The Black and Lit List: 30 People 30 and Under to Watch Out for in New York!
- We applaud these 30 and under movers and shakers. They are writers, educators, finance gurus, DJs, advertisers, product designers, photographers, entrepreneurs and models. They're all flexing their Black excellence during a time when it seems to be Black and lit is almost an oxymoron.
- We asked each participant to let us know what being young, Black and lit affords them. Come all the way through!
Naima Green, 26
(Photo: Andre Wagner)
- Access is one of the great benefits of being young and Black in New York right now. Through my photographic series, Jewels from the Hinterland, I investigate questions of place, belonging and perceived cultural identity within the African diaspora by photographing Black creatives in lush green spaces within New York City. These natural spaces are typically framed as places where Black and brown urbanites are not “supposed” to be at home: our hinterlands or uncharted regions. By being young, Black and lit in New York I can engage with and foster a community of creative people. I am fortunate to work with creatives I admire, who later become friends. There is power in knowing that I cannot do this work alone. There is a sense of camaraderie working with individuals who help me document what our city experience looks like right now — how we exist and how we thrive. I need my peers to make these photographs; and with their help my work adds to contemporary culture and our emerging historical narrative.
Solomon Brown, 23
(Photo: Ajani Husdbands)
- Being young, Black and lit affords me the opportunity to mix my corporate and creative pursuits without losing the integrity of either. I want to be equal parts lawyer and leather brand founder [Solomon Chancellor], keeping the legacy of young Black entrepreneurs alive.
Rhonesha Byng, 27
(Photo: Raymond Eugenio)
- Opportunity is the key to success and opportunities come from people. So being "young, Black and lit" means that I know people and have access to people in power who know me, my work and think of me for opportunities that fit. Anything I want to get done can happen through a quick phone call, text or email. From the decision makers behind the scenes to the creatives making work that impacts the culture all of my friends are doing something next level and we help each other. From direct collaborations and connections to simply having access to constant inspiration by way of example, they're making it happen and I get an up close and personal view of their grind. I celebrate their victories and help them strategize through the low points and they do the same for me. Access to opportunity and inspiration is power in a world where with just the right amount of hard work, dedication we can create the life we want.
Greg Thompson Jr., 25
- Software Engineer at BuzzFeed
- I'm in complete control as long as I have a laptop in front of me. I can build whatever I want whenever I want and no one can stop me. If I have an idea, I can make it a reality without asking for anyone's permission.
Lori Adelman, 29
(Photo: Daniel Zuchnik)
- The fight for gender equity has never been more visible or poised for success, with discussions of reproductive justice, paid family leave, Black, fat, femme pride and immigration reform dominating public narratives. I'm blessed to be in community with so many dope changemakers, writers and organizers of color who are moving these conversations forward regularly with brilliance, determination and pride.
Marquelle Turner-Gilchrist, 29
(Photo: Sean Howard)
- Being young, Black and lit affords me the opportunity to encourage my "melanated" brothers and sisters to take the writing instruments of life to create their own narratives. An element that inspired me to begin The New Stereotype (TNS) and consequently launch my site is the fact that I didn't want to wait for a company to hire me to do what I love. Instead of waiting for an opportunity that aligned with my aspirations, I created one. When it's our time to end this life and go to heaven, no one can do that for us. So, now that we are blessed with this opportunity to live, no one should do that for us either.
Ariel Lopez, 25
(Photo: Dwayne Hills)
- Being young, Black and lit affords me the power to live out my dreams and help others live out theirs! My youth gives me the spirit and hunger to hustle, my Blackness gives me resiliency and purpose and my lit-ness allows me to do things my way and on my terms.
Bijan Stephen, 24
(Photo: Madeleine Peters, Vice)
- I think what it really affords me is the ability to imagine a bright, equitable future.
Kelechi Anyadiegwu, 26
(Photo: Shoccara Marcus)
- Being young, Black and lit provides me with the opportunity to see the world in different perspectives. I see the world as a millennial, a Black woman, a creative and much more. Using these different experiences to create narratives and form new ideas ad innovations. I don't know where I would be without these schools of thought making an impact on the way I see the world.
