Let’s take a moment to talk about Black excellence. Why? Because every day is a good day to talk about Black excellence in our books; and also because Black people are the reason for so many of the iconic pop culture moments we witnessed in 2022. We thought we’d gift you with an article that pulls them all into one place. 

The reason for this article isn’t just because we needed an excuse to openly stan Lizzo and Beyoncé for the millionth time this year… Well, okay, yes we did. 

However, we also wanted to write this because it’s still essential to highlight the positive impacts that Black people can have on society. To this day, institutionalised racism and discrimination hold so many Black women, men, and others back from the excellence they deserve. It’s the reason Black Lives Matter erupted the way it did just two years ago, and is a large part of the reason why Black people face high rates of poverty all around the world. 

Spotlighting Black excellence contributes to changing the narrative and to reminding Black children and young people that success is something that is available to them, no matter what society tries to say about the way that they look. 

So yes, today and every other day will always be a reason to put the topic of Black excellence on the agenda. Without further ado, here are all the times Black people defined pop culture in 2022. 

1. All Things Rihanna

Nobody was ready for Rihanna to grace us the way that she did this year, and boy did she grace us with a whole lot of Black excellence. From shutting down the internet with her pregnancy announcement in January, to announcing her return to music, to hinting at her Superbowl performance coming in 2023; Robyn Fenty dished out non-stop magnificence this year and we ate it all up. We are still, in fact, licking the plate. Almost everything she did this year topped trending lists, and we’re here for it.  

2. Beyoncé Blessed Us with Renaissance

Nobody does a surprise like Beyoncé, and this year she did it again with the release of Renaissance. The album, packed with hits like “Break My Soul” and TikTok’s earworm, “Cuff It”, topped the Billboard 200 chart and had the whole world grooving on the disco ball she’d spun for us. 

3. The Woman King Had Us Shook

A story about a kingdom where African women warriors are the main line of defense, and fight valiantly against the threat of slavery? Say no more. Of course we were first in line to watch The Woman King when it was released in September this year. It boasted an incredible cast led by Viola Davis and John Boyega, and shone a light on African talents such as Thuso Mbedu and Siv Ngesi. We loved every minute of it, and so did the rest of the world as it was an instant box office hit

4. Can We Talk About Tems? 

What a year Tems has had. She’s relatively fresh on the scene but is already an Afrobeats icon. We could barely go a week without seeing Tems on our timelines for one thing or another. She raked in award after award this year, including a couple BET and NAACP awards, and even found the time to rock the Global Citizen Festival: Accra stage in September. Can we get a standing ovation for everything that is Tems? She also went on to write Rihanna’s “Lift Me Up,” the lead anthem on the Black Panther: Wakanda Forever soundtrack, and was even nominated for a Golden Globe for her work on the song. 

5. Wakanda Forever

We’ll keep this one short because you can read all about our excitement for this movie in our article about it, but naturally, this list wouldn’t make sense without the mention of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. Not only was it an instant box office success, it was a beautiful homage to Chadwick Boseman that also highlighted the stories and struggles of the Global South. 

6. Lizzo Played US President James Madison’s Crystal Flute…

…and she was brilliant. She made history by being the first person to play the 200-year-old flute since the fourth president of the United States was gifted with it in 1813. She also went on to thank the Library of Congress for allowing her to do so and for the work they do in preserving history. 

7. Corn Kid

It was because of Corn Kid that the internet remembered that it’s okay to be enthusiastic about the simple things in life. Seven-year-old Tariq won our hearts when he excitedly told the world why he loves corn. “I can't imagine a more beautiful thing,” he said of the vegetable. From there his love for corn went viral and even inspired a trending TikTok song. 

8. Halle Bailey Stunned As Ariel in ‘The Little Mermaid’ Teaser

A Black Ariel. So many of us who grew up watching the Disney classic didn’t think we’d see it happen in our lifetimes, and yet Halle Bailey brought it to life for us this year. The reactions of little Black girls all around the world to Ariel looking like them were priceless, and we’ve already bookmarked May 2023 to catch the live action remake in cinemas. 

9. Trevor Noah Reminded Us That Black Women Are Everything

Trevor Noah said goodbye to The Daily Show in early December, which in itself is a major pop culture moment. But he used his last moments as host to remind the audience and the whole world of the value that Black women bring to society. 

10. Quinta Brunson and Abbott Elementary Were Everywhere

Quinta Brunson became the first Black woman to get three Emmy nominations in one year, and then became the second Black woman to win the Emmy for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series. More than that, her show, Abbott Elementary dominated timelines with clips that gave us fresh meme material for the whole year. 

11. Keke Palmer

Speaking of meme material, we have to say that 2022 was Keke Palmer’s year. She didn’t just do one thing to define pop culture in this year, she merely existed and that was enough to make her a cultural icon. Every other sentence she said became an instant trend on Twitter, her role in Jordan Peele’s Nope was outstanding, and when she announced her pregnancy on SNL, social media immediately fell in love with her baby. We simply cannot talk about Black pop culture moments this year without talking about Keke Palmer, because she is the moment. 


Global Citizen Life

Demand Equity

Beyoncé, Rihanna + More: 11 Times Black People Defined Pop Culture in 2022

By Khanyi Mlaba