7 Influential Black Leaders to Follow in 7 Different Industries

By recommendation, you might want to research, follow, read, watch, and listen to these influential voices.

We have made a shortlist of 7 multi-talented Black leaders in 7 different job occupations. Included are film directors, writers, poets, activists, actors, comedians, and editorsall these leaders hold more than one title. This list introduces voices that are unapologetic about supporting the Black community. Tackling many ‘First Black Person to…’ and making purposeful space in their individual industries for Black excellence and the youth who follow them.

These short bios could never portray the immense work and progress these leaders have made in the Black community nor in history. We want you to continue to watch films, read books, but become intentional about doing your research. Ask questions like, “What other films have these directors produced?” “Were these films based on real-life stories?” “What other books has this author written?” Black people have been fighting discrimination, racism, bigotry, and other injustices for 400 years. It’s on you to want to understand it.

Start your research, down below.

Matthew A. Cherry

Matthew is an American film director, writer, producer, and former American football player. Most recently, he wrote a book called Hair Love which he directed into an oscar-winning short film. The story follows a young father who is faced with the trouble of doing his daughter’s curly hair for the first time. Matthew’s vast portfolio includes work for TBS, CBD, and ABC making him a great person to follow in the film industry. Cherry has served as executive producer for both Spike Lee and Jordan Peele and has developed outstanding projects that feature black creatives you should get to know. 

Ava DuVernay

Ava is a writer, producer, and director. Her directorial work has included projects such as Selma, the criminal documentary the 13th, Disney’s A Wrinkle in Time, and many more. DuVernay’s influential work has earned her the well-deserved title of the ‘Highest-grossing Black Woman Director’ in American box office history. Her Netflix project When They See Us highlighted the infamous case of The Central Park Five, where 5 men were unjustly accused of a crime they did not commit. After serving years in prison until they were exonerated, the real-life Black men were able to protest for justice for George Floyd this past week. Emotional pictures of Kori Wise flooded several timelines. Duvernay is someone who amplifies the voices of people of color and all women and whose films provide insight for all who watch.

Yara Shahidi

Yara is a model, actress, and more importantly—an activist. As the spokesperson for the younger generation, Yara has engaged in conversations and encourages voting among her generation. Shahidi is open about her hopes for effective social change and appears on the show Black-ish as well as the spinoff—Grownish. She has interviewed powerful political figures and done transformative work for several non-profit organizations. There is no doubt why her enrollment into Havard was supported through a recommendation of first lady, Michelle Obama. Posting IGTV’s for her followers to rewatch and sharing great call-to-action posts, Yara is a young voice to follow.

Trevor Noah

Trevor is a comedian, political commentator, and television host. For a long time, he has been using his platform to address the topics that are just unveiling themselves to others today. As one of ‘The 35 Most Powerful People in New York Media,’ his 18-minute long address on the prevalent topics of today talked about the domino effect that has and is happening in today’s news cycle. On the Daily Show, he offered his thoughts while discussing systematic racism in America, Amy Cooper, Ahmed Arbury, George Floyd, Coronavirus, unemployment, and the protests. In his autobiographical comedy book, Born a Crime, Noah recounts his childhood in South Africa and encounters while under the apartheid government. You can follow Noah on various news outlets and social media to learn more about his story. 

Quinta Brunson

Quinta is an American writer, producer, comedian, and actress. Her production Girl Who Has Never Been on a Nice Date which was release on BuzzFeed Video and not long after, she became a viral but longlasting sensation. Launching her career in comedy, her most recent adventure was her through her dynamic character on HBO’s A Black Lady Sketch Show, a project full of firsts. The first all-Black women writer’s room, first Black woman sketch director, and the first sketch series in which the cast was composed entirely with Black women. While Quinta is vocal on Instagram, she is persistent on Twitter. Retweeting threads on her timeline, fundraisers to donate to, and facts the media is neglecting to share. With her personal witty touch sprinkled throughout, Quinta’s voice is one that will and should be heard.

Elaine Welteroth

Elaine is an American journalist, editor, and yes—a New York Times best-selling author. She became the second African-American to hold such a title in Condé Nast’s 107-year history, after being named editor-in-chief of Teen Vogue 4 years ago. Her book More Than Enough: Claiming Space for Who you Are is a memoir and manifesto to the influential impact she had in the publishing industry. Making space for her own skin, identity, and culture by reflecting on her experience working at a predominately white company. For those who have had similar struggles, an instant connection with Elaine is made. But beyond her amazing career thus far, her Brooklyn stoop wedding is a pure example of black love. Following Elaine, you can expect to see Zoom calls to participate in, impactful events she has attended, posts of intention, and of course fashionable clothes. Elaine uses her feed to amplify Black voices, Black-owned businesses, people of color, women, and people that truly put in the effort to make a difference.

Yrsa Daley-Ward

Yrsa is a model, actor, and writer. Her memoir, The Terrible, talks about women’s black bodies and her experiences as a person of West African and West Indian heritage while raised in England. Her spoken word poetry book, Bone covers topics on identity, race, mental health, and femininity. Dubbed the “Instagram Poet,” Yrsa engages with her followers on Instagram through daily writing prompts including thought-provoking questions. She has appeared in Ted Talks and created a variety of books for you to research to help start conversations. Follow Yrsa if you are trying to find ways to reflect and use your voice on your platform.

Illustration by @zaynscandycane on Twitter.

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