Photo by Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images
1

Shonda Rhimes

  • Sector: Entertainment/Media
  • Job: Writer, Showrunner, Producer, Author
  • Age: 45
  • Location: Los Angeles
  • Twitter: @shondarhimes

Bio:

Whether she’s writing, producing, showrunning or some combination thereof—Shonda Rhimes’ creative DNA is in every single one of her successful, groundbreaking shows, all of which bring a magnificent diversity into our homes (though she prefers to call it “normalizing” the world). In Shondaland, caricatures morph into real human beings with rich relationships and sex lives; genuine women are at the top of their games; gay men get intimate (as do older black women); and taboo subjects—from sexual harassment to police brutality; from rape to abortion—are mined with an intelligence rarely seen on network TV.

Certainly, there is “The Shonda Effect,” but her significant cultural impact is only half the story. Even before ratings winner How To Get Away With Murder debuted, Scandal and Grey’s Anatomy accounted for nearly $300 million in revenue each season and Rhimes remains ABC’s top earner in drama (“I should give credit to the person paying for this shindig,” joked Disney-ABC Television Group President Ben Sherwood at this year’s upfronts. “Shonda Rhimes, where are you?”) The TV vet has singlehandedly brought ABC to No. 1 in entertainment (non-sports programming), and Thursday nights are at a five-year high in the coveted 18-34 demo.

Oh, and in the last year, Rhimes has written a book, taken issues of LGBT and gender equality head on, sold two more shows to ABC, upended stereotypes of African Americans globally and given us all some handy life advice, all while dominating in a white, male space–clearly, proudly, unabashedly and absolutely. There is no doubt that Shonda Rhimes is the mistress of the universe. She does it all–shaping culture, business and television—while taking us on a breathtaking, fantastic voyage.

Visit her website and like her Facebook page.

Claim to Fame:

Shonda Rhimes is a screenwriter, director and producer. Her first book, Year of Yes, is out this fall.
  • Influence 271
  • Reach 9.02
  • Substance 9.5
  • Media Mentions 1039
  • Twitter followers 1,004,718
Photo by Brad Barket/Getty Images for AYS
2

Serena Williams

  • Sector: Sports
  • Job: Professional Tennis Player, Designer
  • Age: 33
  • Location: West Palm Beach, Fla.
  • Twitter: @serenawilliams

Bio:

No court—hard, clay or grass—can contain her. After notching her sixth Wimbledon win, Serena Williams scored her second “Serena Slam” by holding all four major tennis titles at the same time: the Australian Open, the French Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. If she wins the U.S. Open this week, she will achieve a historic calendar grand slam, a feat last acheived by Steffi Graf in 1988. Williams would also tie Graf for most grand slam singles titles. In the 20 years since two brown girls from Compton, Calif., picked up tennis rackets, Serena Williams has not only dominated, she—along with her sister Venus—has transformed tennis and picked up $72 million in prize money along the way. Williams has also won the most combined singles, doubles and mixed-doubles titles ever. Add to that her glorious physique (J.K. Rowling co-signs), inimitable fashion style and commanding serve (upward of 122 mph), and you see why mortals bow and competitors cringe. She is simply one of the greatest athletes of all time.

Visit her website and like her Facebook page.

Claim to Fame:

Serena Williams is a professional tennis player who is ranked No. 1 in the world and on the verge of achieving the calendar grand slam, the first in 27 years.
  • Influence 266.8
  • Reach 10.85
  • Substance 9
  • Media Mentions 13411
  • Twitter followers 5,261,269
Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images for Estabrook Group
3

LeBron James

  • Sector: Sports
  • Job: Professional Basketball Player, Businessman
  • Age: 30
  • Location: Cleveland
  • Twitter: @KingJames

Bio:

Hollywood hustle aside, LeBron James is currently the best (and highest-paid) player in the NBA. He has been to the NBA championships five times straight, a feat not seen in the last 50 years (sorry Kobe, Magic and Michael). In this year’s finals, James single-handedly kept his injury-hobbled team alive, averaging 45 minutes and a near triple double during the series. And though the Cleveland Cavaliers didn’t quite make it to the promised land, King James remains his home state’s undisputed shepherd of goodwill and largesse. Shortly after signing a $47 million deal this summer, he announced that he would be sending 1,100 students to college at a cost of $41 million, further cementing his regal legacy.

Visit his website and like his Facebook page.

Claim to Fame:

LeBron James remains the NBA’s highest-paid player and the best athlete on the court today. His philanthropy will also help send 1,100 students to college.
  • Influence 244.7
  • Reach 11.48
  • Substance 8.5
  • Media Mentions 12684
  • Twitter followers 23,537,791
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4

Alicia Garza

  • Sector: Community
  • Job: Activist, Special Projects Director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance
  • Age: 34
  • Location: San Francisco
  • Twitter: @aliciagarza

Bio:

Two years ago, Alicia Garza was publicly grieving the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s killer, when three seemingly innocuous words flowed from her keyboard, and proved to be anything but: Black lives matter. That simple but profound assertion would come to rattle the establishment, bounce onto magazine covers and helped drive a crusade for racial justice not seen since the 1960s. In addition to her day job with the National Domestic Workers Alliance, Garza, who identifies as queer, often uses her platform to widen the space of blackness, especially unmasking the far-too-frequent violence against trans and gender-nonconforming people of color in our communities. Her beautiful refrain (and work) not only insists on the protection of black bodies but on the opening of black minds. We especially thank her for her heart.

Like her Facebook page.

Claim to Fame:

Alicia Garza is a co-founder of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, and also coined the term.
  • Influence 226.4
  • Reach 5.79
  • Substance 9.7
  • Media Mentions 49
  • Twitter followers 12,357
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5

Patrisse Cullors

  • Sector: Community
  • Job: Activist, Artist
  • Age: 32
  • Location: Los Angeles

Bio:

These three words speak a movement, a mantra, a mission: Black Lives Matter. Patrisse Marie Cullors, one-third of a collective credited with the hashtag heard ’round the world, is the embodiment of a new-school activist, one who is as studied in intersectionality and social media as in the actual work of organizing. Cullors, a proud, queer woman, is also an artist, director of the Truth and Reinvestment campaign at the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights and co-founder of Dignity and Power Now, which last year won permanent civilian oversight of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (one of the largest jailers in the world). Thanks to her work, the Black Lives Matter Network, which now has 26 chapters in three countries, is moving from a declaration into a hard-fought reality.

Visit her website.

Claim to Fame:

Patrisse Cullors is a co-founder of the #BlackLivesMatter movement.
  • Influence 225.1
  • Reach 5.73
  • Substance 9.7
  • Media Mentions 51
  • Twitter followers 10,213
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6

Ava DuVernay

  • Sector: Entertainment/Media
  • Job: Director, Writer, Founder of African-American Film Festival Releasing Movement
  • Age: 42
  • Location: Los Angeles
  • Twitter: @AVAETC

Bio:

Presciently, Selma marched into theaters just as the country was spinning in social unrest, not unlike that in the film. Selma writer and director Ava DuVernay became the first African-American woman nominated for a Best Director Golden Globe and sparked a crucial conversation on the homogeneity of Hollywood during awards season. No, DuVernay did not get a statue, but she did get her very own doll; and on screens big and small, she continues to inspire and mobilize up-and-coming directors, especially through her African-American Film Festival Releasing Movement. DuVernay wins because she is talented, unapologetic and clear: “I want to be defined as a ‘black woman filmmaker,’” she says. “That is my gaze and I’m proud of it.”

Visit her website and like her Facebook page.

Claim to Fame:

Ava DuVernay is an acclaimed director, screenwriter and creator of a new OWN drama series
  • Influence 223.9
  • Reach 8.36
  • Substance 8.8
  • Media Mentions 1924
  • Twitter followers 119,633
Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images For KCSports2015
7

Stephen Curry

  • Sector: Sports
  • Job: Professional Basketball Player
  • Age: 27
  • Location: Orinda, Calif.
  • Twitter: @StephenCurry30

Bio:

They call him the “baby-faced assassin” because he sinks three-pointers with deadly precision, though one couldn’t imagine a real-life transgression from Golden State point guard Stephen Curry. Not only did the goofy, God-centered, family man lead his team to the 2015 NBA Championships, the league MVP is also the proud, indulgent, adoring papa to baby girl Riley, who stole our hearts with her free-girl antics during daddy’s post-game press conferences. At 180 pounds dripping wet playing in a game of big men, Curry is truly a unique prospect. And lest you think he lacks edge, ask rapper Drake about him. “Steph Curry with the shot,” indeed.

Visit his website and like his Facebook page.

Claim to Fame:

Stephen Curry is the 2015 NBA MVP of the world champion Golden State Warriors.
  • Influence 220.7
  • Reach 10.27
  • Substance 8.3
  • Media Mentions 6394
  • Twitter followers 2,883,036
Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images
8

Misty Copeland

  • Sector: Arts
  • Job: Ballerina
  • Age: 32
  • Location: New York
  • Twitter: @mistyonpointe

Bio:

With a body reminiscent of a work by Michelangelo loosed from marble, ballerina Misty Copeland was a sight to behold on Time magazine; one of only five covers for its annual “100 most influential” list. But that was not even the apex of her year. In June, Copeland became the first African-American principal dancer in the American Ballet Theatre’s prestigious 75-year history … a mere week after being the first black woman to dance lead in Swan Lake at the Metropolitan Opera House. From her tireless advocacy in making ballet accessible, to defying her industry’s rigid racial and body norms, Copeland is living proof that attitude determines gravity-defying altitude. Brava, Misty!

Visit her website and like her Facebook page

Claim to Fame:

Misty Copeland is the first black female principal dancer at the American Ballet Theatre.
  • Influence 219.4
  • Reach 7.34
  • Substance 9
  • Media Mentions 295
  • Twitter followers 73,693
Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images
9

Kendrick Lamar

  • Sector: Entertainment/Media
  • Job: Rapper
  • Age: 28
  • Location: Compton, Calif.
  • Twitter: @kendricklamar

Bio:

Twenty-five years ago, Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power” was the frenetic, bass-heavy soundtrack that gave life to the frustration of a generation. Kendrick Lamar is the millennial Chuck D, with a side of Tupac thrown in. From the provocative image on the cover of his second album, To Pimp a Butterfly, to tracks like “King Kunta,” “i” and “The Blacker the Berry,” TPAB swirls in a heady mix of declarative self-love, searching introspection and revolutionary defiance in a time some have labeled “The Nadir” for black lives. No wonder protesters jubilantly chanted a K-Dot hook after a standoff with police in Cleveland this summer, saying, “We gon’ be alright!”

Visit his website and like his Facebook page.

Claim to Fame:

Kendrick Lamar is a reflective hip-hop artist whose latest album, To Pimp a Butterfly, was one of this year’s finest.
  • Influence 217.8
  • Reach 10
  • Substance 8.3
  • Media Mentions 1802
  • Twitter followers 5,506,223
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Opal Tometi 

  • Sector: Community
  • Job: Activist, Executive Director, Black Alliance for Just Immigration
  • Age: 31
  • Location: New York
  • Twitter: @opalayo

Bio:

#BlackLivesMatter. Those words, that refrain, was created by three black women in 2013. Opal Tometi is one of them. In addition to her work growing and working with #BLM chapters, this child of Nigerian parents is also the executive director of the Black Alliance for Just Immigration, one of very few organizations that specifically address the rights of African and Caribbean immigrants in this country. Tometi, like her cohorts, Patrisse Cullors and Alicia Garza, is invested in taking Black Lives Matter beyond police brutality, and her work addresses everything from mass criminalization to the adverse impact of the North American Free Trade Agreement on communities of color. “Black Lives Matter is not just an organizing network, but also a strategic concept broad enough to go beyond borders,” she says.

Claim to Fame:

Opal Tometi is a co-founder of the #BlackLivesMatter movement.
  • Influence 216.4
  • Reach 5.29
  • Substance 9.7
  • Media Mentions 21
  • Twitter followers 8,879
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11

Ta-Nehisi Coates

  • Sector: Entertainment/Media
  • Job: Journalist, Author
  • Age: 39
  • Twitter: @tanehisicoates

Bio:

Toni Morrison says Baldwin. Others might say X. You see, Malcolm had genius-level intelligence, but was beloved for his ability to “make it plain.” The same could be said for The Atlantic national correspondent Ta-Nehisi Coates, as when he writes:   “White people are often sincerely and greatly pained by racism, but rarely are they pained enough.” Coates, who is using his increasingly public platform to dissect this country’s entrenched, institutionalized violence against black bodies (his seminal treatise on reparations is required reading), leans heavily on history and eschews sentimentality in his timely dispatches. His widely hailed second book, Between the World and Me, cements a noble legacy of unvarnished introspection and truth telling, which Malcolm and James would esteem.

Like his Facebook page.

Claim to Fame:

Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic. His latest book, Between the World and Me, was widely hailed.
  • Influence 215
  • Reach 7.71
  • Substance 8.8
  • Media Mentions 211
  • Twitter followers 240,656
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12

Marilyn Mosby

  • Sector: Government/Politics
  • Job: Baltimore City State’s Attorney
  • Age: 35
  • Location: Baltimore
  • Twitter: @MarilynMosbyEsq

Bio:

No wonder Prince is a fan. In June 2014, Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby indicted six police officers in the illegal arrest and atrocious demise of 25-year-old Freddie Gray, whose death sparked days of civil unrest. As the youngest chief prosecutor in the United States, Mosby announced the charges mere hours after the medical examiner determined Gray’s death a homicide, upending the very real expectation of justice delayed—and denied. Mosby was both hailed and criticized for her far-too-rare action, credited in part for keeping the fragile city from further burning. Most brazenly, when Mosby announced the charges, she spoke directly to Baltimore’s embattled youth, acknowledging their humanity in both word and deed: “I will seek justice on your behalf,” she promised.

Visit her website and like her Facebook page.

