She might still become our president, but this year Hillary Clinton stood for much more than a candidate. She represented the woman who had to sit politely while a man got away with spewing nonsense, she represented the underdog who finally gets her chance to shine, and she represented all of us when we get knocked down but need to brush ourselves off and make tomorrow better.
His legacy floated over our year as a positive reminder of the power and depth of music and celebrity. His life was a reminder that we need art in the worst of times as much, if not more, than we do in the bad.
Not only did Donald Glover expand his musical horizons and show us a whole new side of himself on "Awaken, My Love!", but he was also cast in a Star Wars Han Solo origin story as the legendary Lando Calrissian. But the biggest wave he made was with Atlanta, the FX series he created, stars in, and frequently writes and directs. Its singular vision immediately propelled it into "best art of 2016" conversations, and it's rightfully ending up on plentiful year-end lists at this very moment.
The 2014 Martin Luther King Jr. biopic Selma propelled DuVernay to the fore of artists advocating for more visibility and opportunities for women and people of color working to tell stories in Hollywood. She also walked the walk with the essential triple punch of a Netflix doc on America’s racist prison industrial complex (13th), the celebrated Oprah-produced TV series Queen Sugar, and a short film, August 28: A Day In the Life of a People, for the new Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.
Bernie Sanders made his social-justice-centered brand of politics mainstream this year, and even though he lost the Democratic nominations, he still fought for what he believed in. He's also friends with Killer Mike, so that's something.
DeRay, one of the dominant faces of the Black Lives Matter movement, carried on his activism by having intelligent conversations both on social media and in the community. His fight to end discrimination and racism was met with an arrest during a Baton Rouge, La. protest, but that never halted his stride to be a strong voice for this generation.
Bigger entities (American women in 1975, “the computer” in '82, "the American soldier" in ’03) and more specific groups (Hungarian freedom fighters in 1956, the whistleblowers in ’02) have appeared every so often. While “the protestor” was already Time’s Person of the Year as recently as 2011, the bravery, resilience and principles of activism were deployed supremely widely and passionately in 2016 America. From Black Lives Matter to the demonstrations and marches against Time’s actual ’16 POTY to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the 300 tribes and countless non-indigenous citizens who successfully halted the Dakota Access Pipeline, this was a definitive year in the history of the protestor.
Beyoncé kicked off the year with her powerful “Formation” single and a Black Panther–inspired Super Bowl halftime performance, which made way for a rollout of her support of feminism and equality for Black people. Not to mention her Lemonade album pushed the singer even faster on the road to becoming an icon.