Each year The Root receives hundreds of nominations for selection to our annual list of high achievers and influencers, ages 25-45, known as The Root 100. For each of the past four years we have honored 100 individuals in the fields of politics, business, entertainment, social justice, law and science.
It’s always tough leaving out so many stellar candidates. So in this, our fifth year, we are adding a People’s Choice Award to The Root 100, chosen by our readers. A 101st honoree. Here are the five outstanding nominees:
Khalilah L. Brown-Dean
Khalilah L. Brown-Dean is an associate professor of political science at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Conn. Her academic research focuses on voting-rights policies, the death penalty and criminal justice reform in the United States. This year she received the Legacy Award from the National Association of Black Law Enforcement Officers and was named to Connecticut Magazine’s annual 40 Under 40 list. In January Brown-Dean launched the Community Dignity Fund to provide financial, legal and counseling services to the families of murder victims. Her upcoming book is titled Once Convicted, Forever Doomed: Race, Crime and Civil Death.
Tamika Felder is the CEO and founder of Tamika & Friends, a nonprofit organization dedicated to raising awareness about cervical cancer. In 2001 Felder received a diagnosis of cervical cancer, and at just 25 years old, she underwent a radical hysterectomy and chemotherapy, becoming cancer-free by the end of that year. Four years later she launched Tamika & Friends, a community of “cervivors” and their friends who educate other women about cervical cancer. The organization offers several outreach programs, including Angel Gift of Love, which provides assistance to caregivers of those with cancer, and House Parties of Five (HPVs), gatherings that combine fun with girl talk so women can speak freely about sexual health.
Frederick Hutson is the CEO of Pigeonly, a Las Vegas-based data company that helps keep inmates connected with their friends and families. Pigeonly’s database is full of key information (inmate numbers, addresses of institutions, etc.) about the nation’s nearly 7,000 places of incarceration. Through the company’s project Fotopigeon, inmates can easily receive photos from relatives and friends, and with Telepigeon, they can make inexpensive phone calls. It all started in 2007, when he was arrested for drug trafficking and served 51 months in prison. Shortly after, Hutson decided to use his experience of prison to help the underserved community of those behind bars.
Jenell Stewart has been guiding naturalistas with styling tutorials, product reviews and healthy-hair tips through KinkyCurlyCoilyMe for the past few years. She has gained millions of hits on YouTube and thousands of followers on Instagram and fans on Facebook, where she helps curly-coiffed women achieve polished hairstyles including the perfect twist-out and wash-and-go. Stewart even offers a peek into her personal hair regimen, and she gives tips on repairing damaged hair and bouncing back from postpartum hair shedding. She has hosted events on natural-hair product brands such as SheaMoisture, Curls and Hairfinity. She also is committed to living a good and healthy life: In June she launched a healthy-living tour in New York City.
Antonio French is serving his second term as an alderman for the 21st Ward in St. Louis. In recent weeks he has been a central figure in the fight for justice in Ferguson, Mo., where several protesters continue to call for a fair investigation into the fatal police shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown on Aug. 9. Through his rapid tweets, French provided a window into the unrest that unfolded in the St. Louis suburb after the shooting. He instantly became a social media star, gaining more than 100,000 Twitter followers in the weeks of protests.
At the height of the demonstrations, French was arrested on a charge of unlawful assembly but was later released and the matter dropped. His arrest did not deter him from continuing to call for the arrest of Darren Wilson, the Ferguson police officer who shot Brown, 18. Instead the experience has only inspired him to seek change in St. Louis. He started #HealSTL, an organization that hopes to “turn a moment into a movement,” mobilizing voters to become more politically active in their communities.
The winner will attend The Root 100 gala in New York City on Nov. 6. To vote for one of the nominees, click here.