Claim to Fame:

Marilyn Mosby is the state’s attorney for the city of Baltimore who indicted six police officers in the death of an unarmed black man.
  • Influence 213.9
  • Reach 7.29
  • Substance 8.9
  • Media Mentions 513
  • Twitter followers 37,890
Photo by VALERIE MACON/AFP/Getty Images
13

John Legend

  • Sector: Entertainment/Media
  • Job: Singer, Producer
  • Age: 36
  • Location: New York
  • Twitter: @johnlegend

Bio:

At the 2015 Academy Awards ceremony (where he won the Best Song Oscar), singer/songwriter John Legend lent his soulful cry to “Glory,” and brought A-listers in the audience to tears. In the last year, the celebrated warbler and philanthropist has used his resources to feed hungry protesters via food trucks in New York City, launched innovative education initiatives like the LRNG project nationally and helped to pass Proposition 47 in California to lessen prison overcrowding. In April, Legend unveiled the #FreeAmerica movement, a multiyear campaign to end mass incarceration in the United States that advocates decriminalizing drug use as a first step.

Visit his website and like his Facebook page.

Claim to Fame:

Nine-time Grammy winner John Legend won the 2015 Academy Award for Best Original Song for the motion picture Selma.
  • Influence 206.8
  • Reach 10.44
  • Substance 8
  • Media Mentions 3826
  • Twitter followers 7,265,459
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14

DeRay Mckesson

  • Sector: Community
  • Job: Activist, Co-Founder of WeTheProtesters.
  • Age: 30
  • Location: St. Louis
  • Twitter: @deray

Bio:

DeRay Mckesson’s relentless, rapid-fire missives via his preferred medium—Twitter—are by turns informative and profound. The former teacher has amassed more than 223,000 acolytes (including a highly selective Beyoncé,) since the Ferguson, Mo., uprising last year. Mckesson and his ubiquitous blue vest are a constant presence at protests across the country, and he has been called on by U.S. presidential candidates to give his adroit analysis on the state of things. In August, Mckesson co-launched #CampaignZero, a think tank with 10 specific policy recommendations to end police violence in America. Mckesson remains a storyteller, agitator, amplifier, thought leader, cheerleader and witness for those who know that the black struggle for justice is not now, but right now. His demand is simple: “Stop killing us.”

Visit his website and like his Facebook page.

Claim to Fame:

DeRay Mckesson is a social media wizard and leading civil rights activist in the #BlackLivesMatter movement.
  • Influence 197
  • Reach 7.44
  • Substance 8.5
  • Media Mentions 121
  • Twitter followers 224,548
Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images
15

Taraji P. Henson

  • Sector: Entertainment/Media
  • Job: Actress
  • Age: 44
  • Location: Glendale, Calif.
  • Twitter: @TherealTaraji

Bio:

As the fierce, flamboyant matriarch on Fox juggernaut Empire, Taraji P. Henson embodies the character of Cookie Lyon, a hustler extraordinaire who is never far from an animal print. Though Henson is an Academy Award-nominated film actress, it was Cookie who catapulted her to household-name fame and got her a nod for a prime-time Emmy. This year, she also hosted Saturday Night Live; covered elite fashion mag W ; and won the 2015 NAACP Entertainer of the Year award. Like Cookie, Henson keeps it oh-so-real, whether speaking out on injustice in McKinney, Texas, or rejecting the myth that African-American films don’t play internationally. Chances are, folks will eat up her memoir, too. It’s set to drop in mid-2016.

Visit her Instagram and like her Facebook page.

Claim to Fame:

Taraji P. Henson is an Oscar- and Emmy-nominated actress who currently stars on Fox’s Empire.
  • Influence 188.6
  • Reach 8.26
  • Substance 8.1
  • Media Mentions 49
  • Twitter followers 3,653,449
Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images
16

Lonnie ‘Common’ Lynn Jr.

  • Sector: Entertainment/Media
  • Job: Rapper, Actor
  • Age: 43
  • Location: Los Angeles
  • Twitter: @common

Bio:

Well, his name is hardly indicative of his year. Even after winning an Oscar, with John Legend, in the Best Song category and being cast in both Selma and the highly anticipated Suicide Squad, Common has stayed true to his activist origins. In the past 12 months, the Chi-town spitter has become a member of the Academy, host of a furniture-design show and will appear in The Wiz Live! on NBC in December. But he’s also used his platform to speak out on injustice, whether on the ground in Missouri, from an MTV Video Music Awards stage or through the lyrics of his celebrated ode to freedom, “Glory”: “That’s why we walk through Ferguson with our hands up. … They say ‘Stand down,’ and we stand up.”

Visit his website and like his Facebook page.

Claim to Fame:

Grammy-, Oscar- and Golden Globe-winning rapper, actor and activist
  • Influence 166.1
  • Reach 8.72
  • Substance 7.5
  • Media Mentions 167
  • Twitter followers 3,144,006
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Bree Newsome

  • Sector: Community
  • Job: Activist, Filmmaker
  • Age: 30
  • Location: Charlotte, N.C.
  • Twitter: @BreeNewsome

Bio:

“You come against me with hatred, oppression and violence. I come against you in the name of God. This flag comes down today.” And so it did. On June 27, 2015, Brittany “Bree” Newsome spoke those mighty words as she scaled a 30-foot flagpole and removed the Confederate flag from the South Carolina state Capitol grounds, where it had flown since 1963. It was a week after nine black parishioners were massacred by a white supremacist in a historically black South Carolina church. For her direct action, the filmmaker and activist became an immediate icon of resistance and a shining black superhero posthaste. Unsurprisingly, this true fly girl uses her platform for good to this day.

Visit her website.

Claim to Fame:

Bree Newsome, an activist and filmmaker, made headlines in June when she climbed the 30-foot flagpole on the grounds of the South Carolina Capitol to remove the Confederate flag.
  • Influence 165.1
  • Reach 6.65
  • Substance 8
  • Media Mentions 41
  • Twitter followers 106,826
Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images for BET
18

Janelle Monáe 

  • Sector: Entertainment/Media
  • Job: Singer
  • Age: 29
  • Location: Atlanta
  • Twitter: @JanelleMonae

Bio:

Although Prince co-signed for years, it was not until recently that Janelle Monáe fully stepped into all her Afrofuturistic glory. In March, the six-time Grammy nominee released The Eephus on her own imprint, producing her biggest hits to date: the infectious “Yoga,” and “Classic Man” by Jidenna. The no-holds-barred ArchAndroid has been one of a few black artists to use her platform to support the #BlackLivesMatter movement, and, in August, she released the powerful, thunderous protest song “Hell You Talmbout.” This summer, Monáe and her dandified Wondaland collective (Jidenna, Roman GianArthur, Deep Cotton, St. Beauty and George 2.0) took to the streets of Philadelphia, New York City and Washington, D.C., to demand justice for the fallen.

Visit her website and like her Facebook page.

Claim to Fame:

Janelle Monáe is a Grammy-nominated singer and the creator of Wondaland Records.
  • Influence 163.8
  • Reach 8.47
  • Substance 7.5
  • Media Mentions 460
  • Twitter followers 87,877
Photo by David Buchan/Getty Images
19

Hannibal Buress

  • Sector: Entertainment/Media
  • Job: Comedian
  • Age: 32
  • Location: New York
  • Twitter: @hannibalburess

Bio:

Hannibal Buress was not known to many of us before he was credited with taking Bill Cosby down in a stand-up bit claiming the then-beloved comedian “rapes women.” Since then, the former Saturday Night Live writer and Broad City player has parlayed his hero status into more eyeballs on his new comedy-sketch show on Comedy Central, Why? Known for his highly observational but somewhat acerbic brand of storytelling (see: the virtues of saved pickle juice; the hypocrisy of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, or the Drake-Meek Mill beef), Buress’ show mines the zeitgeist with his heralded “man on the street” bits mixed with talented underground musical acts like Jean Grae, Thundercat and Open Mike Eagle, surely influenced by his incredible house DJ, Flying Lotus.

Visit his website and like his Facebook page.

Claim to Fame:

Hannibal Buress is a stand-up comic credited with a joke that brought on Bill Cosby’s downfall.
  • Influence 163.8
  • Reach 8.48
  • Substance 7.5
  • Media Mentions 580
  • Twitter followers 520,061
Photo by VALERIE MACON/AFP/Getty Images
20

Dana 'Queen Latifah' Owens 

  • Sector: Entertainment/Media
  • Job: Actress, Singer, Rapper, Producer, Entrepreneur
  • Age: 45
  • Location: Los Angeles
  • Twitter: @IAMQUEENLATIFAH

Bio:

Despite the lyrics, Dana “Queen Latifah” Owens has never really been “plain old Dana.” In fact, she has always been quite remarkable, from her early days rapping and running a groundbreaking management company, to later starring in the iconic TV show Living Single, acting in films like Set It Off and Chicago, and fronting her own TV talk show … twice. This May, the Golden Globe winner executive-produced and was lead in the seminal HBO biopic Bessie, bringing a bare vulnerability to a role that earned her a 2015 best-actress Emmy nomination. This summer, Latifah signed on to the NBC remake of The Wiz. Her role? The Wizard of Oz, of course, which is truly befitting one of our greatest and most powerful.

Visit her website and like her Facebook page.

Claim to Fame:

Hip-hop star and Oscar nominee Queen Latifah has been nominated for an Emmy for her starring role in HBO’s biopic Bessie.
  • Influence 159.8
  • Reach 10.05
  • Substance 7.1
  • Media Mentions 1658
  • Twitter followers 6,771,010
Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images
21

Shawn ‘Jay Z’ Carter

  • Sector: Entertainment/Media
  • Job: Rapper, Entrepreneur, Sports Agent
  • Age: 45
  • Location: Los Angeles
  • Twitter: @S_C_

Bio:

Shawn “Jay Z” Carter has proven that he is as masterful in commerce as he is at constructing rhymes. In the last year, the rap genius has been applying his synergistic blueprint to all his entrepreneurial endeavors, including his Roc Nation Sports agency, the Made in America festival, and his loudest venture yet, Tidal, which by all accounts, hasn’t quite hit platinum status. Carter has also quietly stepped up around social justice issues by co-producing the Emmitt Till story with Will Smith for HBO, and most notably, meeting with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo in December, which was credited in part for the pol’s appointment of a special prosecutor in July in cases of civilian death involving police.

Visit his website and like his Facebook page

Claim to Fame:

Shawn “Jay Z” Carter is a rapper, producer, sports agent and entrepreneur.
  • Influence 157.9
  • Reach 10.39
  • Substance 7
  • Media Mentions 7640
  • Twitter followers 3,058,529
Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images
22

Jessica Williams

  • Sector: Entertainment/Media
  • Job: Comedian, Actress
  • Age: 26
  • Location: New York
  • Twitter: @msjwilly

Bio:

When Jon Stewart announced his retirement from The Daily Show, there was a groundswell of support for 25-year-old comedian Jessica Williams to replace him. When she demurred, Williams sparked a larger discussion on “imposter syndrome,” feminism and leaning in, and held her own against her critics, in this now-famous Twitterific shutdown: “I am a black woman, and I am a feminist… But I am not yours…No offense, but lean the [f–k] away from me for the next couple of days. I need a minute.” In her day-to-day, the smoky-voiced cutup writes and produces for TDS, taking on issues from stop and frisk to street harassment (“Rule No. 3: Master the fake phone call. Hello, Beyoncé?”)—all with her signature sardonic bite—something we can all lean into.

Visit her website and like her Facebook page.

Claim to Fame:

Jessica Williams is a comedian and correspondent on Comedy Central’s The Daily Show.
  • Influence 157.4
  • Reach 7.83
  • Substance 7.5
  • Media Mentions 471
  • Twitter followers 142,537
Photo by Leonard Adam/Getty Images
23

Aliaune ‘Akon’ Thiam  

  • Sector: Community
  • Job: Singer, Philanthropist, Entrepreneur
  • Age: 42
  • Location: Atlanta
  • Twitter: @akon

Bio:

Senegalese-American singer Akon, who burst out of obscurity in 2004 with his heartfelt ode to imprisonment, “Locked Up,” has always lent his resources to good causes. But nothing compares to his most innovative and ambitious project yet, Akon Lighting Africa, the solar-power initiative he started in February 2014. ALA is currently up in 14 African nations and seeks to bring electricity to 600 million people on the continent by 2016. The Mali-based program is structured to help African engineers and entrepreneurs develop skills to exploit Africa’s more than 320 days of sunlight. The supremely talented singer also recently announced a new offshoot of the program that will power computers and drive education in rural areas of the Motherland. Brilliant.

Visit his website and like his Facebook page

Claim to Fame:

Akon is a Senegalese-American R&B recording artist and philanthropist who is bringing light and self-determination to Africa through his new solar-power project.
  • Influence 152.7
  • Reach 9.72
  • Substance 7
  • Media Mentions 890
  • Twitter followers 5,855,421
Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images
24

Jussie Smollett

  • Sector: Entertainment/Media
  • Job: Actor, Singer
  • Age: 31
  • Location: Los Angeles
  • Twitter: @JussieSmollett

Bio:

In one of the most jaw-dropping scenes in the outsize Fox hit Empire, actor Jussie Smollett’s character Jamal Lyon, the brash, talented, self-assured son of Lucious and Cookie, came out during the infamous white party, dropping the mic both on his homophobic father and viewers. Smollett’s character is one of the first young, black, gay men on prime time who is at the center of a show and not a stereotypical sidekick. Smollett, who himself came out this year, says it’s been “an honor” to tell Jamal’s story. “You don’t always get these experiences [playing] roles where you feel the impact of what you’re doing, but I do. And … as an artist, as an activist, as a man, it’s feeding my soul,” he says.

