Top row: Z. Howard, T. Cole, A. Pugh, C. Penrose-Whitmore.Bottom row: B. Ford, G. McBay, J. Hall, T. Dinkins.

Our future, we know, belongs to the young. That is why The Root has decided to put the spotlight on the leaders of tomorrow.

We embarked on a nationwide search to find African-American youth, ages 16 to 21, who are innovators in the green movement, science and technology, social justice, business and the arts. We approached schools and universities, national sororities and fraternities, as well as civil rights groups like the NAACP, which has nurtured a young-talent competition every year. The names poured in. We took on the difficult task of sifting through the achievements of many young and talented people to come up with this final list.

The 25 winners we selected for our Young Futurists list are committed to making the world a better place and are actively doing something about it. Many are still in high school. Some are in college. They live all over the U.S., from Savannah, Ga., to Santa Cruz, Calif., but they are bound together by their common desire to make a real change in the world.

Our winners have started their own nonprofits and invented technology — for developments in surgical techniques and hybrid cars — to rival that of innovators twice their age. They have used their artistic talents to help their communities, started their own businesses and transformed school projects into full-fledged charitable organizations. Two of our finalists have drawn the attention of the Obama administration for their achievements: Brandon Ford of Philadelphia and Cameron Fields of Viejo, Calif.


We'll highlight one Young Futurist a day during the month of February. What better time than Black History Month to unveil our list of the talented young people of African descent who hold our future in their hands?

Meet our future.