Celebrating Black Activists

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Opal Tometi is an American human rights activist, writer, strategist, and community organizer. She is a co-founder of Black Lives Matter. She is the former Executive Director of the United States’ first national immigrant rights organization for people of African descent, the Black Alliance for Just Immigration. Wikipedia

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Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw is an American lawyer, civil rights advocate, philosopher, and a leading scholar of critical race theory who developed the theory of intersectionality. She is a full-time professor at the UCLA School of Law and Columbia Law School, where she specializes in race and gender issues. Wikipedia

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Ciara Taylor is a popular educator, grassroots organizer and artist. As the Political Director of Dream Defenders, a human rights organization directed by Black & Brown youth who confront inequality and criminalization of youth in Florida which emerged after the killing of 17-year old Trayvon Martin. She has been featured on MSNBC’s Politics Nation with Al Sharpton speaking about the fight to overturn the Stand Your Ground law in Florida. She first became politically active in high school in opposition to the Iraq War and has continued organizing around issues pertaining to militarism, mass incarceration, poverty, and the protection of the most vulnerable in our society.

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Bryan Stevenson has assisted in cases that have saved dozens of prisoners from the death penalty, advocated for the poor, and developed community-based reform litigation aimed at improving the administration of criminal justice. Stevenson has challenged bias against the poor and minorities in the criminal justice system and helped achieve United States Supreme Court decisions that prohibit sentencing children under 18 to death or to life imprisonment without parole.

He was depicted in the legal drama Just Mercy which is based on his memoir Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption, which tells the story of Walter McMillian. He argues that the history of slavery and lynching has influenced the subsequent high rate of death sentences in the South, where it has been disproportionately applied to minorities.

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Maya Wiley is an American lawyer, professor, and civil rights activist. Wiley previously served as counsel to the Mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio. On October 7, 2020, Wiley announced that she would run for the position of Mayor of New York City in the 2021 New York City mayoral election. She is committed to every New Yorker being able to afford to live with dignity.

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Michelle Alexander is a highly acclaimed writer, advocate, civil rights lawyer, and visiting professor at Union Theological Seminary in New York City. Best known for her 2010 book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, which spent nearly 250 weeks on The New York Times bestseller list and has been cited in judicial decisions and adopted in campus-wide and community-wide reads, and has inspired a generation of racial justice activists motivated by Alexander’s unforgettable argument that “we have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it.”  The book has won numerous awards, including the 2011 NAACP Image Award for best nonfiction.

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Anthony Kapel "Van" Jones is an American news commentator, author, lawyer. [1] He served as President Barack Obama's Special Advisor for Green Jobs in 2009 and is the co-founder of several non-profit organizations, including the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, Color of Change, and the Dream Corps. The Dream Corps is a social justice accelerator that operates three advocacy initiatives: #cut50, #YesWeCode and Green for All.  He is the author of The Green Collar Economy, Rebuild the Dream, and Beyond the Messy Truth; all three books rank as New York Times bestsellers. Jones has hosted or co-hosted CNN shows including Crossfire, The Messy Truth, The Van Jones Show and The Redemption Project with Van Jones. Read more!

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Johnetta "Netta" Elzie is an American civil rights activist and named by The Los Angeles Times as "The new civil rights leaders: Emerging voices in the 21st century." as well as a leader that help build "e nation's first 21st-century civil rights movement”. She is one of the leaders in the activist group We The Protesters and co-edits the Ferguson protest newsletter This Is the Movement with fellow activist DeRay Mckesson. Elzie became involved in activism following the shooting of Michael Brown and has been active in the Ferguson, Missouri and Baltimore, Maryland protests. Elzie, with Mckesson and data scientist Samuel Sinyangwe, created "Mapping Police Violence", which collected data on people killed by police during 2014.  

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Melanie Campbell is the President/CEO, National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, convener, Black Women’s Roundtable. Campbell is recognized as one of the hardest working leaders in today’s Civil Rights, Women’s Rights, and Social Justice Movement.  She is a veteran at leading highly successful multimillion-dollar civic engagement and issue-based organizing campaigns. Read more! 

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Esmeralda Simmons, Esq.  is a successful public servant and civil rights attorney who has dedicated 34 years fighting for human and civil rights on the federal, state, and municipal levels. Ms. Simmons rose through the public sector ranks into an array of high-level roles, including: serving as the First Deputy Commissioner for Human Rights for New York State, and as a Civil Rights Attorney for the US Department of Education, a New York State Assistant Attorney General, and a New York City Assistant Corporation Counsel. She founded the Center for Law and Social Justice at Medgar Evers College, a community-based racial justice advocacy center that focuses on legal work and research on civil rights and domestic human rights violations.


Lateefah Simon is a nationally recognized advocate for civil rights and racial justice in Oakland and the Bay Area. She is the president of the Akonadi Foundation and an advocate for civil rights, racial justice, and juvenile justice. She has over 20 years of experience advancing opportunities for communities of color and low-income communities in the Bay Area. Read more!

Article about winning the MacArthur Genius Award

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Jeffery Shaun King is an American writer, civil rights activist and founder/co-founder of The Grassroots Law Project, The North Star, The Action PAC, Real Justice, and the host of The Breakdon podcast. King is the New York Times Bestselling Author of MAKE CHANGE and uses social media to highlight, amplify, and discuss social justice causes, including the Black Lives Matter movement. King has become an indispensable source for extending crucial conversations about social justice and equality including news of police brutality, racial discrimination, and other civil rights issues. Read more!

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