Claim to Fame:

Jussie Smollett is a star of the Fox drama Empire.
  • Influence 150.9
  • Reach 8.02
  • Substance 7.3
  • Media Mentions 221
  • Twitter followers 467,894
Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images for BET
25

Tracee Ellis Ross

  • Sector: Entertainment/Media
  • Job: Actress
  • Age: 42
  • Location: Los Angeles
  • Twitter: @traceeellisross

Bio:

Who doesn’t love Tracee Ellis Ross, she of fluffy hair, goofy disposition, black girl derriere and Diana Ross vintage style? From twirling into our lives as Joan on Girlfriends to her current romp as Bow in Black-ish, Ross consistently plays professional black women with depth, but she’s quirky enough to go against type. In real life, Ross imparts her get-it-from-her-mama style sense to the masses through her sundry YouTube channel (salad spinner to dry your delicates, anyone?) and has found yet another lane as black America’s favorite awards-show host, T-Murda-ing the 2015 BET Awards and Black Girls Rock! This beautiful brown babe was also recently honored with a doctorate from Brown. We see you, Dr. Ross.

Visit her website and like her Facebook page.

Claim to Fame:

Tracee Ellis Ross is an actress, currently starring on ABC's Black-ish.
  • Influence 148.4
  • Reach 8.2
  • Substance 7.2
  • Media Mentions 278
  • Twitter followers 561,613
keyandpeele
26

Key and Peele 

  • Sector: Entertainment/Media
  • Job: Comedians, Actors, Writers, Producers
  • Location: Los Angeles
  • Twitter: @KeyAndPeele

Bio:

With the help of an awesome trove of wigs and boundless comedic talent, Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele have morphed into every iteration of blackness (and then some) with gut-busting hilarity— whether it’s as two hapless terrorist-busters on a plane, or the “script doctor” set to make Gremlins 2 the Best. Movie. Ever. Over the last four years, the cutups behind Comedy Central’s Key and Peele have produced a treasure trove of videos that have generated half a billion streams on the network’s YouTube channel. Yes, there are the individual projects (see Key at the White House correspondents dinner or Peele as co-writer for the upcoming Keanu), but together they make the hottest cup of two! And though this is Key and Peele’s last season, Comedy Central is developing an animated series with them, and Paramount has green-lit a movie version of their wildly popular “Substitute Teacher” sketch.

Visit their website and like their Facebook page.

Claim to Fame:

Comedy Central’s Key and Peele is consistently one of the funniest shows on television, a testament to the show’s creators, Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele.
  • Influence 146.1
  • Reach 8.39
  • Substance 7.1
  • Media Mentions 342
  • Twitter followers 723,127
Photo by Gustavo Caballero/Getty Images for GREY GOOSE
27

Timothy ‘Timbaland’ Mosley

  • Sector: Entertainment/Media
  • Job: Record Producer, Songwriter
  • Age: 43
  • Location: Virginia Beach, Va.
  • Twitter: @Timbaland

Bio:

Iconic hits are the kind that Timothy “Timbaland” Mosley has been dropping for more than 20 years. The producer of “Drunk in Love,” “Pony” and “SexyBack” has made beautiful music with everyone, from Missy Elliot’s getting her freak on to Jay Z’s brushing dirt off his shoulder. In March, the three-time Grammy winner even bested his former collaborator, Madonna, when his executive-produced Empire soundtrack hit No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart. Mosley reportedly signed on to the Lee Daniels juggernaut to bring hip-hop authenticity to the show. Good move: His 10-person “Team Timbo” squad of writers and producers has hit pay dirt, with songs like “Drip Drop” and “You’re So Beautiful” mowing down the pop-culture landscape, a rarity for TV tunes.

Visit his website or like his Facebook page.

Claim to Fame:

Timbaland is an acclaimed music producer who is currently the executive music producer for Fox’s Empire.
  • Influence 145.6
  • Reach 8.83
  • Substance 7
  • Media Mentions 425
  • Twitter followers 1,591,931
Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images
28

Kenya Barris

  • Sector: Entertainment/Media
  • Job: Screenwriter, Producer
  • Age: 41
  • Location: Los Angeles
  • Twitter: @funnyblackdude

Bio:

Hollywood veteran Kenya Barris eschews sacred cows—whether it’s queerness in black families or checking Judd Apatow on Twitter. As the creator and executive producer of the gut-busting, prime-time-TV family show Black-ish, Barris joins an elite, but growing, set of African Americans making power moves on screens big and small (he’s also been tapped to reboot Good Times for Sony and wrote Barbershop 3, coming out in February). Barris says Black-ish is actually modeled after his own family (his wife is a doctor named Rainbow), and that the show’s success lay in its, well, blackness. “We wanted to do a show about a family that was absolutely black,” explains Barris. “The universality to this show is in the specificity.”

Claim to Fame:

Kenya Barris is a screenwriter and the creator and executive producer of ABC's Black-ish.
  • Influence 145.4
  • Reach 5.71
  • Substance 7.8
  • Media Mentions 62
  • Twitter followers 8,181
glenn_martin
29

Glenn Martin 

  • Sector: Community
  • Job: Criminal-Justice Advocate
  • Age: 43
  • Location: New York
  • Twitter: @glennEmartin

Bio:

Glenn Martin has the audacity to want to cut the prison population in half by the year 2030. And with over 2.3 million men, women and children jailed in this country —at least 1 million of them African-American— he is one of the few people of color at the fore of this impactful (and costly) issue. Martin is the founder of JustLeadershipUSA, which puts those who have been through the system at the helm of the solution, through leadership training and local, state and federal campaigns. Martin is a frequent talking head on reform, traveling from #Nerdland to park benches to discuss the restoration of Pell Grants to prisoners, something he says helped him to lead a meaningful life after his own incarceration.

Visit his website and like his Facebook page.

Claim to Fame:

Glenn Martin is the founder and president of JustLeadershipUSA, a national advocacy organization for radical criminal-justice reform.
  • Influence 145
  • Reach 6.65
  • Substance 7.5
  • Media Mentions 627
  • Twitter followers 7,062
Photo by ADRIAN SANCHEZ-GONZALEZ/AFP/Getty Images
30

Kerry Washington

  • Sector: Entertainment/Media
  • Job: Actress, Designer, Activist, Producer
  • Age: 38
  • Location: Los Angeles
  • Twitter: @kerrywashington

Bio:

Smart, sleek and supremely self-possessed, Kerry Washington knows a thing or two about portraying strong women on screen (see Olivia Pope on ABC’s hit drama Scandal.) Next up: Washington will appear in and executive produce the HBO biopic about Anita Hill, whose 1991 claim against Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas set the stage for America to confront sexual harassment in the workplace. Washington, who is completely private, but absolutely loud for social causes, has worn the white hat for arts advocacy and domestic violence, and most recently received GLAAD’s Vanguard Award for being a powerful LGBT ally. “In the real world, the only norm is uniqueness, and our media must reflect that,” she says.

Visit her website and like her Facebook page.

Claim to Fame:

Kerry Washington is the star of ABC’s Scandal and an activist extraordinaire.
  • Influence 138.8
  • Reach 9.56
  • Substance 6.7
  • Media Mentions 1511
  • Twitter followers 2,387,433
Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images
31

Janet Mock

  • Sector: Entertainment/Media
  • Job: Author, Journalist, Talk Show Host
  • Age: 31
  • Location: New York
  • Twitter: @janetmock

Bio:

Janet Mock is so real her name does her a disservice. The author, former editor and in-demand talking head is the current host of MSNBC’s So Popular!, a saucy talk show dipped in millennial moxie. Here, the self-proclaimed “Beyoncé scholar” investigates pop-culture trends with depth and cheek and continues being one of the most prominent voices on trans issues today. Mock is a natural on camera and always stays on point whether taking over #Nerdland for Melissa Harris-Perry during the weekend, flipping the script on “cis” folks who constantly ask about trans people’s genitalia, schooling Oprah on Super Soul Sunday or insisting Piers Morgan get it right (well, she tried). We expect big things.

Visit her website and like her Facebook page.

Claim to Fame:

Janet Mock is a talk show host, author, cultural commentator, feminist and transgender activist.
  • Influence 137.8
  • Reach 7.06
  • Substance 7.2
  • Media Mentions 134
  • Twitter followers 85,980
Photo by ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images
32

Mara Brock Akil

  • Sector: Entertainment/Media
  • Job: Writer, Director, Producer
  • Age: 45
  • Location: Los Angeles
  • Twitter: @AKILPRODUCTIONS

Bio:

Mara Brock Akil has been telling the tales of fully realized black people for at least 15 years. Prior to the BET staple The Game (the highest-rated show ever for the network), she was the brains behind Girlfriends, which arguably opened the doors for the slew of black leads on prime time today. Her latest offering, Being Mary Jane, about a “beautifully imperfect” TV anchor, Mary Jane Paul, not only lights up the Twitterverse each week, but portrays its titular character and her family in all of their messy glory. Next up: Brock Akil and her husband, Salim, have landed a multiyear deal with Warner Bros., which promises to bring more of the beloved, memorable, human characters that we have grown to know and love.

Visit her website and like her Facebook page.

Claim to Fame:

Mara Brock Akil is a television writer, producer and creator of Being Mary Jane and the founder of Akil Productions along with husband, Salim.
  • Influence 137.6
  • Reach 5.99
  • Substance 7.5
  • Media Mentions 26
  • Twitter followers 35,867
johnetta_elzie
33

Johnetta Elzie

  • Sector: Community
  • Job: Activist
  • Age: 26
  • Location: St. Louis
  • Twitter: @Nettaaaaaaaa

Bio:

Johnetta Elzie has emerged as one of the more-prominent voices in the larger #BlackLivesMatter movement. A St. Louis native, Elzie was there from the jump, tweeting about inaccuracies in the media narrative of Michael Brown’s death and organizing on the ground. A year later, she’s moved into building more specific, lasting drives to freedom, including the co-founding of We the Protesters, a newsletter that relays social justice information, and Mapping Police Violence, which morphed into Campaign Zero, a detailed policy plan to arrest police violence at the national, state and local levels. Elzie ontinues to lead, speak, rally, sacrifice, dream and work for a more-just America.

Like her Facebook page.

Claim to Fame:

Johnetta Elzie is an activist and co-founder of This Is the Movement and Campaign Zero.
  • Influence 136.8
  • Reach 6.59
  • Substance 7.3
  • Media Mentions 53
  • Twitter followers 72,389
melissa_harrisperry
34

Melissa Harris-Perry

  • Sector: Entertainment/Media
  • Job: TV host, Professor, Executive Director of WFU’s Pro Humanitate Institute
  • Age: 41
  • Location: Winston-Salem, N.C., and New York
  • Twitter: @MHarrisPerry

Bio:

For the last three years, Melissa Harris-Perry has been as integral to black weekends as church, Saturday cleaning or boozy brunch. Alas, there was a bit of a rumble in #Nerdland this year, but what better place to hash out our most fraught, absolutist issues than on MHP? The MSNBC standard continues to be a bastion of news, views and signifying (what writer Ta-Nehisi Coates deemed the highest “thoughtfulness-per-hour-ratio” on cable), and host Melissa Harris-Perry rarely disappoints. The accessible academic remains about the movement. She recently returned to her Wake Forest alma mater to head the Pro Humanitate Institute, taking the theory of social justice from the tower to the streets.

Visit her website and like her Facebook page.

Claim to Fame:

Melissa Harris-Perry is a Wake Forest University professor and host of her own show on MSNBC.
  • Influence 135.8
  • Reach 7.68
  • Substance 7
  • Media Mentions 120
  • Twitter followers 397,147
Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images
35

Uzo Aduba

  • Sector: Entertainment/Media
  • Job: Actress
  • Age: 34
  • Location: Brooklyn, N.Y.
  • Twitter: @UzoAduba

Bio:

Both critics and fans are cuckoo for Uzo Aduba, best known as Suzanne “Crazy Eyes” Warren on Netflix’s loopy guide to lockup, Orange Is the New Black. For her breakout role, Aduba won a 2014 Primetime Emmy and a 2015 Screen Actors Guild Award for best actress. The classically trained vocalist brings an unrestricted complexity to a role that could have been written off as simple comic relief. Crazy Eyes’ words are sometimes profound, always laugh-out-loud funny; they are often a nod to the very real issue of mental illness both in our jails and community. With upcoming roles in Showing Roots, Pearly Gates and possibly the NBC reboot of The Wiz, we are sure to remain captives of Aduba’s boundless talent.

Like her Facebook page.

Claim to Fame:

Uzo Aduba is an Emmy-winning, Golden Globe-nominated actress who co-stars on the Netflix series Orange Is the New Black.
  • Influence 135.6
  • Reach 8.11
  • Substance 6.9
  • Media Mentions 425
  • Twitter followers 305,609
Bakari Sellers
36

Bakari Sellers

  • Sector: Government/Politics
  • Job: CNN Political Commentator
  • Location: Denmark, S.C.
  • Twitter: @Bakari_Sellers

Bio:

At the ripe old age of 30, Bakari Sellers has served most of his adult life in politics. Sellers made history at age 22 as the youngest African American elected to office and served in South Carolina’s House of Representatives until last year, when he made an unsuccessful bid for the state’s lieutenant governor’s office. Since then, the former pol and attorney has been a frequent small screen presence, critiquing hot topical issues including the Walter Scott police slaying; the Charleston, S.C., church massacre, and the Confederate flag flying over the South Carolina Statehouse where he served 2006-2014. This summer, Sellers landed an official gig with CNN as a commentator on race, politics and legal matters, driven in large part by his tireless outspokenness on injustice.

Claim to Fame:

Bakari Sellers is a former Democratic South Carolina state representative who is now a CNN contributor.
  • Influence 135
  • Reach 5.76
  • Substance 7.5
  • Media Mentions 23
  • Twitter followers 24,211
joy_reid
37

Joy-Ann Reid

  • Sector: Entertainment/Media
  • Job: Journalist
  • Age: 45
  • Location: New York
  • Twitter: @JoyAnnReid

Bio:

Last year, we were treated to daily dispatches of Joy-Ann Reid’s brilliance on MSNBC’s The Reid Report. These days, as she has transitioned into more of a roving beat, it’s more of the same, whether it’s on the ground in Baltimore during the unrest there; live from a #YesWeCode hackathon in Detroit; or opining on Donald Trump and the Republican Party with the Rev. Al Sharpton on Politics Nation. In September, the media wunderkind released Fracture: Barack Obama, the Clintons and the Racial Divide, which traces the Democratic Party’s racial makeup from the civil rights era to the Obama presidency—an especially relevant topic as a divided nation heads into the next presidential election.

