- Jason Lemon For the AJC
It's hard to believe that 2017 is almost over. With a new presidential administration, the rise of major social movements across the country and a slew of significant pop culture firsts, it's been an eventful – and sometimes bumpy – ride for many.
So, as the year draws to a close, we thought we'd step back and take a look at some of the most significant cultural, political and social developments that took place throughout the United States and around the world in 2017. In many cases, it's a bit surprising that these stories are news in the 21st century.
But hey, sometimes progress comes slowly and sometimes rapidly. Here are seven historic firsts that we can't believe didn't happen sooner.
1. First black woman won an Emmy for comedy writing.
Lena Waithe became the first African-American woman to win an Emmy for comedy writing in September. The actor and writer won the award for co-writing the "Thanksgiving" episode of "Master of None" with series co-creatoer Aziz Ansari.
"The things that make us different — those are our superpower." Waithe, who also openly identifies as a Lesbian, said when accepting the honor, according to Variety.
"Go out there and conquer the world. It would not be as beautiful as it is if we weren't in it," Waithe added, also giving a special mention to her "LGBTQIA family."
2. Women finally have the right to drive in every country.
Perhaps one of the more bizarre news stories of 2017: Women were finally granted the right to drive in every country of the world. Saudi Arabia was the only country in the world still blocking women from getting driver's licenses and driving within its borders.
The move came in the form of a royal decree from Saudi Arabia's King Salman, and it will officially take effect in early 2018.
"This is a great victory for many Saudi women. This was the one file and issue which Saudi women have fought not just years, but decades for," Latifa Shaalan, a Saudi female member of the kingdom's legislative council said when the decision was announced, according to StepFeed.
3. First openly trans woman ever elected to a US legislature.
Running as a Democrat, Danica Roem made history, becoming the first openly transgender person to ever be elected to a U.S. state legislature in November. Running for office in Virginia, Roem defeated Republican Bob Marshall, a politician who had previously crafted several pieces of anti-trans legislation, which many saw as ironic justice.
"This election has to prove nationwide that discrimination is a disqualifier," Roem said in a speech.
4. SNL chose a person of color as a head writer for the first time.
While, Saturday Night Live may be seen as an important cultural voice of comedy and criticism when it comes to political and social issues, it's also long been plagued by diversity problems.
The comedy sketch show took a big step in the right direction this year however, hiring Michael Che, who already served as co-host of the show's Weekend Update segment, as its first African-American head writer. This made Che the first person of color to have such a prominent role with the show.
5. The first female mayor was elected in New Orleans.
Even though it's a prominent city in the U.S. cultural consciousness, New Orleans never had a female mayor until now.
LaToya Cantrell, a former City Council member, won election to the city's top office in November.
"Almost 300 years, my friends. And New Orleans, we're still making history," Cantrell said to a cheering crowd in her victory speech, according to TIME.
6. Cecile B. Demille Award goes to a black woman (a very famous one) for the first time.
Oprah Winfrey needs no introduction, and it seems only fitting that the legendary TV host, media personality and actor would receive an award for all her lifetime achievements.
But the entrepreneur behind the television network OWN will be the first black woman to ever receive the prestigious Cecil B. DeMille Award at the 2018 Golden Globes.
"As a global media leader, philanthropist, producer and actress, she has created an unparalleled connection with people around the world, making her one of the most respected and admired figures today," Meher Tatna, the president of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, said, revealing the news this month, according to Blavity.
7. The U.S. finally took a hard look at its problem with sexual harassment.
From TIME Magazine choosing the #MeToo "silence breakers" as its "person of the year", to the many, many women – and some men – who bravely came forward to share their stories of sexual harassment, 2017 will go down as the year that the conversation shifted significantly.
People across the country – celebrities, everyday people and anonymous individuals alike – have finally found the strength and support they need to publicly address the harassment they've endured.
For the first time, the U.S. has been forced to take a hard look at this dark cultural reality. And considering it's 2017, it seems the unanimous response from most Americans is “it’s about time.”