Ofo Ezeugwu, 24
(Photo: Vanessa Edwards)
- Being young, Black and lit gives the words I say purpose. Growing up Black in America means always being aware of how you look and how you're perceived every single day. The ability to withstand a lot of what's meant, purposefully or not, to trip you up creates internal confidence, tremendous humility and a clearer view of what's happening in front of you. When I speak to people about my journey, there's natural feelings of passion and authenticity received. People support those who they admire, not necessarily because of what they do, but, more importantly, because of how and why they do it. Being recognized as young, Black and lit means people respect my "purpose."
Lakin Starling, 24
(Photo: Lakin Starling)
- Being young, Black and lit affords me the opportunity to connect with a lot of my peers through the things that we love about ourselves and our culture. As a music and culture journalist, it also opens up the possibility for me to dive into topics and issues that affect us all while offering a relatable perspective and creating dialogue. I always shy away when people tell me I’m “lit,” because I feel like I can always do more to show up for us and not only talk about cool things but really do significant work. Having the reach to do so is really dope but the most exciting part about being young and Black with my hands in a lot of different projects is that I’m both inspiring others and learning from all of the other phenomenal people who storm the streets of New York with me. Being in this space isn’t so much about popularity for me. It constantly pushes me to always answer the question, “So what I am going to do here that will leave a lasting impact on my people?” I’m really just out here rooting for us to get free and flourish.
Rafael Smith, 30
(Photo: Courtesy of Rafael Smith)
- Senior Product Designer at IDEO
- Being young and Black in America has afforded me the power to notice complexities and nuances in the world. I am a product designer, which at its core, is the ability to creatively problem-solve and having the capacity to see and navigate complexities and nuances has been foundational in my career.
Being young and Black in America, for me, has also come with the comfort of knowing I am standing on the shoulders of giants. I am walking down the trodden path left by James Baldwin, Malcolm, Ella Baker and every person who has ever struggled for liberation. I am only continuing the tradition of excellence and there is power in knowing that.
Sylvia Obell, 26
(Photo: Sylvia Obell)
- It affords me the power to bring my mind/experiences to the conversation, to be part of the tribe of scribes out here making sure our generation is represented in the media, to push certain convos on social media #fortheculture — all while being my Black-ass self. It's important to me to use whatever platform I have to make content that is fun, insightful and unique while giving the next generation of Black kids examples of themselves to see and inspire, because as crazy as this world can be (especially for us), dreams come true everyday. Everyone on this list is proof.
Kinnison Cyrus, 23
(Photo: Kinnison Cyrus)
- I love to give the younger generation key knowledge that I think is very important to grooming the new young, Black and lit – mentorship. There are other perks such as hanging with celebs and meeting important people, but when that stops the question remains: Did you value the time you had?
Angel and Dren, 25
(Photo: Chase Freeman)
- It affords us the power to be strong and decisive in pursuing music.
Bernard James, 25
(Photo: Daniel Denefrio)
- Versatility. Something that is so sought after but can never be bought.
Malaika Nicholas, 24
(Photo: Courtesy of Malaika Nicholas)
- Techie, Community Manager at Dashlane
- Being young gives me the power to show my peers that I have what it takes to run with the big dogs. Being a Black woman has given me a powerfully written voice I never knew I had. With my written words, I now have the opportunity share both the vocal and suppressed thoughts, feelings, and experiences that reverberate throughout the African-American community. And being lit forced me outside of my comfort zone. As a result, I've met some of the most inspirational people, traveled around the world, learned new skills and taught myself how to love and appreciate the woman I've become.
