Kids will turn in book reports on Medgar Evers (a leading civil rights activist) and Madame C.J. Walker (beauty guru and America’s first self-made female millionaire). And rightfully so: these proud individuals achieved notoriety for their meritorious tenacity and inventiveness.
Still, there are many contemporary men and women of color who are making history.
Take Tracy Reese: this maven of fashion has dictated style and femininity to discerning women ever since she graduated from the acclaimed Parsons School for Design.
Her wares have been showcased during New York Fashion Week and have been top-sellers in many chic shopping meccas like Saks Fifth Avenue and Anthropologie. Reese’s surveillance of what makes women look pretty – as opposed to garish and flashy – make her a favorite of hip honeys and classy girls who dare to be different.
Black musicians have also broken the mold, branching out into new and rarely explored genres.
When English band, Bloc Party (led by Kele Okereke, of Nigerian descent) released its hit debut, Silent Alarm, in 2005, the album became an instant classic. Bloc Party has been embraced by indie music fans the world over. Even Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe was reported to have called the band one of his favorites.
The Dears is another band fans have fallen in love with. Lead singer Murray Lightburn – who hails from Canada – has affectionately been called “the black Morrissey.”
His vocals are redolent of milk and honey. As a result, the Dears have opened for top-selling acts like Sloan and Keane.
For fans of the written word, there is one woman who stands to take her place in literary history. Author ZZ Packer released her highly praised book of short stories called Drinking Coffee Elsewhere in 2003. Packer has taken her Ivy League education (she attended Yale as an undergrad, Johns Hopkins as a grad student) and forcefully demonstrated that a girl from a small town in Kentucky could do great things in life. Since her book was published, she has won the prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship as well as becoming the Lurie Distinguished Visiting Professor of Creative Writing at San Jose State University during the Spring 2008 semester.
And, in the world of science and technology, people like Cierra McDonald (a program manager at Microsoft) and Cedric Coco (a general manager of engineering excellence, also at Microsoft) have helped to construct the everyday foundations of how the world gathers and receives its information.
While it’s always important to remember where you come from, it’s equally imperative to know where you’re going. Each of these featured men and women are inspiring the world around them, one enterprise at a time.