Brittany Packnett Cunningham

Host of undistracted, msnbc analyst and vp of social impact at bet

Brittany Packnett Cunningham’s activism started when she began leading protests against police violence in 2014, following the police killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. Since then, she has become a crusader for social and racial justice, fighting for the dismantling of systemic racism. A co-founder of the police reform platform Campaign Zero, she has held top positions at Teach For America and served as a congressional policy advisor. She is also the founder of Love & Power Works, a full-service social impact firm that focuses on ensuring justice and equity in all sectors.

Cori Bush

CONGRESSWOMAN AND ACTIVIST

From the “Ferguson Frontline” in protest of the police killing of Michael Brown to Congress, Cori Bush epitomizes the ethos of “power to the people.” A registered nurse, single mother, community activist, ordained pastor, and organizer, she’s been very clear about the challenges facing her constituency and other Americans. In 2020, Bush shook up the political status quo by becoming the first woman to represent Missouri’s 1st Congressional District, defeating incumbent Lacy Clay and disrupting his family’s 52-year hold on the seat. Remaining true to her activist roots, Bush, a member of “The Squad”—a powerful group of progressive Democratic lawmakers—has championed defunding the police, reforming the criminal justice system, raising the minimum wage, and increasing affordable housing. 

Darnella Frazier

CITIZEN JOURNALIST

Capturing on her cell phone the horrific death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, Darnella Frazier changed the course of race relations in the U.S. and beyond. As Chauvin rested his knee on Floyd’s neck for over eight minutes with no regard to Floyd’s inability to breathe, the Minneapolis teen held her camera steady, exposing the grave injustice that killed the 46-year-old Floyd. That brave action prompted coast-to-coast protests, forcing a national reckoning across various institutions on systemic racism and injustices. For her courage, she received a special award and citation from the Pulitzer Prize Board earlier this year. Her actions, including her testimony during the trial for George Floyd’s murder, led to Chauvin’s conviction, offering a rare moment of justice for victims of police brutality and hope of better days to come.

Erica Ford

ANTI-VIOLENCE ACTIVIST AND FOUNDER OF LIFE CAMP

For more than three decades and counting, Ford has helped lead efforts to reduce youth and community violence through innovative programming empowering young people to seek peace over destruction. Working with iconic rapper Tupac Shakur, she tackled police brutality and other societal ills. Having been appointed to former President Obama’s task force to reduce gun violence in the wake of the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre, as well as serving on the New York City Task Force to Combat Gun Violence, Ford is without question one of the foremost thought leaders on fostering unity. In 2002, she founded Love Ignites Freedom Through Education (LIFE) Camp. At its South Jamaica, Queens, headquarters, she teaches kids and adults how to cope with their feelings to prevent or heal from arms-related violence. Ford and her team also drive a peace mobile throughout the neighborhood to offer these therapeutic services.

Keith Meadows

CITY OF SOUTH FULTON POLICE CHIEF

Serving as the first chief of police for the new City of South Fulton, formerly part of Atlanta, Keith Meadows is distinguishing himself as a strong supporter of the principles championed by former President Barack Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, intended to enhance public safety and confidence. Putting his 30 years of law enforcement experience to use, Meadows is an advocate of developing strong community relationships and absolute transparency. Using the 21st Century Policing model established by the 2015 task force, he has let technology help guide his leadership priorities. Reports signaling significant crime dips in both 2020 and 2021—when so many others are experiencing crime spikes—indicate that the police chief’s approach has been highly effective.

Nikole Hannah-Jones

INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST AND
CREATOR OF THE 1619 PROJECT

Iowan Nikole Hannah-Jones created the 1619 Project, published in August 2019, and in 2020 her lead essay won the Pulitzer Prize. The masterful historical examination of how slavery shaped politics, society, and the economy has shaken up the world of media and beyond. Hannah-Jones, an award-winning investigative reporter, was named a tenured member of the Cathy Hughes School of Communications faculty at Howard University (HU). She is filling the newly created Knight Chair in Race and Journalism. She will soon found the HU Center for Journalism and Democracy to teach the analytical skills and historical expertise needed to cover the crisis our democracy is facing. The 1619 project has sparked debates and discussions in all realms of academia as well as a podcast, a high school curriculum, and an upcoming book. 

Rev. Raphael Warnock

u.s. senator

One of 12 children raised by loving parents in public housing, Raphael Warnock left his native Savannah to attend Morehouse, the alma mater of one of his personal heroes, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. In 2005, after earning degrees in divinity, including a Ph.D., from the Columbia University–affiliated Union Theological Seminary and pastoring at several churches for nearly two decades, Warnock assumed the senior pastor position at Dr. King’s family’s church, Ebenezer Baptist, in Atlanta. He is the youngest person in the church’s history to serve in the role. He’s put his indelible power and influence behind several causes, including Medicare and voting rights. In 2020, Warnock fought for and won a seat in the U.S. Senate. He is the first-ever Black U.S. senator from Georgia.

The CROWN Coalition

Social justice alliance

Many people of color across the country experience hair discrimination and the CROWN (Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair) Coalition is putting an end to it. The collective has teamed up with senators, assembly members, legislators, and other stakeholders focused on passing its signature legislation—the CROWN Act, originally named and sponsored by then State Senator Holly J. Mitchell of California. The coalition drafted this proposed law “to ensure protection against discrimination based on race-based hairstyles by extending statutory protection to hair texture and protective styles such as braids, locs, twists, and Bantu knots in the workplace and public schools.” (Clockwise from top left) Co-creators Orlena Nwokah Blanchard (president and COO of JOY Collective), Mitchell (who’s now the Los Angeles County supervisor for the 2nd District), Adjoa B. Asamoah (founder and CEO of ABA Consulting), Esi Eggleston Bracey (COO and EVP of Beauty and Personal Care at Unilever, North America), and Kelli Richardson Lawson (founder and CEO of JOY Collective) have brought widespread attention to hair discrimination and are fighting to ensure our legal right to choose to wear our hair natural.

Shaun King

AUTHOR, CIVIL RIGHTS LEADER AND CO-FOUNDER OF REAL JUSTICE PAC

Social media can be a land mine for negativity, toxicity, and hate, but it can also be a powerful tool for change. Perhaps no one has harnessed this weapon better than Shaun King. With an astounding following of more than 7 million from Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, the activist uses his massive platform to amplify the stories of Black men and women brutalized, and tragically killed, by the criminal justice system. He was listed by Time magazine as one of the 25 most influential people in the world online. Now he’s trying to shake up the criminal justice system by getting more progressive Black lawyers into key positions to fight structural racism, abuse of power, and mass incarceration.

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