Black History Month often uplifts renowned trailblazers leading national calls for institutional change. Leaders like Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X., Ella Baker, Medgar Evers, Ida B. Wells, Fannie Lou Hamer, and many more have all been catalysts for progressive change in America that continues to impact all Americans today. Just like these historic changemakers, grassroots freedom fighters today are creating the change that will be talked about for generations to come. Here are 10 who are on the ground continuing to lead the fight for racial justice:
Andrea J. Ritchie
Andrea Ritchie has used her platform to document, organize, advocate and litigate around issues surrounding policing, the criminalization of Black women, girls, and LGBTQ people for decades. Ritchie has also co-founded the the Interruption Criminalization intiative with Mariame Kaba, as well as the In Our Names Network, a collaboration of over 20 organizations working together to end police violence against Black women, girls, trans and gender nonconforming people. She is known for her books, Say Her Name:Resisting Police Brutality Against Black Women, Queer (In)Justice: The Criminalization of LGBT People in the United States and the forthcoming No More Police: A Case for Abolition, and Invisible No More: Police Violence Against Black Women and Women of Color.
Currently a contributing writer for The New Yorker, Taylor continues to speak out about economic justice in many of her pieces that have been published by the Los Angeles Times, Boston Review, Paris Review, The Guardian, The Nation, and The New York Times.
Speaking out against racial inequality and politics that affect our communities’ economic circumstances, Taylor authors Race for Profit: How Banks and the Real Estate Industry Undermined Black Homeownership, published in 2019 by University of North Carolina Press. The publication explains how the black community has been so deeply effected economically by the discriminatory housing market that the lack of property ownership dramatically decreases our overall wealth status. Race for Profit was a semifinalist for the 2019 National Book Award and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in History in 2020.
Founder of The Detroit Black Community Food Security Network (DBCFSN), which started in 2006, Yakini and his team address the food insecurity in Detroit’s Black community.
Yakini, his team and members of DBCFSN are breaking barriers by advocating for an urban agriculture industry predominantly led by younger white people in Detroit. DBCFSN works to educate the Detroit community about the control the white communities have over the food sources in their neighboorhoods and how food insecurity continues to harm Black communities. DBCFSN continues to put in efforts to foster food justice and food security in Detroit by creating a model urban agricultural projects that foster self-reliance and food consciousness.
They now own seven acres of land where they grow fruits and vegetables of 30 different types, practice environmental wellness and educate their communities through given tours.
Amplifying marginalized voices from the impact of mass incarceration, Sawari founded SawariMedia to promote a new narrative around incarceration conditions of state and private facilities. These facilities need to better serve incarcerated citizens and their families.
SawariMedia pushes decision makers to produce legislation in favor of incarcerated citizens and their families through their national newsletter, their Right2Vote Report, continues the movement to end felony disenfranchisement.
Paris Hatcher, founder of Black Feminst Future (BFF), was created through her vision of a world where all Black women, girls, gender-expansive are treated safely and justly. The organization strives to encourage the development of Black feminist leaders, shift the material conditions for Black women, girls, and gender expansive people in the US and the across the diaspora and align and strengthen organizations and movements towards building a 21st century feminist movement guided by Black feminist politics.
Founder of Freedom Lifted, Mia Henry dedicated her organization to training and consulting groups who are looking to grow as leaders that are committed to racial gender and economic justice. Henry has led hundreds of justice and equity trainings, facilitated retreats and has provided strategic consulting. During the pandemic, she retired from the Civil Rights travel work and to focus solely on supporting leaders and organizations who want to lead with social justice values.
In her previous work as a public school teacher, associate director of Mikva Challenge, founding director of the Chicago Freedom School and executive director of the Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership at Kalamazoo College, she was able to spend time with youth and adults on developing activist leadership with a historical lens.
Eva Maria Lewis
In the wake of George Floyd’s murder and the guilt verdict, Eva Maria Lewis acknowledged and spoke out on the thousands of Black men and women murdered by the police that didn’t get the justice they deserve. Lewis founded the Free Root Operation organization in Chicago to combat gun violence, address the lack of accountability within police foundations, and to become an advocate for Chicago’s community needs.
Root Operation also runs the Chicago Fold Pairing Program, where donations are used to orchestrate food delivery for those in need in the Chicago area.
An organizer and strategist, Garza believes Black communities deserve what all communities deserve — to be powerful in every aspect of their lives. The Strategy & Partnerships Director for the National Domestic Workers Alliance, and the co-founder of Supermajority, Alicia founded Black Futures Lab in 2018 to politically empower and mobilize Black communities. Black Futures Lab conducted the Black Census Project which was the largest survey on Black people since Reconstruction Era. Black Futures Lab plans to use the research to identify pressing legislative and policy issues
LaTosha Brown, a community organizer, political strategist, and consultant, co-found Black Voters Matter (BVM) in 2018. Black Votes Matter is a voting rights and community empowerment organization that works on voter registration, get out the vote (GOTV), independent election-related expenditures, and organizational support & training for other grassroots groups. Most recently, BVM increased voter turnout in the 2020-2021 Georgia state election.
Independent Chicago hip hop artist Noname made headlines in 2019 after taking a focus on activism and starting her own educational book club, Noname Book Club, in 12 chapter cities across the country. Every month, the project would uplift two pieces of literature written by Black, indigenous, or other writers of color. Through gaining funds and support via Patreon and Twitter, she has expanded the project to be a “Black-led worker cooperative connecting community members both inside and outside carceral facilities” with an emphasis on support reading materials for the incarcerated.