Today’s Freedom Fighters
Over the last decade, social justice has become a priority for more Americans. The U.S. has seen a widespread awakening across generations, cultures, and income brackets. In the aftermath of George Floyd’s death, the protests of 2020 were younger and more racially and ethnically diverse, and the call for change was louder than ever. In response, a new class of activists across the country have used their voices to speak out and advance the charge against social and environmental racism, homophobia, threats to voting rights, and other issues impacting our communities. It is imperative that the culture has leaders, who are consistently battling social injustice and influencing others to act. This Black History month, Global Grind is recognizing the freedom fighters who are pushing the needle in today’s fight for change.
James Rucker cofounded Color Of Change in the devastating aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The mishandling of government resources and the displacement of thousands of Louisiana residents led to Rucker’s founding of the country’s largest online racial justice organization.
According to their official website, Color of Change helps people respond effectively to injustice in the world around us. As a national online force driven by 7 million members, CoC moves decision-makers in corporations and government to create a more human and less hostile world for Black people in America.
Born and raised in Monterey, California, the Stanford grad is also cofounder of Citizen Engagement Lab (CEL), an incubator focused on the creation and support of online organizations designed to empower underrepresented and organized communities to create political and social change.
James Rucker has been successful in using the internet to impact change in big tech. Color of Change pushed Twitter to release their internal diversity statistics and has caused Zoom to establish a chief diversity officer. In a press release from The Leadership Conference Education Fund Rucker stated:
“I went into advocacy using the internet and technology… as a vehicle because I believe that the problem with our democracy is participation,” Rucker has shared in an interview. “If we’re going to say that we’re going to be a democracy and we want to be a model for the world, we have to act like it.”
Nikole Hannah-Jones is Pulitzer Prize-winning American journalist covering racial injustice for The New York Times Magazine. Her 2020 essay The 1619 Project has sparked a voice of change, tracing the very role black Americans have played in the rise of the nation, including democracy itself.
According to The NY Times, The 1619 Project won a News Leaders Association Award and received a special honor from the George Polk Awards. Nikole is also a finalist for a Scripps Howard Award in opinion and a National Magazine Award.
Ms. Hannah-Jones attended the University of Notre Dame for her bachelor’s in history and African-American studies, then pursued a master’s in journalism and mass communication from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She’s now taking charge in Brooklyn with her husband and daughter at her side.
“White Americans desire to be free of a past they do not want to remember, while Black Americans remain bound to a past they can never forget.”
― The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story
Little Miss Flint
When the city of Flint, Michigan changed its municipal water supply source from the Detroit-supplied Lake Huron water to the Flint River in 2014, it caused water distribution pipes to corrode and contaminate public drinking water. Since then, the city has been facing what is now called the Flint water crisis.
In 2016, 8-year-old Mari Copeny, aka Little Miss Flint, wrote to President Obama, voicing her concerns about the public health crisis in her hometown. To which the President responded with a visit!
Hello my name is Mari Copeny and I’m 8 years old, I live in Flint, Michigan and I’m more commonly known around town as “Little Miss Flint”. I am one of the children that is effected by this water, and I’ve been doing my best to march in protest and to speak out for all the kids that live here in Flint. This Thursday I will be riding a bus to Washington, D.C. to watch the congressional hearings of our Governor Rick Snyder. I know this is probably an odd request but I would love for a chance to meet you or your wife. My mom said chances are you will be too busy with more important things, but there is a lot of people coming on these buses and even just a meeting from you or your wife would really lift people’s spirits. Thank you for all that do for our country. I look forward to being able to come to Washington and to be able to see Gov. Snyder in person and to be able to be in the city where you live.
In 2023, the water crisis still isn’t over and Little Miss Flint continues to empower people in her community to stand up for their right to clean water and encourage young people to make their voices heard in the fight for equal opportunity.
David J. Johns is the executive director of the National Black Justice Coalition who has dedicated his life to the empowerment of the Black LGBTQ community. National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC) is a civil rights organization whose mission is to end racism, homophobia, and LGBTQ bias and stigma.
Johns was appointed by forever President Barack Obama himself, as leader of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans in 2013. David served under Obama until his term officially ended in January 2017 and he began his next chapter as director of the NBJC.
Johns was a senior education policy advisor to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) prior to his stint at The White House. Under his advice, HELP pushed change on issues affecting low-income and minority students, neglected youth, early childhood education, and Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).
Melanie Campbell is best known for her voting rights activism as the president and CEO of The National Coalition on Black Civic Participation. Campbell studied at Clark Atlanta University where she became involved in social justice campaigns after joining the NAACP as a student organizer in 1980.
Melanie’s focus is voter inclusion and equal access to ballots. In turn, she’s been instrumental in bringing our young Black voters in the last several elections. Her “Black Youth Vote!” program registered 200,000 voters for 2004, 2008, and 2012 national elections, according to NCBCP.
“My mission in life is to do my part, but also to lift others along the way, make sure Black women are not invisible,” – Melanie Campbell (The Washington Post, 2020)
February is Black History Month but social injustices take place year-round. These freedom fighters are greatly impactful in pushing for change and speaking up for those whose voices have gone unheard for far too long, and for that, we say thank you!
Black History Month 2023: Today's Freedom Fighters
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