Visit her website and like her Facebook page.

Claim to Fame:

Joy-Ann Reid is a national correspondent for MSNBC and the author of Fracture: Barack Obama, the Clintons and the Racial Divide.
  • Influence 133.6
  • Reach 6.28
  • Substance 7.3
  • Media Mentions 11
  • Twitter followers 160,436
Photo by ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images
38

Michael B. Jordan

  • Sector: Entertainment/Media
  • Job: Actor
  • Age: 28
  • Location: Los Angeles
  • Twitter: @michaelb4jordan

Bio:

In his short career, actor Michael B. Jordan has moved us (Fruitvale Station), shaken us (The Wire) and even twice flown (see Red Tails and Fantastic Four). Whatever role this spirited, diverse actor embodies, he brings a clarity and depth to it. This summer, he also brought the fire to racist Internet trolls who took issue with his part as the Human Torch in Fantastic Four, saying he is OK with “shoulder[ing] all this hate … for the next couple of generations.” Alas, those who are mad will have to continue to smolder: he’s again teamed up with Fruitvale director Ryan Coogler for Creed, out this November, and was also cast in the real-life story of Bryan Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative.

Like his Facebook page.

Claim to Fame:

  • Influence 130.5
  • Reach 7.97
  • Substance 6.8
  • Media Mentions 390
  • Twitter followers 237,119
charlene_carruthers
39

Charlene Carruthers

  • Sector: Community
  • Job: Community Organizer, Activist
  • Age: 30
  • Location: Chicago
  • Twitter: @CharleneCac

Bio:

Charlene Carruthers has a quiet but powerful spirit that gets the job done; a new-jack Ella Baker on the scene. As national director of the Black Youth Project 100, Carruthers has consciously led an organization made up of African-American students, professionals and workers, queer and cis, ages 18-35, whose call to action includes the end of black criminalization, restorative-justice practices, quality public schools and living wages. The Chicago-based organization (with six chapters around the country) utilizes social media to organize and was especially dynamic around the #SayHerName action this spring. Shaped in conjunction with Kimberlé Crenshaw’s African American Policy Forum, the campaign rallied thousands in 20 cities in the name of black women and girls killed by police.

Visit her website and like her Facebook page.

Claim to Fame:

Charlene Carruthers is the national director of The Black Youth Project 100.
  • Influence 128.9
  • Reach 5.25
  • Substance 7.4
  • Media Mentions 14
  • Twitter followers 11,983
charleswade
40

Charles Wade

  • Sector: Community
  • Job: Community Organizer
  • Age: 33
  • Location: Bowie, Md.
  • Twitter: @akacharleswade

Bio:

Celebrity stylist Charles Wade doesn’t talk about it, he “bes” about it. After the Michael Brown travesty last summer, he co-founded Operation Help or Hush, an organization about pragmatic action above all else, that is—“Help, or hush.” At its core, OHOH is about supporting activists, and it ingeniously fed 3,000 protesters with food trucks in New York City last year, and created online gift registries for supplies from diapers to cutlery during the first months of unrest in Ferguson, Mo. Since then, the outfit has executed Ferguson Alternative Spring Break, a community-service project for hundreds of college students; created a transitional housing program for protesters; and implemented #FreedomSummer2015, a free community-lunch program for low-income children in Ferguson, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York City, Atlanta, Los Angeles and Oakland, Calif.

Claim to Fame:

Charles Wade is a co-founder of Operation Help or Hush.
  • Influence 126.8
  • Reach 6.69
  • Substance 7
  • Media Mentions 236
  • Twitter followers 20,887
paul_judge
41

Paul Judge

  • Sector: STEM
  • Job: Entrepreneur, Scholar
  • Age: 38
  • Location: Atlanta
  • Twitter: @pauljudge

Bio:

With hackers running amok and data breaches ratcheting up to an all-time high, security expert Paul Judge is quite literally the man with a plan. Judge has innovated in the secure-content field since he was in his 20s and holds about 30 patents for computer-security technologies. The Morehouse man spent the last five years as chief research officer of a cybersecurity firm and is now chairman of Pindrop Security, an Atlanta-based startup pioneering in the anti-fraud voice market. This “serial entrepreneur” is also: chairman of Monsieur, a robotics bartending firm; co-founder of Tech Square Labs; and partner at a new streetwear e-commerce site. Judge also finds time for Judge Ventures, which has offered seed investment to fledgling firms for the last eight years.

Visit his website.

Claim to Fame:

Paul Judge is chairman of Pindrop Security and co-founder of Monsieur.
  • Influence 126.1
  • Reach 6.25
  • Substance 7.1
  • Media Mentions 168
  • Twitter followers 10,588
Photo by Ben A. Pruchnie/Getty Images
42

Gregory Porter

  • Sector: Entertainment/Media
  • Job: Singer
  • Age: 43
  • Location: New York
  • Twitter: @GregoryPorter

Bio:

Gregory Porter didn’t release his first album until he was 39, but the wildly talented singer has made up for lost time. Each of his subsequent projects has been Grammy-nominated, and his latest, Liquid Spirit, won the 2014 honor for best jazz vocal album (and became the most-streamed jazz album of all time). Porter—never caught without his trademark black chapeau—infuses his award-winning sound with a gumbo ya ya of jazz, blues, gospel, funk and old-timey soul—bucking tradition … and categorization. In fact, the global sensation’s remix of “Liquid Spirit” —a bona fide hit in the clubs of Ibiza—has been streamed more than 4 million times, proving the words: “Jazz is a living music.”

Visit his website and like his Facebook page.

Claim to Fame:

Gregory Porter is a Grammy-winning jazz vocalist.
  • Influence 124.4
  • Reach 7.24
  • Substance 6.8
  • Media Mentions 450
  • Twitter followers 38,439
Photo by ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images
43

Laverne Cox

  • Sector: Entertainment/Media
  • Job: Actress, LGBTQ Activist
  • Age: 31
  • Location: New York
  • Twitter: @Lavernecox

Bio:

After being the first transgender woman to appear on reality TV, actress Laverne Cox became the first transgender person to be on the cover of Time, the first to receive a Madame Tussauds wax statue and the first to receive an Emmy for the MTV-Logo vehicle Laverne Cox Presents: The T Word, about trans youth ages 12-24. Yet for all that, this Queen of Intersectionality is not just about being first, but using her platform to enlighten and advocate for trans men, women and children. Her next project is Free CeCe, the true-life story of a black trans woman who served time in a men’s prison for defending herself—a double travesty if there ever was one. “Black bodies, whether they’re trans are not, are assumed to be criminal,” says Cox.

Visit her website and like her Facebook page.

Claim to Fame:

Laverne Cox is a transgender activist and an actress in the Netflix series Orange Is the New Black.
  • Influence 124.1
  • Reach 8.62
  • Substance 6.5
  • Media Mentions 873
  • Twitter followers 479,863
brittany_packnett_
44

Brittany Packnett

  • Sector: Community
  • Job: Executive Director of Teach for America, St. Louis, Activist
  • Age: 30
  • Location: St. Louis
  • Twitter: @MsPackyetti

Bio:

She is the link. Or the bridge over turbulent, troubled waters. St. Louis native and self-proclaimed “North Country” girl Brittany Packnett hit the ground running when protests over Michael Brown’s killing commenced. The former third-grade teacher and current executive director of Teach for America, St. Louis, marched and organized more than 50 TFA alumni to continue school during the unrest there.  Packnett represented educators and the community on the Missouri governor’s Ferguson Commission; and, in December, she was invited to serve on President Barack Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing (pdf). In August, she expanded on those recommendations with detailed policy solutions through her #CampaignZero platform.

Claim to Fame:

Brittany Packnett is the executive director of Teach for America, St. Louis, and an activist who serves on President Barack Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing.
  • Influence 119.9
  • Reach 5.98
  • Substance 7
  • Media Mentions 64
  • Twitter followers 14,779
Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for BMI
45

James 'Jim Beanz' Washington

  • Sector: Entertainment/Media
  • Job: Songwriter, Producer
  • Age: 35
  • Location: Philadelphia
  • Twitter: @BEANZbeanzBEANZ

Bio:

Drip. Drop. Drip, Drippity Drop.” Love it or hate it, those words will wash your mind of distraction. “Drip Drop” is but one of the brainchildren of James “Jim Beanz” Washington, the music director of the Fox outsize marvel, Empire. Washington is part of mega-producer Timbaland’s “Team Timbo,” tasked with writing and producing songs for the musical each week. Beanz says he has created about 90 percent of the show’s chart-topping original songs, including “You’re So Beautiful” and “Conqueror”—usually in a brutal turnaround time of one or two days. Fun fact: Washington plays rapper Titan on Empire and says he may one day release an album as the character.

Visit his website and like his Facebook page.

Claim to Fame:

: James “Jim Beanz” Washington is a music producer and songwriter who has penned most of the songs on Fox's Empire.
  • Influence 119.8
  • Reach 5.34
  • Substance 7.2
  • Media Mentions 14
  • Twitter followers 14,484
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46

Rashad Robinson

  • Sector: Community
  • Job: Executive Director, ColorOfChange.org
  • Age: 36
  • Location: New York
  • Twitter: @rashadrobinson

Bio:

In an era of passionate, decentralized activism, Rashad Robinson waves his justice magic wand from an established, 10-year-old civil rights organization that boasts over 1 million members. ColorofChange.org is seemingly everywhere—from delivering a petition of over 950,000 to the White House after Michael Brown’s death; to agitating Netflix to drop advertising on Reddit for its racist subthreads; to producing the hilarious video series #IfTheySpeakForMe—as the outfit leverages social media, technology and inventive campaigns to influence culture, politics and policy. In fact, Fast Company ranked ColorofChange.org sixth on its annual list of “The World’s 50 Most Innovative Companies,” putting it in league with behemoths like Instagram, Apple and Alibaba, a major acknowledgment to its genius.

Visit his website and like his Facebook page.

Claim to Fame:

Rashad Robinson is executive director of ColorofChange.org, an organization dedicated to “strengthening the political voice of black America.”
  • Influence 119.3
  • Reach 5.93
  • Substance 7
  • Media Mentions 94
  • Twitter followers 8,989
rembertbrowne
47

Rembert Browne

  • Sector: Entertainment/Media
  • Job: Writer
  • Age: 28
  • Location: New York
  • Twitter: @rembert

Bio:

Grantland’s Rembert Browne is a pop-culture pinball, whiz-banging out the latest music coverage in the millennial way: words, screenshots, videos. Like most other Grantlanders, Browne traffics outside his lane, and whether debating the value of Black History Month for Gawker (“It’s not an issue of being louder in February, it’s more everyone else being infinitesimally less reckless.”) or crafting a sweet, curious piece on Minions, his informed, witty musings delight every time. Browne’s laid-back podcast series, Rembert Explains, is a nice frame for his divergent tastes, but it is his more personal work—like when he interviewed President Barack Obama on Air Force One or traveled to Ferguson, Mo., after Michael Brown died—that grabs the heart and beats on.

Like his Facebook page.

Claim to Fame:

Rembert Browne is a staff writer for Grantland.
  • Influence 118.4
  • Reach 7.85
  • Substance 6.5
  • Media Mentions 831
  • Twitter followers 85,935
michaelseibel
48

Michael Seibel

  • Sector: STEM
  • Job: Partner at Y Combinator
  • Age: 32
  • Location: San Francisco
  • Twitter: @mwseibel

Bio:

In a tech landscape where African Americans found less than 1 percent of venture-capital-backed Internet companies, change can’t come fast enough. Last November, Y Combinator, one of Silicon Valley’s most-connected incubators (first home to behemoths like Airbnb and Dropbox,) brought on Michael Seibel as a full-time partner, the first African American to hold that position in the company. Seibel will help to drive diverse recruitment and brings a wealth of experience to the gig. His last company, Socialcam, actually participated in YC, got more than 30 angel investors and was sold for $60 million. His first company, Justin.tv (now Twitch Interactive), eventually was sold for $970 million. In more good news, Y Combinator’s startup class last winter was made up of 7 percent black and Hispanic entrepreneurs, the most ever.

Visit his website and like his Facebook page.

Claim to Fame:

Michael Seibel is the first black partner at Y Combinator, which acts as an incubator for Silicon Valley startups by providing seed money, expertise and connections.
  • Influence 118.4
  • Reach 4.94
  • Substance 7.3
  • Media Mentions 14
  • Twitter followers 5,768
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49

Ashley Yates

  • Sector: Community
  • Job: Writer, Activist
  • Age: 30
  • Location: Oakland, Calif.
  • Twitter: @brownblaze

Bio:

Ashley Yates comes straight at you in a brown blaze of righteous glory. The St. Louis native and co-founder of Millennial Activists United sprung into action after Michael Brown fell that fateful August day. Yates, now an Oakland, Calif.-based organizer for #BlackLivesMatter, met with President Barack Obama in December. She also had some choice words for presidential candidate Bernie Sanders this summer. “Stop trying to generalize this s–t!” yelled Yates, who was having no parts of Sanders’ default income-inequality response to black death. And though she says there is a heavy price to pay for resistance, she can’t stop, won’t stop. “You are not going to suppress this community from the justice that we deserve and we desire,” she says.

Like her Facebook page.

