17 Unsung Heroes of Black Lives Matter

These individuals are making a difference in the lives of African Americans everywhere.

Marco Pavé giving a TEDx talk in Memphis, Tenn., in September 2015
Marco Pavé giving a TEDx talk in Memphis, Tenn., in September 2015 YouTube screenshot

In 2013, after George Zimmerman was acquitted in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, the U.S. justice system sent a message to the black community: You don’t matter.

The black community responded to that message by organizing a powerful movement that is forcing the world to acknowledge that black lives do matter.

Black Lives Matter is more than just a hashtag or a political hot button. It is a multilayered movement, pushing back against the systematic racism in this country that harms people of color. While many of us are familiar with some of the great work consistently led by more high-profile activists, beneath the radar are those often unrecognized by the mainstream, but who share the same passion and are fighting against the same system of oppression.

This list (although shorter than it could be) is a salute to them, the unsung heroes of Black Lives Matter.

Marco Pavé

Where hip-hop and activism come together, you’ll find Memphis, Tenn., native Marco Pavé

In his game-changing TEDx talk, “Hobbyist to Lobbyist,” he takes the audience on a journey, using rap lyrics to tell a story of life in inner-city America. He talks about funding for the arts in schools and how art can make a difference in social change.

Pavé is the embodiment of the message he conveys. From colleges to inner schools, he teaches students how to utilize their artistic talents to navigate difficult feelings in the face of injustice. In fact, he has taken his activism a step further by creating scholarships for local high students who have a passion for art and a willingness to learn how to use it as a bridge to reach any desired destination. As Pavé said, “I am a full person … I use every part of myself for social activism. I also believe in a proactive approach. Connecting with youth and teaching about systematic racism and navigating those difficult emotions is my way of being proactive.”

Terryl De Mendonca