, and in front of another mural with a paint can and brushes.
Photo Credit: Kim’s Photography (Top Photo)

Bold. Breathtaking. Daring. Dramatic. Awe-Inspiring. Magnificent. These are just a few words that illustrate both the essence of Sydney and that of her captivating work. Detroit-bred, she began her career as an ad agency Art Director. She earned her BFA with an Illustration concentration from the College of Creative Studies in 2001. After relocating to Los Angeles to expand her career and her artistic horizons, she worked as a visual artist in the film and television industry while earning a Master’s Degree in Secondary Art.

Returning to Detroit, she began participating in numerous community arts projects with the completion of striking murals and paintings in Detroit, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Honolulu and Long Beach, and has exhibited in galleries and museums throughout the country. She was awarded a Red Bull House of Art Residency as well as a Kresge Arts Fellowship. Taking on every project with the intent to evoke emotion and effect positive change, look for her international presence in the very near future.

Dr. Bernetta Jones Educator, Military Officer & Doctorate in Education Leadership

A black woman in military attire, in a black jacket with pearls, in a white and pink shirt, and at a church.

Having an amazing spine of steel tempered with a loving heart of gold, Dr. Bernetta Jones, a spirited, outgoing, friendly and motivating educator is of the firm belief that all children can learn if teachers begin where children are and work vigorously to get them where they need to be. As a former principal and now Region V Superintendent, Bernetta has a wonderful reputation for stretching her staff far beyond their comfort zone by encouraging them to be engaged in an honest conversation about data, standards, good old-fashioned teaching and nurturing of students. Before beginning her illustrious career as an educator, her equally distinguished profession was that of a Military Intelligence Officer in the United States Army.  While on active duty, Bernetta served as a Public Affairs Officer and a Company Executive Officer.

In her current position of Region V Superintendent in the DeKalb County School System, she is responsible for the instructional, operational and financial effectiveness of the 25 schools and principals for whom she provides oversight. Bernetta is a member of several professional and public service organizations including the National and the Georgia Association of Educators, the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, DeKalb Association of School Administrators, and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.  As the super proud mom of Taylor, she teaches her daughter to live by the creed, “I am extraordinary because God made me that way!”

Adriene Kinnaird CEO, Healthcare Manager & Strategic Planner

A smiling African-American woman in a red pant set, in a black top, in a white top, and in a gold V-neck top.

Over her 30-year career in the field of Oncology, Adriene Kinnaird has come to be known as an extraordinary, knowledgeable executive who cares deeply for the well-being of others.  Currently the Chief Executive Officer at Select Specialty Hospital-Midtown Atlanta, Adriene aptly oversees a staff working with critically ill patients. She shares that, on average, 70 percent of these patients who are unable to breathe on their own are successfully weaned from a mechanical ventilator. Further, her team cares for those experiencing a life-changing event such as stroke, heart attack, failed suicide attempt or severe wounds.

Prior to accepting this role, Adriene worked as the Regional Vice President of Oncology for SSM Health in St Louis, Missouri where she managed Oncology over 5 hospitals. In 1985, as a business intern at Howard Hospital in Washington D.C., Adriene instantly fell in love with the health care field.  After speaking with some of the patients who were fighting for their lives, she knew that she wanted to be involved in the care of those that were suffering from a serious disease or disorder. She has managed the only 24-hour Sickle Cell Center in the country as well as other areas including Cardiology. Adriene graduated from Howard University where she majored in Radiation Oncology and minored in Business Administration. She subsequently received her Master of Business Administration with a focus in Health Care.

Candace V. Mitchell Author, Entrepreneur & Science/Technology Visionary

A black woman with long hair in a blue dress at an awards ceremony, and in a blue sweater talking on a cell phone.

Candace V. Mitchell is an innovator, trendsetter, creator and technology visionary. After graduating from the Georgia Institute of Technology in 2011 with a degree in Computer Science,  she started Techturized, Inc., a high-tech hair care company based in Atlanta, GA. She combined her passion for beauty and technology to create Myavana, a personalized hair care service that recommends products based on scientific analysis of one’s hair. Candace’s spectacular pioneering work in business and accomplishments and leadership in the STEM fields has been spotlighted in the Forbes magazine 30 Under 30 list, WWD’s Top 50 Beauty Innovators Under 40 list and BET Honors Next In Class Award.

Her company has been featured internationally on CNN, Headline News, BuzzFeed, The REAL daytime talk show, Marie Claire Magazine, ESSENCE, Black Enterprise, Business Insider and more. Currently, she serves as Program Manager for Ascend 2020 Atlanta, a technology startup and small business support ecosystem for minority-led companies. She is the author of The Shift. This book shares her knowledge and personal as well as entrepreneurial growth with others. She is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. Be sure to follow this powerhouse. We look forward to her being a household name as a result of her future originations and discoveries.

Tish Norman Speaker, Television Host & Emcee

A black woman with a high bun in a black turtleneck top, flexing arms, and in a black sleeveless dress.
Photo Credits: Kim’s Photography (top photo) & @JordanVision (yellow background images).

The effervescent, vivacious, vibrant Tish Norman places a smile on everyone’s face the moment she enters a room or arena. Energetic and innovative, Tish has been serving as a speaker, emcee, mistress of ceremonies, panel moderator, corporate strategies trainer and more for over 25 years. Additionally, she is a television host, Red Carpet Correspondent and announcer.

A graduate of Kentucky State University, she is part of a legacy of strong Alpha Kappa Alpha women in her family. Tish serves as the executive director for Transforming Leaders Now, Inc. and the professional development trainer for National Seminars Group. When companies and organizations are looking to create a memorable event that electrifies the audience, they call on Tish to kick off the soiree, conference or step show. Look for this sparkling star to continue to shine brightly in the future.

We are grateful to these phenomenal women for sharing their inspiring and empowering stories of success and sacrifice with us.  Even more so, the global community is appreciative of their giving so much to a cause that is far greater than themselves.  As you celebrate Black History Month, remember that you too are walking history.  You are a bold, beautiful woman with unique attributes and gifts that are distinctly your own. 

And remember…
Let us not be weary in well doing, for in due season, we will reap if we faint not.
– Galatians 6:9

Would you like to give a brief Black History lesson to your children or grandchildren, view the websites below to have them learn about distinguished African American women who have made their indelible marks on society.

8 Websites Spotlight Notable Black Women Who Changed History and the World

Leslie E. Royal is a Lifestyle, Travel, and Fashion Contributor for Ashro. An international freelance writer, her articles have appeared in Upscale, ESSENCE, Black Enterprise, and The Wall Street Journal.

black woman with short wavy reddish hair smiling in pink shirt

She is the author of two books:

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I love the inspiration this blog has given and it’s helped provide a platform to help give hope, confidence and beauty to women.

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