Earlier this year, I wrote a piece titled Nine Black Women in Politics, Pop Culture And Podcasts To Look Up To. I think it's about time to recognize the brothers who are standing on the front lines for the black community in their own ways as well. Some you know, and hopefully you can learn about others. Although the list could go on, here are nine black men who currently inspire me through their brave activism and brilliant artistry.
1. Dr. Wes Bellamy
Photo: Wes Bellamy | TheRoot.com
Dr. Bellamy is the Vice-Mayor of Charlottesville, VA. A millennial, the 30-year-old is the youngest to ever be elected to Charlottesville City Council. I was originally unaware of his position as a city councilman in Virginia, where I am a resident and registered voter, until the aftermath of the recent Nazi protests near the University of Virginia. A 3-time HBCU graduate (from South Carolina and Virginia State Universities), he has used his education and experience to influence his community, politically through his commitment to advocating for the black community. It's imperative that young black people understand the importance of not only voting in local elections, but also that if you don't see a qualified candidate, it's possible to take matters into your own hands. Bellamy embodies the quote "Be the change you want to see, " and also inspires us to resist in the face of white rage. Recently, #WokeBae Angela Rye had Bellamy on her podcast On One with Angela Rye. Listen here.
2. Sterling K. Brown
Photo: Maarten de Boer
Ain’t nothing like a black king who loves himself a black queen. Brown proves his endless love for black women both on and off the screen. His talent became vastly recognized for his playing O.J. Simpson in The People vs O.J. Simpson, for which he won an Emmy for Best Supporting Actor in a Series. This year, he starred alongside Chadwick Boseman in Marshall, and it was also announced that he's cast for 2018's Black Panther movie. But, arguably, Brown's most beloved role thus far has been Randall in NBC's This Is Us. His love for his on-screen wife, Beth, played by Susan Kelechi Watson, makes us all want to find black love. In last week's episode, when asked if he has a white wife, Randall's quick clap back collectively snatched all of shea butter Twitter's edges. “Don’t get it twisted. I wake up to a headscarf and coconut oil, I’m married to a black queen.” YAS, writer's room!
3. Justin Fairfax
After last week’s election results, I am proud to say I’m a Virginian. The recently (within the past few years) turned blue state elected Fairfax as Lieutenant Governor, despite the racial obstacles he faced during the campaigning process. Although I’m elated that the Democrats have managed to steal a little bit of shine, Fairfax's photo was somehow left off campaign posters along the way -- not by mistake. Can you guess why? And yet, he persisted. Fairfax is the second African American to be elected statewide in Virginia since the Civil War.
4. Deray McKesson
Deray McKesson rose to prominence (and has since reached 1 million Twitter followers) during the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement. In 2015, he and fellow BLM activists created Mapping Police Violence, which documented data on people killed by police in the United States, and shortly after, launched Campaign Zero, a ten-point policy plan for police reform. A Baltimore native, McKesson announced his candidacy for mayor of his hometown last year, and finished 6th in Democratic primary. Soon after, he was selected to become Interim Chief Human Capital Officer of Baltimore City Public Schools in 2016; but recently stepped down to focus on his social justice activism, and his ever-so-woke podcast — Pod Save The People. The podcast, co-hosted by Brittany Packet (@MsPackyetti), Clint Smith III (@ClintSmithIII) and Sam Sinyangwe (@samswey) breaks down policy issues and potential reform in a way many interested in seeing change can understand. McKesson doesn't just talk about staying woke but, as Angela Rye says, how we can work woke in the struggle for progress. Listen to their latest episode on the Election Day here.
5. Malcolm Jenkins
Within the past year, a few black NFL players have been recognized for their bravery in voicing their concerns on racial inequality both on and off the field. Jenkins, safety for the Philadelphia Eagles has followed suit in national anthem protests by both kneeling and raising a fist and unafraid through it all. Recently on CNN, Jenkins spoke about his journey protesting over the past year and how he plans to continue his boycotting. Just today, during the rally for Meek Mill in Philadelphia, Jenkins spoke out against the rapper’s unjust sentence to 2-4 years in prison for probation violation.
“We cannot sit back and watch our brothers and sisters get hauled off to prison,” said Jenkins, according to Penn Live. It’s promising to know that black men are fighting for each other, even when their careers are in jeopardy.
6. Chance the Rapper
Chance the Rapper has proven time and time again that he’s more than just a rapper -- but also a voice for his generation and activist for equal opportunity and fair treatment. He’s made it his business to stay on Chicago City Council officials by consistently voicing his concerns toward Chicago public schools as well as the relationship between black Chicago citizens and the Chicago police department. Last week, he shared clips via Twitter of himself and others sitting in on a city council meeting, and hiimself specifically expressing his disagreement with the decision to invest 95 Million in police training (because it's "illogical") and when other areas, such as the school system still clearly need attention. Not to mention -- the windy city doesn’t have the funds in the first place. Chance won’t let up for his people, and I am here for it!
7. Jesse WIlliams
Many of us first fell in love with him Shondaland. Who knew the Grey's Anatomy star was a modern day MLK before last year’s BET Awards? Williams was presented the 2016 Humanitarian Award and so eloquently and passionately used that specific platform to make the statement of the year — “Just because we’re magic, doesn’t mean we aren't real.” Since, Williams has continued to advocate for justice and equality for black and brown bodies. He also recently co-founded the Ebroji company and Ebroji mobile app, but not only that, is partner and board member of Schoolu a mobile app that connects students directly to millions of dollars in unclaimed scholarships. The actor turned activist was the keynote speaker at Blavity’s AfroTech conference last weekend.
8. Shaun King
Shaun King is the Senior Justice Writer for the New York Daily News, and extremely vocal on social media about any and every injustice people of color face each and every day. He doesn’t miss a beat, and it’s important to acknowledge his ability to call BS on every issue concerning racism, mass incarceration, and any policies in place that criminalize blackness. King
He's not here for police brutality
Nor sexual assault
Nor NFL games this season
It's imperative to have voices such as King's to continuously remind us that there's no rest for the weary.
9. Colin Kaepernick
Martin Luther King Jr. said, "the ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
Kaepernick has faced the ultimate challenges of his career and has stirred a controversy that had not fiercely surfaced since Muhammed Ali refused to fight in the Vietnam War five decades ago. He understands that a man who won't stand for something will far for anything. Since he's been let go from the San Francisco 49ers and refused by pretty much every coach in the league, Kaepernick has shown his commitment to the good fight through charity, social justice initiatives, and continuing to sit out on the National Anthem. Despite losing his job, receiving endless negative criticism, hate mail and internet trolling, Kaepernick was just named GQ's Citizen of the Year, proving that he has made a significant impact on the movement. His I Know My Rights camp has transformed the lives of many young black youth. The camp is a free campaign for youth funded solely by Kaepernick with the goal to raise awareness of higher education, self-empowerment, and instruction to properly interact with law enforcement in various scenarios. The ten points he highlights are:
1. YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO BE FREE.
2. YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO BE HEALTHY.
3. YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO BE BRILLIANT.
4. YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO BE SAFE.
5. YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO BE LOVED.
6. YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO BE COURAGEOUS.
7. YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO BE ALIVE.
8. YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO BE TRUSTED.
9. YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO BE EDUCATED.
10. YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO KNOW YOUR RIGHTS.