Leslie Jones is stunning in New York magazine — and other black women having a great week.

This is the seventh edition of "This week in black women," a weekly column dedicated to signal-boosting the black women who make the world spin.

While this column technically took a week off last week, I wrote a story about the many ways you can thank black women for carrying the country on our backs. TL;DR: Open your wallet and/or get to work.

This week, I'm shouting out a dynamite teenage speed-skater, a musician finally getting her due, the best ending (beginning?) to Lena Waithe's story and more. Pay these women! Celebrate these women. Follow them! Encourage them! Let's do this.


"Yes, young queen": Maame Biney

17-year-old Maame Biney became the first black woman to qualify for a U.S. Olympic speedskating team. FIRST. In 2017. Born in Ghana and raised in Virginia, she is only the second black person to make the team — EVER. (Shani Davis made the team in 2002.)

“I can’t believe it! Aww geez!” Biney told ESPN after she won her final 500 meter race. “It’s a really good feeling, but it has to set in first because it takes me a while. I’m like, ‘holy cow.”’

Maame Biney celebrates victory in the women's 500-meter A final. Photo by Harry How/Getty Images.

"We won't forget": Sister Rosetta Tharpe

Decades after her death in 1973, rock gospel icon Sister Rosetta Tharpe was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. She infused the sounds of her rural home in Arkansas with her adopted hometown Chicago to create music that laid the foundation for generations of rock legends, including Elvis Presley and Bob Dylan. This long-overdue praise and recognition is richly deserved. Take a listen to some of her greatest hits.

Photo by Ron Case/Keystone/Getty Images.

"Go off sis!": Leslie Jones

Leslie Jones (and one half of Colin Jost's face) appeared on the cover of New York Magazine looking fabulous. Hats off to this furiously funny woman on her continued come-up.

"Love is real": Lena Waithe

Because life imitates art in the very best way, Emmy-award winning writer Lena Waithe announced this week she got engaged to her partner, Alana Mayo, on Thanksgiving. As you may recall, Waithe won a writing Emmy for penning an episode loosely based on her life coming out to her family as a lesbian over the course of several Thanksgivings. So, this is basically the best epilogue of all time.

Photo by Tibrina Hobson/AFP/Getty Images.

AND, yes, there's more Lena Waithe content where that came from. The first episode of her new show "The Chi" (which debuts on Showtime in January) is streaming right now for free on YouTube. (Don't worry, it's legit.)  The show is a coming-of-age drama about a community of black people living on the south side of Chicago. Waithe is co-creator and co-writer.

Final Thought: @_peech

Again, put your money where your mouth is and support the work of black women.

Simon & Garfunkel's song "Bridge Over Troubled Water" has been covered by more than 50 different musical artists, from Aretha Franklin to Elvis Presley to Willie Nelson. It's a timeless classic that taps into the universal struggle of feeling down and the comfort of having someone to lift us up. It's beloved for its soothing melody and cathartic lyrics, and after a year of pandemic challenges, it's perhaps more poignant now than ever.

A few years a go, American singer-songwriter Yebba Smith shared a solo a capella version of a part of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," in which she just casually sits and sings it on a bed. It's an impressive rendition on its own, highlighting Yebba's soulful, effortless voice.

But British singer Jacob Collier recently added his own layered harmony tracks to it, taking the performance to a whole other level.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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