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The Tongva Times

The Tongva Times

The Tongva Times

Black History Month: Modern Influential People


    Amandla Stenberg

    Known for her role in the Hunger Games as Rue, Amandla Stenberg uses her platform to talk about racism and cultural appropriation. Stenberg was voted twice as the most influential teen in 2015 and 2016 by Time Magazine, and as Feminist Celebrity of 2015 by Ms. Foundation, which is a nonprofit organization that fights for social, economic, and reproductive rights for women. Her controversial video, “Don’t Cash Crop My Cornrows,” which was released in 2015, discusses cultural appropriation within Hollywood. Stenberg also uses her influence to aid children in Port Elizabeth, South Africa in their educational careers through the Ubuntu Education Fund. She continues to advocate against racial discrimination, and is also an avid feminist.

    Dave Chappelle

    Chappelle is an American Satirical Comedian who won the 2018 Grammy for Best Comedy Album for his specials “The Age of Spin” and “Deep in the Heart of Texas.” He is considered one of the most prominent figures in the modern generation of African American comedians who are gaining influence in pop culture. Chappelle uses his platform to shed light on the divide in our political battlefield and the blatant racism that is still present in society. His rather blunt humor satirizes sensitive topics in American society such as injustice and corruption within the legal system, police brutality, and the AIDS epidemic. Chappelle’s work, although causing discomfort at times, forces his audiences to confront harsh realities and pushes social boundaries through laughter.

    Ava Duvernay

    Ava DuVernay has made a name for herself in Hollywood by knocking down barriers one by one. In 2012, DuVernay earned a directing award at the Sundance Film Festival for her film “Middle of Nowhere.” Her film “Selma,” which documents the historic impacts of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the Civil Rights Movement, ultimately led DuVernay to her nomination for a Golden Globe as the first black female director. In directing her next film, “A Wrinkle in Time,” she has made an effort to increase racial diversity among the actors and actresses that are casted. Storm Reid, Mindy Kaling, and Oprah WInfrey are several people who will be bringing new faces and perspectives to DuVernay’s twist on the story of classic childhood favorite.


    Rihanna has greatly impacted the culture of society not only with her talent, but also with her giving heart. She has served as an ambassador for UNICEF’s Tap Project in 2011, and performed benefit concerts in honor of the Children’s Orthopedic Center and the Children’s Hospital L.A. Her charity, the Clara Lionel Foundation, raises funds to improve the quality of life for communities around the world. In 2017, she won the Harvard Humanitarian of the Year Award for her charitable acts. Rihanna also created a highly acclaimed makeup line with foundations that are inclusive of all different shades and undertones, especially darker skin tones that are often left out by brands that focus on lighter colors.



    Jimmie Briggs

    Earning the John Battlow award from Northwestern University, Jimmie Briggs has influenced the world of journalism through his investigative works on the impact of wars on children in countries like Afghanistan and Sri Lanka. Briggs’s book “Innocents Lost: When Child Soldiers Go to War” brings attention to a demographic that is often forgotten in the world of violence and weapons. Briggs began the Man Up Campaign in 2010 at Young Leaders Summit at the University of Johannesburg to help prevent violence against women and advance gender equality for youth. The organization brought together people from regions around the world, such as Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America, to increase awareness and activism towards gender ramong the next generation of leaders.

    Opal Tometi

    Opal Tometi is best known for being the co-founder of the Black Lives Matter Organization. She is credited for creating online platforms to increase their influence. In addition, she serves as the executive director for Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI). Tometi was recognized for her contributions to human rights in 2016 when she received the Glamour Award for Justice Seekers. She also wrote a book titled “Unless the Water is Safer Than Land” to support the right of asylum. Tometi graduated from the University of Arizona where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in history and a Master of Arts degree in communication.

    Michelle Alexander

    Alexander is a professor, writer, and civil rights activist best known for her book “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness,” which exposes America’s prison-industrial complex and racial injustice that still plagues the legal system. Through her publications and lectures, which have been received around the world, Alexander has become a powerful advocate for social justice and reform, particularly in the prison system. Her work includes studying the moral impacts and mental effects of mass incarceration as well. In recent years, she has taught at a number of universities, including Stanford Law School, where she was an associate professor of law and director of the Civil Rights Clinics.

    Benjamin Jealous

    Jealous is most well-known for being the youngest leader of the NAACP, taking the reins at only 35 years old. During his tenure, he stabilized the NAACP’s funds and dwindling membership, while also increasing its social media presence, leading to many organizations like Forbes and TIME calling him as the reviver of the NAACP. Currently, he is a senior partner at Kapor Capital, a technology firm for social change that invests in smaller companies that help disadvantaged communities. Additionally in 2015, with fellow author Trabian shorters, Jealous published “Reach: 40 Black Men Speak on Living, Leading, and Succeeding”, which features the stories of various black leaders and their impact.



