Teneille Craig

Danai Gurira

Teneille Craig
Danai Gurira

Danai Gurira

ACTRESS

Take your pick: machete-wielding zombie killer Michonne or clean-shaven Wakandan warrior Okoye? Either way, Zimbabwe’s own Danai Gurira is a win. Starring in culture-shifting blockbuster Black Panther and the long-running hit series The Walking Dead, the award-winning actress and playwright exemplifies vital representation needed for Black women and youth that is otherwise, and at times altogether, absent. “As a child, you’re really being indoctrinated with the idea that you’re not it,” she told the Los Angeles Times of Black imagery on TV and  film. “You’re not of the right thing, and these are the people who are. And that’s what’s really scary about not giving children representation. They absorb those images. But it’s so unnecessary. We don’t actually have to put children through that. It’s really easy to give them representations of self, whatever color they are.”

Her devotion to excellence and giving back are both vehicles for increased representation. In 2011, Gurira co-founded Almasi Arts Inc., an organization dedicated to continuing dramatic arts education in Zimbabwe through collaboration with seasoned, professional American artists. Recently, she also reopened The Convert, a play that explores her discovery of cultural identity as both a Zimbabwean and an American, and she is teaming up with fellow Black Panther star Lupita Nyong’o to adapt Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s book “Americanah” into a miniseries. Her aim is to share the perspectives of her people without being “other-ized.”

“It really is about, ‘Can I explore another angle of humanity that hasn’t been represented?’ It’s the other-ized perspective,” she told the Times. “That’s what I do. People say, ‘Oh, it’s political.’ But it’s not political. It’s my people.”