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Five African American Activists Changing the World

Updated May 17, 2022

While Black History Month provides an opportunity to honor African Americans, we shouldn't have to wait until February every year to celebrate those leaders that are making an impact. Young trailblazers like Amanda Gorman, the first National Youth Poet Laureate, is one example. When she read her poem at President Biden’s inauguration, she moved many members of the audience to tears and made a lasting impression on people around the world. However, Amanda Gorman is just one of many African American youth making an impact today. As a company that has made its mission to fight for racial justice, BCT Partners wants to recognize other young Black activists that are also making their mark on the world.

Mari Copeny refers to herself as a philanthropist, activist, and future President. And there’s not a person who meets her that doesn’t believe she’ll be in the White House one day. Mari first became publicly known during the Flint water crisis when she was only eight years old. Rather than sit back and wait for adults to fix the problem, she took it upon herself to reach out directly to President Obama. She later became known as “Little Miss Flint” after her letter prompted Obama not only to visit the city but to approve $100 million in aid. Mari has also used her platform to become a philanthropist. She has raised over $600K for her Flint Kids projects, $250KL to donate a million water bottles and $600K to produce and distribute her own water filters to pivot away from single-use water bottles. And she is just getting started. Look for her as a candidate on the Presidential ticket in 2044!

Nyeeam Hudson believes in being acknowledged for what’s in his head and not what he’s wearing. When he was bullied for having the wrong type of sneakers, he responded by taking positive action. At ten years old, Nyeeam created a YouTube video where he called out kids and their parents for being too materialistic. That one video turned into many more and launched his career as a motivational speaker. Using the name King Nahh, Nyeeam delivers brief, uplifting messages to hundreds of thousands of followers both online and at events globally. He recently wrote a book called “We Are All Kings – A Motivational Guide for Young Men” and has a line of t-shirts and hoodies that support causes he believes in, such as anti-bullying, leadership, and veganism. Nyeeam has also been featured in publications such as Forbes and The Huffington Post and has been interviewed numerous times on television.

Zyahna Bryant is a student activist and community organizer studying at the University of Virginia who works on issues of racial justice in Charlottesville, VA. At 12, she organized her first demonstration, a rally for justice for Trayvon Martin and other unarmed Black lives lost to police violence. In 2015, Zyahna spoke as a panelist advocating for public education funding and grants alongside local organizers and Bernie Sanders at his budget Town Hall in Charlottesville. Zyahna works to organize local teens and youth leaders to create awareness around race and inequity and how the achievement gap for Black youth is affected by the lack of equal access to good public schools. Zyahna also published a collection of poetry and essays titled "Reclaim” and serves as the youngest member of the inaugural Virginia African American Advisory Board appointed by Governor Ralph Northam. Zyahna has been named one of Teen Vogue’s 21 under 21 Young People Changing the World and featured in The New York Times, National Geographic, The New Yorker Magazine, CNN, and Vice News.

Brea Baker is an activist, writer, and speaker who started on the frontlines as a student activist and now is a national and global strategist. A graduate of Yale University, Brea has contributed to dozens of electoral and advocacy campaigns, including the 2017 Women's March (where she served as the youngest national organizer), the 2018 student walkouts against gun violence, Jumaane Williams' successful bid for NYC Public Advocate, and more. Brea contributes essays on race and gender to leading publications, including ELLE, Harper's Bazaar, Refinery 29, and more. Brea also speaks worldwide on topics such as the intersections of race, gender identity, public safety, and community at places including Yale University, Yale Law School, the United Nations' Girl Up, and The International Youth 2 Youth Summit, among others. Brea was recognized as a 2017 Glamour Woman of the Year and 2019 i-D Up and Rising for her work with other activists and organizers.

George Hofstetter is a CEO, software engineer, Innovation Fellow at Stanford University, motivational speaker, and mentor. He initially discovered his passion for tech when he was 13 years old and working as a sound technician at his local church. George participated in the Hidden Genius Project program, which gave him advanced coding abilities and strengthened his networking and leadership skills. At 16, he created “Connect the Dots,” a platform to help Black students at predominantly white private schools navigate racism on their campuses. He also launched his own tech company called GHTech, Inc. and created the app CopStop aimed at protecting black women and men detained by the police. The app acts as a "digital witness" by recording video stored on your phone that can be later used in court if necessary. It also sends text alerts and emails to your designated contacts to keep them apprised of the situation in real-time. George also conducts seminars on surviving police encounters and recently led a workshop at Colin Kaepernick's Know Your Rights Camp. During those sessions, he brainstorms with the group on potential solutions and uses that to inform his company’s program development to further help black communities. Don’t miss his TEDX talk on how technology can be a social justice superpower.

In summary, these five activists are just a sample of the Black youth making a positive difference. Whether they are standing up for others who can’t stand up for themselves or bringing issues to the forefront that have been ignored for too long, these young people aren’t waiting for someone else to lead the way. They are secure in their belief that they can influence society for good and no one is going to stop them. As one of the slogans on Nyeeam Hudson’s t-shirts appropriately summarizes it, “The next generation is watching.”

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