Rev. Al Sharpton stands as the preeminent voice of numerous social issues ranging from racial injustice, gender equality, voting rights and police reform just to name a few. In the new biographical documentary, “Loudmouth,” Sharpton shares his journey as a local activist navigating a racially divided New York City in the 1980s to becoming an internationally recognized fixture in the world of social justice and beyond. He’s still making headlines by rending unapologetic statements about the travesties that plague our communities and has provided the archetype for other activists who refuse to stay closed-mouthed about racism, sexism, elitism and more.
Here are eight other “say it like they mean it” activists who have been inspired by Sharpton’s steadfast work over the decades and have used their voices to change the world.
Rev. William Barber, co-chair, Poor People’s Campaign
In 2013, Barber started the 'Moral Mondays' protests to address voter suppression. That grew into what is now the Poor People's Campaign, an advocacy for the disenfranchised. Recently he was named Professor in the Practice of Public Theology and Public Policy at Yale University.
Cori Bush, U.S. House of Representatives
The first African American woman to represent Missouri in Congress, Bush is a nurse, pastor and activist. A Democrat, she is a staunch advocate of police reform, increased minimum wage and reproductive rights, and is a supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Melanie Campbell, President and CEO, National Coalition on Black Civic Participation
A trailblazing activist and advocate for African Americans, namely Black women, youth, and immigrants, Melanie Campbell has served as a political appointee of former Atlanta mayor Amb. Andrew Young, an adviser to U.S. presidents, and is convener of the NCBCP's Black Women's Roundtable. The BWR releases a yearly report on the status of Black women and has the Women of Power national summit each year during Women’s History Month.
Andrea Jenkins, President, Minneapolis City Council
The first openly transgender woman to be elected to public office in the United States, Andrea Jenkins is a widely recognized human rights activist and was among the first voices to say that that racism is a public health crisis after the death of George Floyd. Also an author, she is best known in literary circles for her anthology, The T is Not Silent: New and Selected Poems.
Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, Co-Founder, Urban Ocean Lab
A marine biologist, policy expert, conservation strategist and writer, Ayana Elizabeth Johnson has worked to highlight science, policy and advocacy in an effort to create awareness regarding climate change. She also co-founded the 'All We Can Save' project to get people more engaged in the issue and is the co-founder of Urban Ocean Lab, a think tank for developing policy solutions for coastal cities.
Brittany Packnett Cunningham, Co-Founder, Campaign Zero
The 2018 recipient of BET's "Shine A Light Award", Brittany Packnett Cunningham is co-founder of the police reform group Campaign Zero and was on President Barack Obama's Task Force on 21st Century Policing. She was a leader in the 2014 protests after the death of Michael Brown. In addition to her work as VP of Social Impact at BET, Packnett Cunningham also hosts a podcast, UNDISTRACTED, a weekly guide to the issues that pertain to social justice and feminism.
James Rucker, Co-Founder, Color of Change
Teaming up with CNN commentator Van Jones in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, James Rucker aimed at giving African Americans a stronger political voice. He also co-founded the Citizens Engagement Laboratory as a space for social entrepreneurs who wish to leverage the power of social media to change the world.
Bryan Stevenson, Founder, Equal Justice Initiative
With his leadership at the EJI, multiple cases of injustice in the criminal justice system have been addressed. Bryan Stevenson has won several U.S. Supreme Court cases including a 2012 ruling that banned mandatory life imprisonment for children. The EJI, which provides legal representation to those who have been wrongly convicted, unfairly sentenced, or abused in prison, has also won reversals or releases for 135 death row prisoners. You can see more of his story in the film, Just Mercy, adapted from Stevenson's 2014 memoir.
LOUDMOUTH premiers on Saturday, February 25 at 4:30 p.m on BET, BET Her, VH1 and will stream on BET+ following the "54th NAACP Image Awards". The film can also be seen on Showtime at a later date.
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