Claim to Fame:

Ashley Yates is an organizer, writer and community advocate. She is a co-founder of Millennial Activists United.
  • Influence 117.5
  • Reach 5.75
  • Substance 7
  • Media Mentions 22
  • Twitter followers 24,398
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50

Bomani Jones

  • Sector: Entertainment/Media
  • Job: Sports Commentator
  • Age: 35
  • Location: Miami Beach, Fla.
  • Twitter: @bomani_jones

Bio:

Bomani Jones stay grinding. These days, he hosts The Right Time With Bomani Jones on ESPN radio and occasionally gets it in as a panelist on the network’s Around the Horn show. Every afternoon, El Flaco also co-hosts ESPN’s Highly Questionable, a mashup of opinion, debate and pop-cultural inquiry with guests like Waka Flocka Flame and Ronda Rousey. HQ is the perfect vehicle for Jones, whose winding career path provides the highly opinionated, highly social pundit a wide lens through which to explore Donald Sterling’s slumlording or Russell Wilson’s celibacy. Jones maintains that his sustained success is not just about his opinions. “A lot of it is just about being able to recontextualize things and give folks a different way to look at it,” he says.

Visit his website and like his Facebook page.

Claim to Fame:

Bomani Jones is an ESPN commentator.
  • Influence 116.4
  • Reach 7.14
  • Substance 6.6
  • Media Mentions 51
  • Twitter followers 267,290
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51

Stacey Abrams

  • Sector: Government/Politics
  • Job: Georgia State Legislator
  • Age: 41
  • Location: Atlanta
  • Twitter: @staceyabrams

Bio:

Stacey Abrams is remarkable in that she is both the first African American to lead the Georgia Statehouse as well as the author of eight novels. What is more extraordinary is that Abrams’ New Georgia Project delivered more than 120,000 new, mostly blue-leaning voter registrations in a state that is decidedly red. Predictably, there was some pushback, but Abrams was vocal and shrewd in fighting back against what some see as yet another form of voter suppression. In the last year, the Yale Law School grad is credited with considerable fundraising for her party, protecting Democratic incumbents and preventing a GOP supermajority. The whispers of a gubernatorial run are steadily growing and if she were to run and win, the Peach State would have a tested—and effective—leader.

Visit her website and like her Facebook page.

Claim to Fame:

Stacey Abrams is the Georgia House minority leader.
  • Influence 115.2
  • Reach 5.53
  • Substance 7
  • Media Mentions 70
  • Twitter followers 4,762
Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for REVOLT TV
52

Lenard 'Charlamagne tha God' McKelvey

  • Sector: Entertainment/Media
  • Job: Radio Host, TV Personality
  • Age: 35
  • Location: New York
  • Twitter: @cthagod

Bio:

As host of the nationally syndicated radio show The Breakfast Club, Lenard “Charlamagne tha God” McKelvey elevates morning radio’s discourse by infusing headline news with his unique, unvarnished commentary and dropped jewels of wisdom. With classic segments like “Donkey of the Day,” McKelvey skewers sacred cows near and far—from Yeezus and Miss Piggy to Donald Trump and Rich Homie Quan. This summer, “CthaGod” debuted his weekly MTV show, Uncommon Sense, gleefully spreading more of his self-proclaimed “intellectual ignorance” to the masses. He may have started from the bottom as an unpaid sidekick, but now he’s here. Ask former nemesis Drake, who name-checked him on the summer’s hottest song and sent him some bubbly to boot.

Visit his website and like his Facebook page.

Claim to Fame:

Charlamagne tha God is co-host of the nationally syndicated radio show The Breakfast Club and host of the MTV comedy talk show Uncommon Sense.
  • Influence 115.1
  • Reach 7.42
  • Substance 6.5
  • Media Mentions 21
  • Twitter followers 1,194,656
Photo by Jonathan Leibson/Getty Images for Samsung
53

Talib Kweli Greene

  • Sector: Entertainment/Media
  • Job: Musician, Activist
  • Age: 39
  • Location: Brooklyn, N.Y.
  • Twitter: @TalibKweli

Bio:

Since the start of his career 20 years ago, Talib Kweli Greene has remained both a true lyricist and a social activist. Greene not only continually stands with the people in the streets of Ferguson, Mo., (and infamously tangled with Don Lemon in them), but helped to launch the Ferguson Defense Fund, which raised more than $112,000 for community programs and bail money for protesters there. A prolific tweeter, the rapper consistently engages his more than 1 million followers on everything from the Sigma Alpha Epsilon debacle at Oklahoma State to the mistreatment of political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal. For this, Greene endures as one of our shiniest black stars in a year of inky darkness.

Visit his website and like his Facebook page.

Claim to Fame:

Talib Kweli Greene is a hip-hop artist and activist.
  • Influence 114.5
  • Reach 8.33
  • Substance 6.3
  • Media Mentions 206
  • Twitter followers 1,028,984
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54

Garrett Johnson

  • Sector: Business
  • Job: Entrepreneur
  • Age: 31
  • Location: Menlo Park, Calif.
  • Twitter: @GarrettJohnson

Bio:

It’s no surprise Garrett Johnson is working in a space that marries technology and politics. He once served as an aide to Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and later spent two years on Capitol Hill as a staffer on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. In 2011, the Rhodes scholar co-founded SendHub, a venture-backed Y Combinator startup that replaces business landlines with cloud-based systems. Two years later, Johnson co-launched Lincoln Labs, a Libertarian-leaning hub connecting the conservative and tech (pdf) communities. In the last year, the outfit has hosted its annual #Reboot Conference in Silicon Valley and kicked off its inaugural #Reboot Congress: Get S-#t Done event in Washington, D.C., where legislators like Rand Paul and Ted Cruz weighed in on Net neutrality.

Visit his website.

Claim to Fame:

Garrett Johnson is the co-founder of SendHub and Lincoln Labs.
  • Influence 113.3
  • Reach 4.78
  • Substance 7.2
  • Media Mentions 118
  • Twitter followers 502
ivy_taylor
55

Ivy Taylor

  • Sector: Government/Politics
  • Job: Mayor, Professor of urban planning
  • Age: 45
  • Location: San Antonio
  • Twitter: @IvyRTaylor

Bio:

In June 2015, Ivy Taylor became the first African American to be elected mayor of the city of San Antonio, and the second black woman to ever be elected mayor in the entire state of Texas. By assembling an unlikely coalition of African Americans and conservative whites in the majority Hispanic city, Taylor won a bitter runoff with 51 percent of the vote. Today, she is handling her mayoral business with aplomb, from shrewdly negotiating with police unions to weighing in on the wholesale removal of the Confederate flag in the city, for which she offers this: “Selectively erasing pieces of our past may make it more comfortable for us [now], but it also makes it easier for many to ignore the historic struggles of blacks in this country today.”

Visit her website and like her Facebook page.

Claim to Fame:

Ivy Taylor is the current mayor of San Antonio, the first African-American to be elected mayor of this majority Hispanic city.
  • Influence 112.9
  • Reach 5.31
  • Substance 7
  • Media Mentions 52
  • Twitter followers 3,837
andrew_gillum
56

Andrew Gillum

  • Sector: Government/Politics
  • Job: Mayor
  • Age: 36
  • Location: Tallahassee, Fla.
  • Twitter: @a_gillum

Bio:

Andrew Gillum has been in politics ever since he was elected to Tallahassee’s City Commission as a 23-year-old student at Florida A&M University. Maybe because he started so young, Gillum has remained a true advocate of youth empowerment. As a city commissioner, he established the city’s first Tallahassee Teen Center, which manages a restorative-justice program, and, as mayor, he launched the Tallahassee Future Leaders Academy, which provides 16- to 20-year-olds summer jobs in government. He’s also not afraid to take a stand for his community. In August, Gillum bowed out of an annual conference because the Confederate flag continued to be flown outside the host county’s courthouse. “I learned from my ancestors at a very early age that if you don’t stand for something, you fall for anything,” he said.

Visit his website and like his Facebook page.

Claim to Fame:

Andrew Gillum is the mayor of Tallahassee, Fla.
  • Influence 112.7
  • Reach 5.29
  • Substance 7
  • Media Mentions 64
  • Twitter followers 2,999
Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images
57

Will Packer

  • Sector: Entertainment/Media
  • Job: Producer, Chairman, Co-Founder of Will Packer Productions
  • Age: 41
  • Location: Atlanta
  • Twitter: @willpowerpacker

Bio:

Producer Will Packer has been hustling since he was a student at Florida A&M University, successfully selling his flicks to movie houses in the ’90s. Since then, he has had seven No. 1 films and grossed more than $800 million at the box office. This year, Packer not only produced The Wedding Ringer and the N.W.A biopic, Straight Outta Compton, he’s also cleared two shows on network TV this fall: NBC’s Truth Be Told, a provocative, multiracial sitcom, and ABC’s Uncle Buck, starring Mike Epps and Nia Long. Packer is also a producer on the TV reboot of Roots, due out next year. But fear not, movie buffs, his biggest-budget film yet, Ride Along 2, with Kevin Hart and Ice Cube drops at the top of 2016.

Visit his website and like his Facebook page.

Claim to Fame:

Will Packer is a producer, chairman and co-founder of Will Packer Productions
  • Influence 111.9
  • Reach 7.01
  • Substance 6.5
  • Media Mentions 92
  • Twitter followers 110,806
tef_poe
58

Kareem 'Tef Poe' Jackson

  • Sector: Community
  • Job: Rapper, Activist
  • Age: 28
  • Location: St. Louis
  • Twitter: @TefPoe

Bio:

Kareem Jackson, aka Tef Poe, has never shied away from raising his passionate voice against injustice. Of course, there’s his award-winning music, but shortly after Michael Brown was killed, the St. Louis artist also penned two searingly poignant essays on the militarization of a community and the disillusionment of a people (the first for Time, the second, an open letter to President Barack Obama). As one of the founders of Hands Up United, Poe has been on the forefront of physical protest and online mobilization, but also of service, through initiatives like Books and Breakfast. His words remain simple, true: “They cannot kill us all. They cannot throw us all in jail. We want justice for Michael Brown and every victim of police brutality.”

Visit his website and like his Facebook page.

Claim to Fame:

Tef Poe is a rapper and co-founder of Hands Up United.
  • Influence 108.3
  • Reach 6.57
  • Substance 6.5
  • Media Mentions 82
  • Twitter followers 44,899
wesleymorris
59

Wesley Morris

  • Sector: Entertainment/Media
  • Job: Journalist
  • Age: 39
  • Location: Brooklyn, N.Y.
  • Twitter: @Wesley_Morris

Bio:

Reading Grantland film critic Wesley Morris is like riding a roller coaster to everywhere. And if you care anything about film or pop culture or black people (yes, you, George Bush), it is compulsory. Typical Morris: Start with a throwaway summer movie, travel to Ferguson, Mo., move to a tricked-out character sketch of Radio Raheem, graze the Miami Heat in hoodies, pass Glenn Ligon, Cops, President Barack Obama on Iraq, then arrive squarely back to the regularity of black death at the hands of police. Morris’ paragraphs are like delicious little chapters that, coupled with his conversational hilarity, are undoubtedly why he won the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for criticism. Morris is also unafraid to take a stand, and his takedown of Seth MacFarlane’s Ted 2 for its preening racism is leeeeegendary. Read him.

Like his Facebook page.

Claim to Fame:

Wesley Morris is a Pulitzer Prize-winning movie critic and staff writer for Grantland.
  • Influence 108.1
  • Reach 7.41
  • Substance 6.3
  • Media Mentions 949
  • Twitter followers 27,225
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60

Roxane Gay

  • Sector: Entertainment/Media
  • Job: Author, Writer, Educator
  • Age: 40
  • Location: West Lafayette, Ind.
  • Twitter: @rgay

Bio:

Writer Roxane Gay nearly blew up the Internet when she closed her July New York Times op-ed with these words: “… increasingly, as a black woman in America, I do not feel alive. I feel like I am not yet dead.” Gay was turning over the heartbreaking death of Sandra Bland and her heavy, poetic lament expressed a “specific exhaustion” felt by thousands, if not millions. Gay also writes lines like, “My vagina fluttered away from my body … and into Magic Mike’s hands”—and that’s a beautiful thing. As a professor, columnist, TED Talker, author, former editor of The Butter, and a 2014 CNN Leading Women pick, Gay is many things—most of all boundlessly talented. Most definitely a “bad feminist.” As in, she baaaad.

Visit her website and follow her Tumblr page.

Claim to Fame:

Roxane Gay is a writer, feminist and associate professor of English at Purdue University.
  • Influence 104.4
  • Reach 6.11
  • Substance 6.5
  • Media Mentions 14
  • Twitter followers 85,498
nikole_hannahjones
61

Nikole Hannah-Jones

  • Sector: Entertainment/Media
  • Job: Journalist
  • Age: 39
  • Location: Brooklyn, N.Y.
  • Twitter: @nhannahjones

Bio:

Nikole Hannah-Jones is on a stated mission: “Using my pen (and keyboard) to tilt the scales towards justice.” And this resolute investigative reporter has done just that. After the unrest in Ferguson, Mo., last year, she took her highly developed skills of reporting on education (her yearlong, award-winning “Segregation Now: Investigating America’s Racial Divide” for The Atlantic is a must-read) to that community, examining the abysmal school system from which Michael Brown graduated. There is a piece on Brown’s Normandy High School for ProPublica, and “The Problem We All Live With,” in partnership with public radio. In 2015, Hannah-Jones was named Journalist of the Year by the National Association of Black Journalists, and she continues to cover racial injustice as a staff writer at the New York Times Magazine.

Visit her website.

Claim to Fame:

Nikole Hannah-Jones is a staff writer at the New York Times Magazine.
  • Influence 103.4
  • Reach 5.31
  • Substance 6.7
  • Media Mentions 23
  • Twitter followers 8,496
Photo by Jeff Schear/Getty Images for Soho House Chicago
62

Jon Batiste

  • Sector: Entertainment/Media
  • Job: Musician
  • Age: 28
  • Twitter: @JonBatiste

Bio:

Louisiana has unceasingly gifted us a gumbo ya ya of ebullient, rich and textured music—from Louis Armstrong and Aaron Neville to P.J. Morton and Lil Wayne. Jon Batiste seeks to step into that aural pantheon as the new bandleader of The Late Show With Stephen Colbert. At only 28 years old, the Juilliard-trained multi-instrumentalist (including the harmonaboard) already has a decade in as a professional musician and collaborated with Prince, Lenny Kravitz and Wynton Marsalis. He and his spirited Stay Human band (described by Rolling Stone as a “mix of Afro-Cuban jazz, ’70s funk and revamped standards” promise us a “love riot” each and every night. Let the good times roll!

