The year in Black culture: Here’s who made the biggest impact in 2023

AJC reporters on who mattered most
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis speaks during a press conference in the District Attorney's office at the Fulton County Courthouse in downtown Atlanta, Monday, August 30, 2021. (Alyssa Pointer/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNS)

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis speaks during a press conference in the District Attorney's office at the Fulton County Courthouse in downtown Atlanta, Monday, August 30, 2021. (Alyssa Pointer/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNS)

As the world looks back at 2023, AJC staff members are taking stock of what mattered in Black culture. In this story and others, we’re reviewing ATL’s year that was, for what it meant for the Black community and what might be next, because what happens in Atlanta never stays inside 285.

In this story, we look at the biggest players of the previous year. While there were many people — some new and some familiar — who impacted the way we experience Black culture together, some stood above and beyond the rest, and our staff shares their choices below.

We also want to hear from you: Fill out this form and tell us your thoughts on the year in Black culture, and your answers could appear in a future AJC story.

Happy Holidays!

Name someone who mattered in Black culture in 2023, and tell us why:

Fani Willis — both positively and negatively. Folks lauded her with the RICO charges against Trump and she inspired a lot of memes. But on the other side, she’s wielding those same tactics against Young Thug. She’s at the center of two of the biggest legal stories in Atlanta and the country. — Mirtha Donastorg

Sen. Raphael Warnock celebrates at the finish of the 54th running of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution Peachtree Road Race in Atlanta on Tuesday, July 4, 2023.   (Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)

Credit: Jason Getz/AJC

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Credit: Jason Getz/AJC

Senator Raphael Warnock. As this country continues to hurl its way toward a battle between democracy and a dictatorship, Warnock is one of our strongest voices in Washington, as evident by the mad GOP rush to get rid of him. — Ernie Suggs

Halle Bailey arrives to attend Variety's 2022 Power of Young Hollywood at NeueHouse Hollywood on Aug. 11, 2022, in Los Angeles. (Michael Tran/AFP /Getty Images)

Credit: TNS

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Credit: TNS

Halle Bailey was one to watch in 2023. I could not get enough of young Black girls reacting so authentically and beautifully to a Black Little Mermaid. My inner child felt so seen and my adult heart was so full. If that wasn’t enough, the superstar earned her first Grammy nomination as a solo artist with “Angel.” Plus, the release of “The Color Purple” is right around the corner. Bailey is playing Young Nettie in the latest adaption of Alice Walker’s famous novel, so we can continue to revel in her immense talent through the end of the year. Of course one of the most influential people of the year is from Atlanta! — Najja Parker

Rapper Gunna released on plea deal in RICO case after 7 months

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As far as Atlanta is concerned, I’d say Gunna is someone who mattered in Black culture. He ended last year as the target of unfair snitching allegations, and he ended this year with one of the most popular songs in the country and one of the best rap albums (which had zero features). — DeAsia Paige

André 3000: He’s back, and despite his own reluctance to understand his importance to Black culture, he still has something to say. His album was embraced by the hip-hop community and showed young artists that they need to continue to grow. — Todd Duncan

Artist Radcliffe Bailey will be honored at the Atlanta Hawks game on Wednesday night.

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Radcliffe Bailey. His passing is a reminder of the successes and challenges for Atlanta Black arts community. — Gavin Godfrey