Black History Month is a time to celebrate African-American culture and the positive impact that prominent African-American leaders have had on our country. However, it seems that every year we revert to discussing the black leaders of the Civil Rights Movement in the ‘50s and ‘60s. We forget that there are African American voices of our generation continuing to fight for the rights of the black community.
They have become leaders, stepping up to finish what had been started in the 50s. On that note, take time this February to appreciate the lesser-known black activists of our time along with the great black leaders and thinkers of the past.
Patrisse Cullors, Alicia Garza, and Opal Tometi
Cullors, Garza, and Tometi met through the Black Organizing for Leadership & Dignity (BOLD) organization and together founded the #BlackLivesMatter movement in the wake of the death of Trayvon Martin.
#BlackLivesMatter has grown on such a grand scale and gained such a large following that it is almost an entity of its own, making it so that the trio has faded into the background of their work. Though they may go unnoticed, the movement they’ve created, which addresses police brutality and the deadly shootings of unarmed black men, certainly has not.
In 2015, a series of racially-based incidents at the University of Missouri (also known as Mizzou) sparked protests from many of the school’s students, as well as students from around the country, against the lack of action towards the racism that was present on campus.
Butler was one of these protestors and he took a different approach than that of his fellow peers: he went on a hunger strike. Butler vowed not to eat until Mizzou administrator Tim Wolfe, whom students felt was not acting upon their concerns, was removed or resigned from his position.
In addition to Butler’s protest, the school’s football team and a black student group called Concerned Student 1950, pressured Wolfe to resign from his position.
Most noted for his role as Dr. Jason Avery on the hit show Grey’s Anatomy, Williams is also gaining recognition for his work as a black activist, earning the Humanitarian Award at the 2016 BET Awards.
His twitter, which has gained a substantial following, is the platform on which he speaks out against issues such as police brutality and discrimination. He is on the board of directors of the Advancement Project, a national, multi-racial organization focused on fighting issues of racial justice. He is also a spokesperson for The California Endowment’s Sons and Brothers campaign which helps youth of color.
Stenberg, known to most for her portrayal of Rue in The Hunger Games, has made a name for herself as a black activist at just 18 years old. In 2015, she was one of Time’s Most Influential Teens of the year. She speaks passionately about societal issues such as gender identity, sexuality, feminism, race, and racism.
She is also a spokesperson of the organization No Kid Hungry which is a charity that works to combat hunger in American children.
Jealous was the youngest president to head the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and has been deemed “one of the nation’s most prominent civil rights leaders” by The Washington Post. During his term as the NAACP’s president, he went to great lengths to increase the organization’s membership, stabilize its financials, and broaden its presence on social media.
Even as far back as elementary school, Jealous was an advocate for black people as he protested his school library’s lack of books on African-Americans. Later in his life, as an undergraduate student, he was suspended from Columbia University after protesting the school’s aim to demolish Malcolm X’s assassination site.