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The 4th of July is all about celebration and reflection, pride and empowerment, love and liberation. America has lived through a series of setbacks in the last year and the current social climate is far from perfect for the black women of America. Yet some beautiful, strong black women did shine through in the last year as the figureheads of their families, their communities, their race and their country.

Dorothy Height

This April the world lost one of its best, with the death of civil rights activist, Dorothy Heights. As a former colleague of the late Dr Martin Luther-King Jr, Rosa Parks, and many others, her passing came in sadness and celebration of a life of selflessness and strength.

President Obama, shedding a tear or two at her funeral, spoke of her legacy as one of America’s most valued social and political contributors.

“What she cared about was the cause,” he said. “The cause of justice, the cause of equality, the cause of opportunity, freedom’s cause.”

Gabourey “Gabby” Sidibe

In her acclaimed role in ‘Precious’ as Claireece Precious Jones, Gabby Sidibe has already broken many of the traditional Hollywood stereotypes of what it means to be a star.

She played a young girl that reflected many realities in modern America and excelled in delivering an extremely powerful, gritty performance to audiences.

Precious itself is deserving of much celebration because it got America talking, albeit for a brief period of time, taking viewers out of their comfort zones and into the life a young girl who fought set-back after set-back to find some level of peace in her life.

Thanks to Gabby Sibide we were briefly able to feel part of that powerful story.

Michelle Obama

Our gorgeous First Lady has transformed her unofficial role in the White House to one of empowerment, equality and strength. She’s continued pioneering the battle against childhood obesity and, to prove it, she even has an eat-healthy White House garden.

But as a strong black woman, let’s not forget that Michelle is also representing her community on a number of platforms. She’s expected to speak at the 101st Convention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in Kansas on July 12.

Michelle also continues to work closely with war widows – our country’s often overlooked victims of war.

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

While not American, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is a black woman to be admired this independence day.

Her country, Liberia, was named in recognition of its intriguing connection to African slavery and as its President Johnson Sirleaf has made leaps and bounds in improving the role of women in aspects of Liberian society.

She was elected in 2006 but had no family connection in politics to allow for an easy rise to power. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is the first black women to win a presidential election in Africa and for her strength, achievements and simple symbolic importance in our world, we admire her.

Mo’Nique

Beautiful, black, curvaceous and drop-dead hilarious, Mo’Nique was a starlet to be reckoned with this year.

Last December she won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for powerful role in ‘Precious.’ Check out this small clip from the movie to remind yourself why:

Jada Pinkett Smith

When your married to one of the world’s most desirable actors you’re bound to get attention. But Jada Pinkett Smith, this year, was a woman of her own creation.

A confident, strong-willed business woman and loving mother, Jada Pinkett Smith managed to participate in a range of headline events this year without even starring. She saw the premiere of her son’s debut feature role in the ‘Karate Kid’ and was also behind the Tony-Award winning Broadway hit, ‘Fela!’ along with Will and Jay-Z.

Liya Kebede

If you want to talk beauty, think Liya Kebede. If you want to talk power, think Liya Kebede. If you want to talk innovation, talk Liya Kebede.

This gorgeous Ethiopian-born supermodel graced the covers of our magazine, televisions and computer screens this year.

She’s been behind a range of firsts in her career as the first black cover girl of Estée Lauder. She recently finished working on her debut film, ‘Desert Flower’ and is also pursuing clean, green fashion in the industry.

Oprah

Oprah is 2009/2010’s most powerful celebrity, which is no surprise given the huge financial empire she manages. But Oprah is much more than that.

Oprah is a generous spirit and good to her employees and fans. While her role in the media industry is complicated and tiring, Oprah’s personality consistently shines through to remind us that behind the power and success of this strong black woman, is a human being.

Oprah’s coming to the end of her famed career on television soon but will no doubt continue to pioneer elements of the media industry. We look forward to seeing how that unfolds.

Beyoncé

The queen of the touring scene this year, Beyonce wowed us with her on screen and off screen achievements. She was ranked number 2 on the Forbes Celebrity 100 list of most powerful celebrities.

To top everything off, Beyonce continues being the beautiful, approachable woman that she is, reminding us that behind some of the world’s most powerful, famous black women remains a fantastic human being.

Alicia Keys

Her name is know the world over for her musical talents and beauty. This year Alicia Keys was a huge achiever, with her collaboration with Jay-Z, her pregnancy and engagement.

To top thing off, she showed us she can dance on pianos with a baby on board. In addition to that tribute to Prince, she also appeared at the historic World Cup opening celebrations.

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