    Cordiva Raven

    Raven is a recipient of a 2012 Women Interactive Digital Vanguard Award and creator of social media blog, which has been ranked as a Top 100 Social Media, Internet Marketing, and SEO Blogs by Cision, a public relations and media software giant. Cordiva Raven has been making a name for herself in the technological field since the age of 19. Not only does Raven educate her audience about the ins and outs of social media, but she also serves as a social media consultant for GM and Intel. Named one of the Top 25 Black Women Entrepreneurs by Essence Magazine, Raven continues to spread her passion for technology to the world, empowering others to follow their own interests in the field too.

    Neil deGrasse Tyson

    Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson is a renowned astrophysicist who has furthered the exploration and discovery of space. Tyson’s professional research interests include star formation, exploding stars, and the structure of the Milky Way among other subjects. After earning his PhD in astrophysics at Columbia, he was appointed twice by President George W. Bush in 2001 and 2004 to study the future of the U.S. Aerospace Industry and the Implementation of the United States Space Exploration Policy. His most recent book, “Astrophysics for People in a Hurry,” was named a New York Times best-seller this past year. Tyson hosts his own TV show and podcast, StarTalk on the National Geographic Channel, specifically targeting audiences who never thought they would, or could, be interested in science.

    Christyl Johnson

    Dr. Christyl Johnson is the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Goddard Space Flight Center’s deputy director for technology and research investments. Johnson manages goals for investment in future projects for the program. She has served as the President’s science advisor in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, executive director of the National Science and Technology Council, and the associate director for exploratory missions at the NASA Office of Earth Science, where she led research projects with Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Langley Research Center. Johnson works to encourage women in STEM fields in conjunction with the United Nations Women Global Innovation, Technology and Entrepreneurship Industry Forum.

    Laura Weidman Powers

    As the co-founder and CEO of Code2040, which is a nonprofit organization that creates pathways to success in technology for minorities, Laura Weidman Powers has an innovative plan to close the racial wealth gap. Her nonprofit helps black and Latino engineering students obtain positions in top tech companies, where more than 90 percent were able to earn full-time offers from their employers. In just four years, Powers’s company formed a residency program for entrepreneurs and doubled its services with the help of a $1.2 million grant from the Knight Foundation. This summer, Powers began a six-month term as a senior policy adviser to the U.S. Chief Technology Officer, where she focuses on issues of diversity and inclusion in tech.



    Kara Walker

    Kara Walker is an artist who explores social issues through her work. Known for her silhouettes, Walker’s lifesize cutouts recreate scenes of degradation, sexual assault, and violence. She also uses drawings, paintings, sculptures, and film to expose psychological pain caused by the legacy of slavery. Her first mural in 1994 featured a young woman suffering from the effects of slavery, and propelled her to prominence in the art world. Walker attended the Atlanta College of Art for graduate school and is now a member of the Master of Fine Arts Program at Columbia University. Walker’s most recent work, “The Katastwóf Karavan” highlights the history of slaves in New Orleans.

    Glenn Ligon

    New York-born Glenn Ligon is the artist behind the popularly shot “America, America” neon display at The Broad in Los Angeles. Ligon focuses on concepts of cultural norms, sexual identity, and the history of the Civil Rights Movement. He is known for creating the origins of the Post-Blackness art movement with Thelma Golden, director of Studio Museum in Harlem. The movement fights against society’s generalizations of the black community, and strives to emphasize the individuality of its artists. Ligon and other faces of Post-Blackness spread their message that one quality or practice of an African American does not define the entire black community, and give power to their voices through art.

    Tricia Rose

    Tricia Rose is a Chancellor’s Professor of Africana Studies at Brown University, as well as its Director of the Center for Study of Race and Ethnicity in America. She is an internationally recognized scholar, speaker, and author. Her first book, “Black Noise: Rap Music and Black Culture in Contemporary America,” received an American Book Award in 1995, and provided a foundation for studying hip hop culture in the 21st century. Since then, she has published two more books and continues to teach at Brown University, speak at public events, and appear on national news media. She is leading a research project titled How Structural Racism Works, which investigates the causes and development of racial inequality in America.

    Ta-Nehisi Coats

    Ta-Nehisi Coates first began his career as a reporter for the Washington City Paper. He later began writing for other newspapers, but his popularity grew from columns published in The Atlantic. Coates soon became a regular columnist for the magazine and began writing for his own blog. His pieces were influential for discussing cultural, social, and political issues. Coates’s book, “Between the World and Me,” won the National Book Award in 2015 for best nonfiction. The same year, he was also a recipient of the Genius Grant from the MacArthur Fellows Program for his originality and motivation in his creative field. Currently, Coates is a national correspondent for The Atlantic, and has been writing “Black Panther” for Marvel since 2016.

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    Black History Month: Modern Influential People