Visit his website and like his Facebook page.

Claim to Fame:

Jon Batiste is the new bandleader of The Late Show With Stephen Colbert.
  • Influence 101.3
  • Reach 5.75
  • Substance 6.5
  • Media Mentions 59
  • Twitter followers 9,464
kehinde_wiley
63

Kehinde Wiley

Bio:

If you are not acquainted with Kehinde Wiley’s luscious, baroque portraiture, you might want to catch an episode of Empire. There, Wiley’s work looms large from the walls of Lucious Lyon’s home and Lyon’s son Hakeem’s room, as well. This spring, the South Los Angeles-raised painter had his first retrospective at the Brooklyn Museum, “Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic,” a sure feat in a 15-year career. The survey featured his iconic, photo-based paintings, where “regular folk” are dropped into old master works, gazing coolly from vibrant backgrounds. At the top of the year, Wiley—known for a mean annual fish fry at Art Basel—received the U.S. State Department Medal of Arts from Secretary of State John Kerry.

Visit his website and like his Facebook page.

Claim to Fame:

Kehinde Wiley is an award-winning contemporary portrait artist whose work is featured prominently in Fox’s Empire.
  • Influence 100.4
  • Reach 5.65
  • Substance 6.5
  • Media Mentions 76
  • Twitter followers 5,830
Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images
64

Tessa Thompson 

  • Sector: Entertainment/Media
  • Job: Actress
  • Age: 31
  • Location: Los Angeles
  • Twitter: @TThompsonYES

Bio:

Tessa Thompson dazzled moviegoers in last year’s breakout hit Dear White People, playing a smart, conflicted, rabble-rouser who airs a radio show for which the movie is named. After winning a Breakthrough Actor Gotham award for that role, she followed up with a small, but significant, part in Selma as yet another strong, black woman, the real-life trailblazer Diane Nash. Thompson has said that she learned leadership and courage from those two roles and even helped to organize her own action at Selma’s New York City premiere. Back onscreen, the young actress has another strong, female lead in the Thanksgiving release Creed. More real? Thompson is a singer in that film, mirroring her own life as the front for the electro-soul band Caught a Ghost.

Like her Facebook page.

Claim to Fame:

Tessa Thompson is an up-and-coming actress who was in Selma and Dear White People and also co-stars in the upcoming flick Creed.
  • Influence 99.5
  • Reach 6.28
  • Substance 6.3
  • Media Mentions 184
  • Twitter followers 10,304
Wesley Lowery
65

Wesley Lowery 

  • Sector: Entertainment/Media
  • Job: Journalist
  • Age: 25
  • Location: Washington, D.C.
  • Twitter: @WesleyLowery

Bio:

Shortly after graduating college, Wesley Lowery was part of a Pulitzer Prize-winning team that reported on the Boston Marathon bombing. He promptly moved on to the Capitol Hill beat at the Washington Post and has since been upgraded to coverage of law enforcement and justice, churning out comprehensive, necessary reportage on police killings in America. Last summer, Lowery and another reporter lived to tell about an arrest at a Ferguson, Mo., McDonald’s, where the two had been dispatched to cover the city’s trauma and unrest. For that, the social media ninja (he has more than 135,000 Twitter followers) won a 2015 Shorty Award; his pending charges remain a rallying point for newsrooms far and wide.

Visit his website and like his Facebook page.

Claim to Fame:

Wesley Lowery is a national reporter covering law enforcement and justice for the Washington Post.
  • Influence 98.6
  • Reach 7.5
  • Substance 6
  • Media Mentions 223
  • Twitter followers 140,539
meredithclark
66

Meredith Clark

  • Sector: Entertainment/Media
  • Job: Educator, Journalist
  • Age: 35
  • Location: Denton, Texas
  • Twitter: @meredithclark

Bio:

In August 2014, Meredith Clark—an assistant professor at the Mayborn School of Journalism at the University of North Texas—defended her dissertation on black Twitter, likely the first academic analysis of this sprawling social media phenomenon. She won the Association for Educators in Journalism and Mass Communication Mass Communication and Society Division’s Top Dissertation Award for “To Tweet Our Own Cause: A Mixed-Methods Study of the Online Phenomenon ‘Black Twitter.’’ Clark says she was first drawn to her research subject after a 2010 fail of an article, “How Black People Use Twitter,” which many found to be reductive and lazy. In her thesis, the ethnographer and journalist names six ways of “being ‘Black Twitter’”: identifying, self-selection, performance, affirmation, reaffirmation, and, most sweetly, vindication—see #IfTheyGunnedMeDown and how it underscored implicit, degrading media bias, which the New York Times had to address. Clark continues to study and analyze race in legacy, digital and social media, and is currently delving into the marvel of #BlackLivesMatter.

Claim to Fame:

Meredith Clark composed an award-winning Ph.D. dissertation on the power of black Twitter.
  • Influence 98.2
  • Reach 5.4
  • Substance 6.5
  • Media Mentions 57
  • Twitter followers 4,368
Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images
67

Russell Wilson 

  • Sector: Sports
  • Job: Professional Football Player
  • Age: 26
  • Location: Seattle
  • Twitter: @DangeRussWilson

Bio:

When Russell Wilson came into the league in 2012, there wasn’t much hype around the squat, third-round draft pick. But after leading his brazen Seahawks squad to a crushing Super Bowl victory in 2014, and coming thisclose to a win in 2015, all eyes remain on the shot caller and stat baller (his unique romance with Ciara and place on Vanity Fair’s “Best-Dressed List” notwithstanding). This summer, Wilson signed a four-year $87.6 million contract extension with Seattle, ending when he will be only 30. These days, the devout Christian says he’s focused on winning Super Bowl 50, and running his Passing Academy in six U.S. cities.

Visit his website and like his Facebook page.

Claim to Fame:

Russell Wilson is the quarterback of the NFL's Seattle Seahawks.
  • Influence 97.9
  • Reach 9.75
  • Substance 5.6
  • Media Mentions 4168
  • Twitter followers 1,334,120
yolandapierce
68

Yolanda Pierce

  • Sector: Community
  • Job: Professor, Theologian
  • Age: 41
  • Location: Princeton, N.J.
  • Twitter: @YNPierce

Bio:

The Rev. Yolanda Pierce, the first African-American woman to be a tenured professor in the 200-year history of the Princeton Theological Seminary, is humbly, joyfully, shaping religious thought in America through academia. Yet, the proud progressive also regularly weighs in on pop-culture phenomena like Black Jesus or the concept of God as Mother. Pierce is also a recurring MSNBC contributor who is unafraid of fraught topics such as American religion’s proslavery ideology or how African Americans were expected to respond after the Charleston, S.C., church massacre: “Let us not rush to the language of healing until we understand the fullness of injury,” the good reverend said.

Visit her website.

Claim to Fame:

Yolanda Pierce, Ph.D., is an associate professor of African-American religion and literature and director of black church studies at Princeton Theological Seminary.
  • Influence 97
  • Reach 4.15
  • Substance 6.9
  • Media Mentions 4
  • Twitter followers 2,814
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69

Umi Selah 

  • Sector: Community
  • Job: Executive Director, Dream Defenders
  • Age: 30
  • Location: Miami Lakes, Fla.
  • Twitter: @Umiselah

Bio:

Before there was the tidal wave of activism that has flowed under the banner of  #BlackLivesMatter, there was the Dream Defenders, a youth-based coalition on the ground in Florida, credited with having the Trayvon Martin murder case prosecuted. Founder and Executive Director Umi Selah (formerly Phillip Agnew) continues to organize in the state around job creation, the private-prison industry, gentrification and community beautification, as well as amplify national campaigns like the controversial #KKKorGOP? “I actually believe that we’ll win,” says Selah, one of several activists invited to the White House in December. “I am actually crazy enough to believe that before I die that something amazing can and will happen in this country and we’ll be in a better place,” he says.

Visit his website and like his Facebook page.

Claim to Fame:

Formerly known as Phillip Agnew, Umi Selah co-founded the Dream Defenders, a racial- and social justice group based in Miami.
  • Influence 94.4
  • Reach 5.66
  • Substance 6.3
  • Media Mentions 21
  • Twitter followers 20,868
Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images for STARZ
70

Courtney Kemp Agboh

  • Sector: Entertainment/Media
  • Job: Writer, Producer
  • Age: 38
  • Location: Los Angeles
  • Twitter: @CKAgbohOfficial

Bio:

Thankfully, there are several more options with black leads on television these days, but Starz’s Power is the quiet come-up that everyone who knows good TV is talking about. A former writer and producer on CBS’ The Good Wife, Courtney Kemp Agboh is the creator and executive producer of the dark, furious series starring Omari Hardwick and 50 Cent, which was just picked up for its third season. Although she grew up in the suburbs of Connecticut, the double-Ivy Leaguer says that the humanity of her strong, multidimensional characters is universal to all. In fact, Kemp Agboh says she next wants to explore the world of her upbringing, which has its own type of violence “behind closed doors.”

Like her Facebook page.

Claim to Fame:

Courtney Kemp Agboh is the executive producer and creator of the Starz series Power.
  • Influence 94.2
  • Reach 5.28
  • Substance 6.4
  • Media Mentions 13
  • Twitter followers 13,766
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71

Natalie Madeira Cofield

  • Sector: Business
  • Job: CEO, Greater Austin Black Chamber of Commerce, Founder of Walker's Legacy and Founder and Chief Visionary Officer of Urban Co-Lab.
  • Age: 33
  • Location: Austin, Texas
  • Twitter: @ncofield

Bio:

Like many other communities of color touched by a rising tech ecosystem, Austin, Texas, host of the wildly popular SXSW festival, is being rapidly gentrified, especially East Austin, home to a vibrant black community since the 1930s. For the last four years, Natalie Madeira Cofield, CEO of the Austin Black Chamber of Congress, has empowered that community through business development with an emphasis on technology, and also has innovated with resonant campaigns like, “I Am Black Austin.”

She is also the founder of Walker’s Legacy, a national women-in-business collective designed to inspire, equip and engage a global network of professional and entrepreneurial women of color. And this fall, Madeira Cofield launched Urban Co-Lab, an incubator and a center for entrepreneurship in the heart of East Austin. “The goal is to be a catalyst so we can make this into an innovation center for urban transformation,” she says.

Visit her website.

Claim to Fame:

Natalie Madeira Cofield is the CEO of the Greater Austin Black Chamber of Commerce and founder and CEO of the incubator Urban Co-Lab.
  • Influence 93.7
  • Reach 4.1
  • Substance 6.8
  • Media Mentions 3
  • Twitter followers 3,167
ime_archibong
72

Ime Archibong

  • Sector: STEM
  • Job: Director of Strategic Partnerships at Facebook
  • Age: 34
  • Location: San Francisco
  • Twitter: @_imearchibong

Bio:

Ime Archibong is director of product partnerships at tech giant Facebook, and leads a team working to connect the company’s products to businesses such as Live Nation, Spotify and Uber. The electrical engineer-cum-Stanford MBA has been at the company for five years and has been extremely bullish on developing music tools and products, which he sees as a core form of communication and social sharing. He is also a champion of diversity: “When you have people sitting around the table that have diverse backgrounds … better products end up getting built,” he says. Personally, he also works for East Palo Alto, Calif., nonprofit Live in Peace, providing both exposure and employment to the mostly black and brown, and rapidly gentrifying, community.

Like his Facebook page.

Claim to Fame:

Ime Archibong is director of strategic partnerships at Facebook.
  • Influence 93.7
  • Reach 3.09
  • Substance 7.3
  • Media Mentions 7
  • Twitter followers 154
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73

Dennis Dortch and Numa Perrier

  • Sector: Entertainment/Media
  • Job: Media Entrepreneurs, Web Series Creators
  • Location: Los Angeles
  • Twitter: @BlackandSexyTV

Bio:

The small screen magic that is Black & Sexy TV is the direct product of the real-world magic behind it. Partners in life and business, Numa Perrier and Dennis Dortch are investors in the black Web series renaissance, one-half of the four-person team producing storytelling content that shows us our endearing selves with humor and integrity. When we watch The Couple, we’re seeing inspired bits of their relationship and relatable glimpses of our own, too. (Perrier, an actress, also stars in the series.) The duo gambled personally to grow Black & Sexy TV from a documentary to a multishow network. Now the subscription-based service, which they launched this year after creating content for YouTube, is a platform for other media creatives, making it not only an artistic “Hell, yeah,” but a startup business success, too. That’s sexy.
Visit their website and like their Facebook page.

Claim to Fame:

Dennis Dortch and Numa Perrier created Black & Sexy TV to produce relatable Web series content about black lives.
  • Influence 93.1
  • Reach 4.86
  • Substance 6.5
  • Media Mentions 3
  • Twitter followers 18,013
deesha_dyer
74

Deesha Dyer

  • Sector: Entertainment/Media
  • Job: White House Social Secretary
  • Age: 37
  • Location: Washington, D.C.
  • Twitter: @DeeshaDyer

Bio:

Deesha Dyer’s theme song should be Soul II Soul’s “Keep on Movin’.” After all, the former music journalist almost universally gives this advice when asked about her unconventional path to success. Dyer dropped out of college at 17, returned more than 10 years later, and at age 31, applied for an internship at the White House. After six years, Dyer was named White House social secretary, in part because of her commitment to open 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. “to people who never dreamed they would walk through these doors,” according to first lady Michelle Obama. Dyer is also a legendary volunteer and mentor, and founder of beGirl.world in her native Philadelphia.

