This was originally published by Campus Progress and is re-posted here with its permission.
Black History Month usually focuses on civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King Jr., Medgar Evers, and Malcolm X. But young black activists are making a difference today. Here are just a few you should know about.
At the age of 19, Marvelyn Brown contracted HIV/AIDS. She remained upbeat while battling her illness, and traveled around the world to share her story. In 2008, she published her autobiography, Naked Truth: Young, Beautiful, and (HIV) Positive. Since then, Brown has become the CEO and Independent HIV Consultant for Marvelous Connections and an ambassador for the Greater Than AIDS Campaign.
As a teenager with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, Darius Weems had never left his hometown of Athens, Ga. With the help of friends and a counselor at Project REACH, a youth and adult-run, multiracial, multi-gender, grassroots, anti-discrimination, youth organizing center, he took a cross-country trip to Los Angeles, hoping that he might get his wheelchair revamped on the MTV show, Pimp My Ride. His trip was documented in the documentary film Darius Goes West, which helped raise awareness of disability rights and the need for wheelchair accessibility across the nation.
Zim Ugochukwu is a senior at University of North Carolina–Greensboro and founded her own organization, Ignite Greensboro, which seeks to engage young people in their communities. Ugochukwu started the organization to open the International Civil Rights Center and Museum to remember the Greensboro sit-ins that were instrumental to the civil rights movement. Ugochukwu has been named one of Glamour's 20 Amazing Young Women and won an award for her activism from Campus Progress in 2010.
Growing up in Memphis, Tenn., Bryant Terry learned to appreciate the cultivation of good food; he soon became an eco-chef and food activist. In 2002, Terry founded b-healthy!, a project encouraging youth to create a more sustainable food system. He “has used cooking as a tool to illuminate the intersections of poverty, structural racism, and food insecurity,” according to his website.
Charlene Carruthers grew up on the South side of Chicago and is a writer, organizer, and activist who tweets under the name @nvrcomfortable. She managed to use a combination of social media and in-person fundraising to gather more than $1,400 worth of donations to send herself to Haiti following the earthquake last August. She plans to return to do more community development in the future. A graduate of Illinois Wesleyan University and Washington University in St. Louis, Carruthers has worked with the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, Lawyer's Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and the Center for Community Change. She blogs at The Freedom Pages.
With his uncle sitting on death row, De’Jaun Correia has been speaking out against the death penalty. Correia is only 16 years old, but he has already spoken to the British Parliament and will be the keynote speaker at the Amnesty International Youth Summit next month, raising awareness of the death penalty and his uncle’s situation. In January, Correia was chosen as one of The Root’s 25 young futurists and innovators.
A 2010 graduate of the University of Alabama, Kendra Key, ran for student body president, a position that has long been held by a white student. Though Key narrowly lost the race, she brought attention to black representation in student government at her school. Key was also awarded a Truman Scholarship and now works in Washington, D.C. for Rep. Terri Sewell (D-Ala.).
As a journalist, Jimmie Briggs witnessed the struggles of child soldiers during wars in Afghanistan, Uganda, Rwanda, Colombia, and Sri Lanka. He documented his findings in Innocents Lost: When Child Soldiers Go to War in 2005. Briggs co-founded the Man Up Campaign to encourage youth to stop violence against women and girls, and he became the first African American appointed as a Goodwill Ambassador.
Since he first came to the United States with $20 and little fluency in English, Thione Niang has become a political activist and consultant. He campaigned for Barack Obama during the 2008 presidential election and was national chairman for the Young Democrats of America college caucus. Niang is now the CEO of the Give1Project to encourage youth to become community leaders.
Although she had superior grades and performance in high school, Kayla Vinson had to convince school officials to allow her into advanced classes, where black students were a minority. Now a senior at Yale University, Vinson is focusing her research on black male students and hoping to pursue a career in reforming the education system, according to The Root.