Gioncarlo Valentine, 25
(Photo: Stephen Obisanya)
- Being young, Black and lit affords me the ability to truly learn from my predecessors. My favorite photographic artists from the past made work that was insurmountably important, often times creating a voice for Black people. Artists like Eli Reed, Gordon Parks and James Van Der Zee made work that stands the test of time. I long to make work like that, that speaks to and for many Black people with many different Black experiences. Following in their footsteps, I know the things to avoid, the major takeaways and when I reach my full potential as a photographer, how to leave a blueprint. I'm also lit because I am Black, so it's my default setting!
Darian Harvin, 25
(Photo: Kristina Noa)
- I often asked myself this question but in different words. I'm not sure what being both Black and lit can afford me. In the pursuit you face a lot of disbelief from others in your abilities, so you attain a lot of grit in order to keep going. I think the pursuit of recognizing this power has given me a sense of confidence that others should recognize and respect me for.
Kenloy Henry, 26
(Photo: Akua Dove)
- Educator, New York Teaching Fellow
- Being a young, Black and lit educator provides a social capital that helps me navigate the world. I'm aware of who I am and I bring my efficacy everywhere I go. Loving yourself is a revolutionary act and that love fuels my ability to be lit.
Morgan Jerkins, 24
(Photo: Sylvie Rosokoff)
- The ability to meet people of many different backgrounds and have them inspire me. Through my writing, I hope I can reciprocate.
Donovan Ramsey, 28
(Photo: Shayan Asgharnia)
- Writer and Fellow at Demos
- As I interpret it, [it] gives me the power to see the real from the fake in this world and the responsibility to speak truth to power.
Jamila Mustafa, 23
(Photo: Courtesy of Jamila Mustafa)
- The youth of today are the decision makers of tomorrow and our Black culture lives in every inch of our music, fashion and language. Now, being LIT means that you never wait for validation, because the confidence you hold in yourself is what the fabric that dreams are weaved around. If you are able to be young, Black and lit then you are most definitely #WINNING!
Justin Gerrard, 29
- As a tech entrepreneur, being young, Black and lit has empowered me to see my race and culture as a strategic advantage for innovation in an industry where most products and services are not looking to solve problems in our community. The changing demographics of an increasingly diverse America will put entrepreneurs of color at the forefront of the next billion dollar tech companies. It is exciting to be among a cohort of individuals working to shift paradigms in this space.
(Photo: Sebastian J)
Porscha Scott, 30
(Photo: Dwight Holden)
- To be young, Black and lit affords me the power to provoke extraordinary change. It affords me the power to be bold and fearless, to speak up for what’s right while fervently inspiring every person I encounter to do the same.
Michael Oloyede, 26
(Photo: Justin French)
- In today's world, being young, Black and lit affords me the power of choice. The choice to say I'm going to use my talents and skills to make a difference via storytelling. It has made me unapologetic for being born the person I am and that just adds fuel to my artistic fire.
Janel Martinez, 27
(Photo: Maureen Erokwu)
- It affords me the opportunity to live life on my own terms. Thanks to technology, Black creatives and innovators are able to start businesses a lot faster, tell stories that've often gotten ignored a lot faster and on our own platforms, and, ultimately, share knowledge with one another so that we continue to give back and develop within our communities. I live my life the best way I know how and hope it inspires another Afro-Latina, Black woman, to live her best, most fulfilling life.
Andre Wagner, 30
(Photo: Andre Wagner)
- Being young and Black affords me the ability to see the world through a perspective and show people what's lost in the flux of time to the naked eye. Photographing my neighborhood and people that look like me is crucial to my work and part of my reason for creating.
Andre Barnes, 29
(Photo: Elliott Ashby)
- I think my age, color and place in society commands a certain level of attention. The momentum is in favor of millennials. We're hip and influential to culture in ways that older heads can't ignore. The same goes for being Black, which is lit in and of itself. This isn't something I ever want to take for granted. I believe in paying it forward and doing what I can to empower others, as well.
Kwame Asare, 30
- Assistant Vice President at Commerzbank AG and Assistant Vice President of Citigroup
- Being young, Black and lit grants me a louder voice in my efforts of contributing to our people. In these current times, young, educated Black men/women are in a constant struggle to be heard and make changes to better our people.