Claim to Fame:

Deesha Dyer is the White House social secretary.
  • Influence 92.8
  • Reach 3.59
  • Substance 7
  • Media Mentions 13
  • Twitter followers 274
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75

Jamal-Harrison Bryant

  • Sector: Community
  • Job: Reverend
  • Age: 44
  • Location: Baltimore
  • Twitter: @jamalhbryant

Bio:

The Rev. Jamal-Harrison Bryant delivered mighty words of esteem and fire at the funeral of Freddie Gray, the 25-year-old who died despicably at the hands of Baltimore police this spring. The Gen X pastor of the 10,000-strong Empowerment Temple traveled the country to square off against police brutality in Ferguson, Mo., and in the streets of his very own Baltimore. In May, Bryant was part of a coalition that shut down traffic on I-395 in protest of a $30 million juvenile-jail allocation, and the diversion of $11 million marked for Baltimore City public schools. Bryant promises nine more actions in the coming months—because now is the time to act.

Visit his website and like his Facebook page.

Claim to Fame:

Jamal-Harrison Bryant is the pastor and founder of the Empowerment Temple in Baltimore.
  • Influence 92.6
  • Reach 6.62
  • Substance 6
  • Media Mentions 18
  • Twitter followers 218,096
Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images for HBO
76

Dee Rees

  • Sector: Entertainment/Media
  • Job: Director, Writer
  • Age: 38
  • Location: Long Beach, Calif.

Bio:

As a writer and director, Dee Rees is truly behind the scenes. But her work? Her work sings a thousand songs, in a spotlight and a sequined gown. In 2011, Rees made her striking debut with the award-winning Pariah, a coming-of-age story about a lesbian teen from Brooklyn, N.Y. (Hello, Intersectionality? It’s me, “Most-lesbians on-screen are white and most black gays are men.”) This year, the Spike Lee mentee wrote and directed the HBO biopic Bessie, for which she got a writing and directing Emmy nomination and unpacked sexuality, colorism and respectability, while telling the story about one of music’s most-important icons. Rees’ next collabo is with TV empress Shonda Rhimes in the adaptation of Isabel Wilkerson’s masterpiece, The Warmth of Other Suns, for a limited series on FX. Black girl magic cubed.

Claim to Fame:

Dee Rees is the Emmy-nominated screenwriter and director of HBO’s biopic Bessie.
  • Influence 92.2
  • Reach 3.75
  • Substance 6.9
  • Media Mentions 55
  • Twitter followers 100
Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images
77

Ras Baraka

  • Sector: Government/Politics
  • Job: Politician, Poet, Educator, Activist
  • Age: 45
  • Location: Newark, N.J.
  • Twitter: @rasjbaraka

Bio:

One year into his tenure as mayor of New Jersey’s largest city, Ras Baraka has been able to walk with the people and still close a $93 million deficit without layoffs. Raised in deference to activism and art, the poet and former high school principal has been able to bring a rich foundation to governance, one in which both community and business interests win. In April, Baraka pushed through the city’s first Civilian Complaint Review Board via executive order—a move that provides unparalleled oversight of a city police force under investigation by the Justice Department. Months later, he announced a partnership with the governor to begin returning beleaguered Newark schools to local control, a campaign promise made good.

Visit his website and like his Facebook page.

Claim to Fame:

Ras Baraka is the mayor of Newark, N.J.
  • Influence 90.8
  • Reach 6.36
  • Substance 6
  • Media Mentions 382
  • Twitter followers 5,983
jamil_smith
78

Jamil Smith

  • Sector: Entertainment/Media
  • Job: Journalist
  • Age: 40
  • Location: New York
  • Twitter: @JamilSmith

Bio:

At the top of the year, veteran MSNBC producer Jamil Smith landed at the venerable, but embattled, New Republic and dove right into his beats. Drumming up race, gender and politics stories from the news cycle, Smith hits on cultural touch points from campus rape to the Rev. Al Sharpton, banging out a nice mix of opinion, headlines and original reporting. In April, Smith cranked out a four-part  series from the ground in Ferguson, Mo., and this summer, inaugurated Intersection, TNR’s first podcast, mining timely topics from queering marriage to noting: “It’s Not Mother Nature Who’s Racist” after the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.

Visit his website and listen to his podcast, Intersection.

Claim to Fame:

Jamil Smith is a senior editor of the New Republic.
  • Influence 88.6
  • Reach 6.05
  • Substance 6
  • Media Mentions 24
  • Twitter followers 45,224
saeedjones
79

Saeed Jones 

  • Sector: Entertainment/Media
  • Job: Poet, Editor
  • Age: 29
  • Location: New York
  • Twitter: @theferocity

Bio:

Saeed Jones has had some choice words for the dangerously homogenous publishing world; he also plans to mix a little coffee in its cream. When the award-winning poet was named BuzzFeed’s literary editor this year, one of his first projects was the BuzzFeed Emerging Writers Fellowship, a paid opportunity for developing scribes of color. Prior to this, Jones launched the portal’s LGBT vertical and published an acclaimed book of poetry, Prelude to Bruise, which was a finalist for a National Book Critics Circle Award. We expect more of Jones’ deft cultural criticism, painful truths and delicious wit (he once described an Arizona college party like setting foot on a very well-lit moon”) from his forthcoming memoir.

Like his Facebook page.

Claim to Fame:

Saeed Jones is the literary editor at BuzzFeed.
  • Influence 88.4
  • Reach 6.03
  • Substance 6
  • Media Mentions 40
  • Twitter followers 25,993
tiffanibell
80

Tiffani Ashley Bell

  • Sector: Community
  • Job: Executive Director
  • Age: 30
  • Location: San Francisco
  • Twitter: @tiffani

Bio:

In Detroit and Baltimore, where residents struggle under oppressive, near-25-percent poverty rates, Tiffani Ashley Bell is an answer to many a desperate prayer. She co-founded the Detroit Water Project and Baltimore Water Project, a social service startup that uses funds pledged by donors to pay all or a portion of an urgently past-due water bill for a family in need. “People hand you their emergencies,” the Howard alumna wrote in a tweet, and she has delivered for more than 900 applicants for aid. Between the two projects, Bell has funneled more than $210,000 in donations to facilitate help, hope and a fundamental human right to residents who are often elderly, disabled, in poor health or financially unable to pay. Still, the shut-off notices keep coming—more than 100,000 in Detroit alone—making her work plentiful, meaningful and necessary.

Claim to Fame:

Tiffani Ashley Bell co-founded the Detroit Water Project and the Baltimore Water Project, helping Detroit and Baltimore residents avoid disconnection of water service because of past-due bills.
  • Influence 86.2
  • Reach 4.16
  • Substance 6.5
  • Media Mentions 1
  • Twitter followers 7,247
rahieltesfamiriamcrop
81

Rahiel Tesfamariam

  • Sector: Community
  • Job: Activist, Writer, Speaker
  • Age: 34
  • Location: New York
  • Twitter: @RahielT

Bio:

If it’s ever appropriate to call a minister a revolutionary badass, it’d be apropos for Rahiel Tesfamariam. She’s a graduate of Yale Divinity School, and holy sanctified by the black church experience, but her social activism precludes the Eritrean-born firebrand from being a bow-our-heads-and-let-us-pray theologian. Her #NotOneDime movement, launched in response to the nonindictment of Darren Wilson for killing Michael Brown, may have helped cripple the 2014 holiday season by urging consumers to stay home on Black Friday rather than pouring dollars into businesses that don’t value black lives. Her work as a writer and editor has also taken a continuous stab at injustice. Her online magazine, Urban Cusp, was founded on the biblical principle that transforming the mind is the first step to community renewal. Church.
Visit her website and like her Facebook page.

Claim to Fame:

Rahiel Tesfamariam is a writer and activist who created the #NotOneDime campaign that called for boycotting businesses during the busy holiday season to show the power of black dollars.
  • Influence 86.2
  • Reach 5.03
  • Substance 6.2
  • Media Mentions 8
  • Twitter followers 11,993
rob_hardy_69_091312
82

Rob Hardy

  • Sector: Entertainment/Media
  • Job: CEO, Rainforest Entertainment
  • Age: 40
  • Location: Atlanta
  • Twitter: @TheRealRobHardy

Bio:

The canon of contemporary black films has Rob Hardy’s signature all over it: Stomp the Yard. No Good Deed. Think Like a Man and its sequel. Last year, he and business partner Will Packer dissolved Rainforest Films, the company under which those and other titles were produced, and Hardy launched Rainforest Entertainment to broaden his creative scope to include film, television and digital content. He continues to have a vested interest in the success of Bounce TV, which he co-founded with Packer, Andrew Young and Martin Luther King III, but his credits now sparkle with major network gold: He’s directed episodes of Being Mary Jane, Power and everybody’s favorite, dysfunctional, musical drama, Empire.

Follow him on Instagram.

Claim to Fame:

Rob Hardy co-founded Bounce TV and recently launched Rainforest Entertainment to expand the work he’s already done in film and TV.
  • Influence 85.9
  • Reach 5.7
  • Substance 6
  • Media Mentions 90
  • Twitter followers 5,492
coreythomas2015
83

Corey Thomas

  • Sector: Business
  • Job: President, CEO
  • Age: 39

Bio:

In December 2014, Corey Thomas led a $30 million expansion with new equity funding for Rapid7, the Boston-based cybersecurity firm he heads as president and CEO (and the sole brother on the leadership team). Six months later, he oversaw the $80 million initial public offering filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that made clear his company’s intention to go public. In July, he released a statement announcing that Rapid7 will begin trading on Nasdaq, one of just 17 cybersecurity firms to have made that move. Clearly Thomas, a Harvard Master of Business Administration, knows two things: information technology security data and navigating the big-money business of IT security data, leading Rapid7 into post-IPO profitability with 6.45 million shares selling at $16 each.
Connect with him on LinkedIn.

Claim to Fame:

Corey Thomas led an $80 million initial public offering for Rapid7, the cybersecurity firm he heads as president and CEO.
  • Influence 85.6
  • Reach 3.23
  • Substance 6.9
  • Media Mentions 16
  • Twitter followers 100
todd_coleman
84

Todd Coleman 

  • Sector: STEM
  • Job: Bioengineering Professor
  • Age: 38
  • Location: San Diego

Bio:

Some of us are bright, maybe even gifted. Then there are those touched by a rare, down-to-earth genius. Bioengineering professor Todd Coleman falls into the latter category. Coleman is director of the Neural Interaction Lab at the University of California, San Diego, and co-director of the Center for Perinatal Health. For the last few years, he has been advancing the development of thin, wireless, tattoolike sensors placed directly on the body, also known as epidermal electronics, or “electronic skin.” Currently, Coleman’s work in that field is revolutionizing how we monitor high-risk pregnancies and his interdisciplinary team is looking to use the technology to solve a host of other matters from Alzheimer’s disease to seizures in premature babies.

Visit his website.

Claim to Fame:

Todd Coleman is a professor of bioengineering who is advancing the development of “electronic skin,” which turns your body into a computer.
  • Influence 85.4
  • Reach 2.31
  • Substance 7.5
  • Media Mentions 1
  • Twitter followers 100
kai_wright
85

Kai Wright

  • Sector: Entertainment/Media
  • Job: Journalist
  • Age: 41
  • Location: Brooklyn, N.Y.
  • Twitter: @kai_wright

Bio:

He is heir to the truth-telling reportage of James Baldwin and Robert Abbott and other storytelling forebears. Kai Wright champions issues rooted in race, justice, health and sexuality because it’s necessary work. He has investigated the implementation of Obamacare from the purview of a New Jersey health clinic, explored the life cycles of inequity for black men and spent two years visiting a Georgia town where the poverty rate constricts progression for the black folk in it. He’s now features editor at The Nation and a reporting fellow at the Investigative Fund, but not before he grew Colorlines from a bimonthly print journal to a digital site attracting 1 million readers a month to the perceptive pieces being written there.

Follow him on Instagram.

Claim to Fame:

Kai Wright is an investigative journalist and an editor for The Nation.
  • Influence 84.8
  • Reach 4.86
  • Substance 6.2
  • Media Mentions 11
  • Twitter followers 6,078
jessicabyrd2
86

Jessica Byrd

  • Sector: Government/Politics
  • Job: Founder and Principal Strategist for Three Point Strategies; formerly Manager of State Strategies, EMILY’s List
  • Age: 28
  • Location: Washington, D.C.
  • Twitter: @JessicaLBYRD

Bio:

Voting advocacy is in Jessica Byrd’s genes. Her mother, a longtime poll worker, impressed upon her daughter the power and influence of the ballot. Byrd took her mama’s lessons to heart: Up until recently, she served as manager of state strategies at EMILY’s List, a political-action organization dedicated to getting pro-choice Democratic women elected to office. In that role, Byrd pushed black women with leadership qualities and the desire to improve their communities to pour that energy into effective campaigns for political office.

Now, Byrd is continuing her work of creating leaders in communities of color as the founder and principal strategist for Three Point Strategies, a political consulting firm led by black women. She is currently in the process of planning and executing the first-ever national people of color candidate-recruitment effort called “The Pathway Project.”

Visit her website.

Claim to Fame:

Jessica Byrd pushes women to vote and challenges others who may have never considered running for office to become representatives for their communities.
  • Influence 84.2
  • Reach 4.23
  • Substance 6.4
  • Media Mentions 11
  • Twitter followers 1,407
mia_love_official_congressional_photo
87

Mia Love

  • Sector: Government/Politics
  • Job: Politician
  • Age: 39
  • Location: Utah
  • Twitter: @MiaBLove

Bio:

She would’ve been a standout anyway. A black, Mormon, Haitian-American woman from Utah in an interracial marriage? You just don’t bump into the sum of those characteristics every day. Then she went from stay-at-home wife to mayor of Saratoga Springs, Utah, to becoming the first black Republican woman elected to Congress, and elevated herself from headline-maker to history-maker. An unapologetic pro-lifer who fist pumps for the defunding of Planned Parenthood, a proponent of stringent immigration laws—even as the daughter of immigrants—her platform has made her popular in the Tea Party, which historically has not magnetized minorities or women, much less minority women. Hers isn’t the average rising star story in American politics, but that endears her to citizens, even if they don’t always love her stance.
Visit her website.

Claim to Fame:

Mia Love is the first black Republican woman elected to Congress.
  • Influence 84.1
  • Reach 7.74
  • Substance 5.5
  • Media Mentions 532
  • Twitter followers 102,581
akibasolomon2
88

Akiba Solomon

  • Sector: Entertainment/Media
  • Job: Journalist, Editor
  • Age: 41
  • Location: Brooklyn, N.Y.
  • Twitter: @akibasolomon

Bio:

Provocative writing is a weapon of revolution. It doesn’t make people comfortable. It makes them pay attention. Akiba Solomon has wielded her influential wordsmithing at the crux of gender and race to nudge, sometimes shove, critical thought onto news, social issues, policy and pop culture in front of reading audiences. As editorial director and columnist at Colorlines, her body of work has most recently articulated the emotional and factual complexity that exists inside of the struggle for justice for black men and women. She was an inaugural reporting fellow for the site, covering reproductive-health access for women of color during President Barack Obama’s re-election, which earned her the recognition of Planned Parenthood as a prominent storyteller for black women. We knew that already, though.

Claim to Fame:

As editorial director of Colorlines, Akiba Solomon gets to the heart of news stories about social justice, gender and race.
  • Influence 84.1
  • Reach 3.96
  • Substance 6.5
  • Media Mentions 2
  • Twitter followers 3,041
dante_barry
89

Dante Barry

  • Sector: Community
  • Job: Executive Director, Million Hoodies Movement for Justice
  • Age: 27
  • Location: New York
  • Twitter: @dantebarry

Bio:

When the murder of Trayvon Martin catalyzed outrage and galvanized citizen reaction into social movements, Million Hoodies for Justice launched as an action network of students, artists and young folks working to protect others and themselves from gun violence and abuses of power. Executive director Dante Barry, a natural-born community organizer, and his team have raised millions of dollars for victims and nurtured the involvement of more than 50,000 people who want to help—not all of them young, not all of them black, but no less corporately invested in the value of young, black people. He eloquently expresses the systemic challenges around preserving our most basic human right—the right to live—as a writer and commentator for CNN, MTV, Colorlines and MSNBC.

Claim to Fame:

Dante Barry directs and oversees grassroots activities of the Million Hoodies Movement for Justice.
  • Influence 84
  • Reach 4.77
  • Substance 6.2
  • Media Mentions 7
  • Twitter followers 7,443
nylefortwras
90

Nyle Fort 

  • Sector: Community
  • Job: Minister, Activist
  • Age: 25
  • Location: Newark, N.J.
  • Twitter: @NyleFort

Bio:

The image of Nyle Fort on the front lines of protest in his minister’s collar was striking, to say the least. Dubbed the “Pastor of Ferguson,” the freelance writer and Princeton master of divinity candidate went to Missouri in October and, like many others, stayed for a while to march, resist and build. The self-described grassroots organizer has been quite active in the last year—from student walkouts in his native Newark, N.J., to leading actions in the heart of New York City. Fort has also consistently talked back to the black church for its deep-rooted anti-gay sentiment: “To call homosexuality a sin is to call into question one’s entire being,” he writes. “But there is nothing wrong with LGBTQ people. What’s wrong is homophobia.”

Visit his Instagram and like his Facebook page

Claim to Fame:

Nyle Fort is an ordained minister and grassroots organizer who is also known as the “Pastor of Ferguson.”
  • Influence 81.4
  • Reach 4.49
  • Substance 6.2
  • Media Mentions 9
  • Twitter followers 3,057
kierna_mayo_editorial
91

Kierna Mayo 

  • Sector: Entertainment/Media
  • Job: Editor, Journalist
  • Age: 45
  • Location: New York
  • Twitter: @kiernamayo

Bio:

Many moons ago, Kierna Mayo co-founded a revolutionary women’s lifestyle magazine called Honey, a smart, irreverent, creative tour de force not seen since. Fast-forward 15 years, and the recent vice president of digital at Ebony.com, has once again returned to print as editor-in-chief of Ebony magazine. In that role, Mayo has already made her mark, with the stark, resonant “America Loves Black Culture” issue, harkening back to a time when the pub led the cultural conversation in African America. Mayo is sure to bring her direct, virtuoso intellect to the magazine and remains clear on her marching orders: “I think black people deserve and, quite frankly, need a place that is exclusive to them,” she says.

Visit her website and like her Facebook page.

Claim to Fame:

Kierna Mayo is the editor-in-chief of Ebony magazine.
  • Influence 81.1
  • Reach 4.17
  • Substance 6.3
  • Media Mentions 2
  • Twitter followers 4,947
ayanna_howard
92

Ayanna Howard

  • Sector: STEM
  • Job: Robotics Engineer, Professor
  • Age: 43
  • Location: Atlanta

Bio:

When Ayanna Howard does the robot, we speak not of the dance. In fact, the innovator of robotics and “humanized intelligence” would most likely be in the real life version of I, Robot (her TED talk outlines the rules for smart robots including “They should not harm us.”) Howard began her robotics career as a researcher at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and worked on the Mars Rovers, while receiving her Ph.D. in electrical engineering (she also has an MBA). In 2005, she joined the faculty of Georgia Tech and is currently associate director of Research at the Institute for Robotics and Intelligent Machines. In 2013, Howard founded Zyrobotics, which centers on robotics education and assistive technologies, especially as they impact children with disabilities such as cerebral palsy.

Visit her website.

Claim to Fame:

Ayanna Howard is a robotics engineer and professor with Georgia Tech’s School of Electrical and Computer Engineering. She is also founder and chief technology officer of Zyrobotics.
  • Influence 80.9
  • Reach 2.31
  • Substance 7.3
  • Media Mentions 1
  • Twitter followers 100
seanconner
93

Sean Conner 

  • Sector: Government/Politics
  • Job: Press Secretary
  • Age: 31
  • Location: Washington, D.C.
  • Twitter: @SeanLConner

Bio:

As the press secretary for Tim Scott, the first African-American U.S. senator from the South since Reconstruction, Sean Conner has served as the principal spokesman and media adviser to the pol from South Carolina, a job made especially trying by the slaughter of nine parishioners in a Charleston church in June and the outrageous police killing of Walter Scott in April (the senator introduced a $100 million bill for body cameras for law enforcement in late July). Conner is only one of two African-American press secretaries in the Senate and has been proving his communications mettle since he was in his 20s, when he managed a $1.46 billion federal-aid package under New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie after Superstorm Sandy.

Visit his website and like his Facebook page.

Claim to Fame:

Sean Conner is the press secretary for Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.).
  • Influence 77.6
  • Reach 3.59
  • Substance 6.4
  • Media Mentions 32
  • Twitter followers 117
terrance_hayes2
94

Terrance Hayes

  • Sector: Arts
  • Job: Poet, Professor
  • Age: 43
  • Location: Pittsburgh

Bio:

Terrance Hayes says that he is “chasing a kind of language” in his poetry, one that evokes the feelings of music. Indeed, his words transport us to heartfelt places, beginning with intriguing names like  “Cocktails With Orpheus,” “We Should Make a Documentary About Spades” or “Black Confederate Ghost Story.” Hayes recently received the highly regarded 2014 MacArthur fellowship for his genius, and is author of five collections of poetry, including Lighthead (2010), which won the National Book Award. Hayes often touches on race, culture, male identity, history and family, and is increasingly bending and playing with form, both with his latest, How to Be Drawn (2015), or as with “Sonnet,” where the entire poem repeats the following 14 times: We sliced the watermelon into smiles.

Visit his website.

Claim to Fame:

Terrance Hayes is a 2014 MacArthur fellow for his poetry.
  • Influence 77
  • Reach 3.76
  • Substance 6.3
  • Media Mentions 56
  • Twitter followers 100
ian_spalter
95

Ian Spalter 

  • Sector: STEM
  • Job: UX Designer
  • Age: 39
  • Location: San Francisco Bay Area
  • Twitter: @ianspalter

Bio:

Ian Spalter is a man tasked with creating products that are beautiful yet useful, the ultimate in right-left-brain integration. In April, Spalter was named head of design at the wildly popular Instagram platform, which reaches over 300 million active users each month (and is one of the most preferred social media platforms for African Americans). Before coming to “the Gram,” Spalter was design lead at YouTube and a director of UX (user experience) and design at Foursquare. In his work, Spalter oversees both designers and engineers, and has said that he’s in search of “lovable” products that fit into people’s lives in a meaningful way. We’ve already witnessed his handiwork in Instagram’s desktop redesign  and can’t wait to see (and use) what’s next.

Visit his Tumblr and like his Facebook page.

Claim to Fame:

Ian Spalter is head of design at Instagram.
  • Influence 76.5
  • Reach 3.71
  • Substance 6.3
  • Media Mentions 2
  • Twitter followers 1,714
asha_castleberry
96

Asha Castleberry 

  • Sector: Government/Politics
  • Job: National Security Expert
  • Age: 31
  • Location: Washington, D.C.
  • Twitter: @AshaCastleberry

Bio:

Army veteran Asha Castleberry serves with distinction in the national security field. After joining the reserve in 2006 under the requirements of her Hampton University ROTC scholarship, Castleberry in May completed a 30-month tour in the Persian Gulf, where she served in Iraq, Kuwait and Jordan as a captain. Since the 2014 Islamic State group incursion in Iraq, Castleberry has served for the Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, a coalition that conducts airstrikes against the Islamic State. Castleberry is also co-founder and chairwoman of the International Youth Council, was recently appointed a fellow for the American Security Project and serves on the advisory board for Veterans4Diplomacy, which identifies and mentors outstanding student veterans.

Visit her website and like her Facebook page.

Claim to Fame:

Asha Castleberry is a U.S. national security expert and Army veteran.
  • Influence 74.5
  • Reach 3.31
  • Substance 6.4
  • Media Mentions 2
  • Twitter followers 681
omar_freilla
97

Omar Freilla 

  • Sector: Community
  • Job: Environmental-Justice Activist
  • Age: 41
  • Location: Bronx, N.Y.
  • Twitter: @OmarFreilla

Bio:

When Omar Freilla received his environmental science master’s degree some years ago, he headed not to the developing world, but home to New York’s South Bronx, a place he knew to be a “dumping ground” for half the waste in New York City and the site of one of the highest asthma rates in the country. In 2003, he launched the Green Worker Cooperatives there, incubating businesses and creating jobs in a community with chronic unemployment. To date, about 19 different groups have established worker-owned, green-based businesses through the co-op, including one that pays $50 per hour. For his sustained sustainable work, Freilla is currently a BMW Guggenheim Lab member and has been featured in Leonardo DiCaprio’s powerful environmental documentary, The 11th Hour.

Visit his website.

Claim to Fame:

Omar Freilla is the founder and coordinator of Green Worker Cooperatives.
  • Influence 73.6
  • Reach 2.68
  • Substance 6.7
  • Media Mentions 1
  • Twitter followers 241
jameshayes
98

James Hayes 

  • Sector: Community
  • Job: Activist
  • Age: 25
  • Location: Columbus, Ohio
  • Twitter: @ContrabandJames

Bio:

When 22-year-old John Crawford III was killed by police in a Beavercreek, Ohio, Wal-Mart last August, the Ohio Student Association was one of the first to organize around the case. James Hayes is co-founder of the multiracial, student-led, grassroots outfit and has led direct-action tactics throughout the state where #TamirRice, #TanishaAnderson and #SamDuBose also fell. In December, political director Hayes was invited to the White House and met with President Barack Obama (“I believe he heard us,” he said) and says the OSA plans to run candidates in upcoming local elections as part of its leadership-development and electoral-organizing platforms. “We can be right on the policy all day long, but policy doesn’t move policy,” he says. “Power moves policy.”

Visit his website and like his Facebook page.

Claim to Fame:

James Hayes is co-founder and political director of the Ohio Student Association.
  • Influence 73.2
  • Reach 4.13
  • Substance 6
  • Media Mentions 21
  • Twitter followers 614
theastergates
99

Theaster Gates 

  • Sector: Arts
  • Job: Artist, Activist, Founder of the Rebuild Foundation
  • Age: 42
  • Location: Chicago

Bio:

In a beautiful circle of life (or art), Theaster Gates has been buying out abandoned buildings on Chicago’s blighted South Side, remodeling them, opening them up to the community, repurposing the materials to sell as art and using the proceeds to buy more spaces. In October, Gates, a potter with a degree in urban planning, will debut his most ambitious project yet, the Stony Island Arts Bank, to house African-American cultural touchstones. such as the vinyl collection of legendary DJ Frankie Knuckles and the Johnson Publishing Co. archives. This man of the people’s TED Talk, “How to Revive a Neighborhood,” has been viewed nearly 800,000 times, and, his city-neighborhood blueprint (an anti-gentrification of sorts) has been replicated in cities throughout the country.

Visit his website.

Claim to Fame:

Theaster Gates is a conceptual artist who does sculpture, installation, performance and urban interventions.
  • Influence 72.6
  • Reach 4.07
  • Substance 6
  • Media Mentions 114
  • Twitter followers 100
ashley_derby
100

Ashley Derby 

  • Sector: Business
  • Job: Franchised-Restaurant Operator, Entrepreneur
  • Age: 30

Bio:

When she was 26 years old, Ashley Derby became the youngest black woman to operate a Chick-fil-A franchise, nabbing Los Angeles’ first store after a notoriously long and selective vetting process. Derby had worked at Chick-fil-A since high school; after college graduation, she moved to the West Coast to take over the University of Southern California outpost in 2011. Earlier this year, Derby received an award from the National Alumnae Association of Spelman College for outstanding community service. In addition to working with young adults within the company, she is also active in Hollywood Young Life, a Christian-centered youth-mentoring program. “I love being able to provide someone with an income,” says Derby, “to provide someone with their first job, and being able to help mold and grow them.”

Visit her website and like her Facebook page.

Claim to Fame:

Ashley Derby is the owner-operator of the first Chick-fil-A franchise in Los Angeles.
  • Influence 72.4
  • Reach 3.65
  • Substance 6.2
  • Media Mentions 34
  • Twitter followers 100