President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama
Voted “Most Influential” by 92% of ESSENCE.com readers, President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama present a priceless paradox for African Americans—they are utterly refreshing and at once completely familiar. The Kennedys may have occupied Camelot but President Obama; the effervescent First Lady, Michelle; their adorable daughters, Malia and Sasha; and First Grandmother Marian Robinson have ushered in the age of Glamelot. It’s a captivating portrait that’s changing hearts, minds and perceptions about Black men, Black women, Black children and Black love. And that’s change we can believe in.
Beyonce and Jay-Z
She can spark a international dance craze. He can sell out concerts in record time. Between movie deals, clothing lines and platinum album sales, entertainment and style icons Beyonce and Jay-Z rule over global pop culture. It’s no wonder they were in Forbes’ 2008 Highest Earning Couple, collecting $162 million.
Michael Jackson’s influence on both pop culture and African American culture is immeasurable. With record-breaking album sales and tours, the King of Pop’s imprint lives on forever.
Eric H. Holder Jr.
The nation’s first U.S. Black Attorney General came into his post with a strong emphasis on civil rights. He has increased funding to the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and vowed to work with law enforcement to end racial profiling. Recently Attorney General Holder approved the decision to bring suspected terrorist and 911 master mind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to trial in New York.
Actress Keke Palmer, 16, is the hardest working teen on television, juggling a music and acting career with style and confidence. On Nickelodeon’s “Tru Jackson VP” she plays a fashion maven. She has also had breakout roles in “Akeelah and The Bee” and “Madea Goes to Jail”.
President and CEO of Harlem Children’s Zone charter school, Geoffrey Canada founded the 97-block social science experiment composed of quality schooling from preschool to college with a strong support system for parents. On top of offering world-class education, the HCZ also offers prenatal as well as parenting classes, after-school arts, and obesity and asthma programs.
Congresswoman Barbara Lee
As chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, Congresswoman Lee is deeply committed to ending the spread of AIDS in the Black community. She has also successfully battled to eliminate funding for “abstinence-only” sex education and strongly supports condoms in prisons.
Oprah Winfrey called San Francisco district attorney “the female Barack Obama.” California’s first female African-American district attorney has solidified her superstar status by raising San Francisco’s felony conviction rate to 67 percent, the highest in a decade. Now she has her sights on becoming the state’s next attorney general.
At just 23, Candace Parker was named the rookie of the year and MVP in the same season by the WNBA. The 6-foot-4 Los Angeles Sparks forward’s recent pregnancy caused some to speculate about her game post-baby. Parker came back posting stats equivalent to her pre-baby performance.
Hailed as the best player in the world, 24-year-old NBAMVP LeBron James most wants to be a role model. In 2004 he created the LeBron James Family Foundation to provide empowering programs for children from single-parent households. His documentary “More Than a Game” showed youth how hard work and dedication can pay off.
Whether celebrating a turn-of-the-century seamstress in “Intimate Apparel”, a riches-to-rags career woman in “Fabulation” or a middle-class family on a quest to find their roots in “Mud, River, Stone”, Brooklyn-bred playwright Lynn Nottage, 45, puts Black women onstage and shows their fullness and complexity. She won the Pulitzer Prize for drama last April for “Ruined”, becoming the second Black woman to receive the award.
CNN anchor Soledad O’Brien crisscrossed the country to chronicle our triumphs and explore and find solutions to our challenges as African-Americans for the second installment of “Black in America”. O’Brien was part of the coverage teams that earned CNN a George Foster Peabody award for its Katrina coverage and an Alfred I. duPont Award for its coverage of the tsunami.
As CEO of Green for All, a national organization aimed at decreasing poverty through the development of green energy jobs, Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins, 33, successfully lobbied to include in the much-lauded clean energy bill special provisions ensuring that low-income communities have access to jobs created by the proposed legislation.
As anchor of “CNN Newsroom” Tony Harris Harris has become part of our daily news fix. He has covered numerous stories, including the return of democracy in Haiti, a human smuggling business stretching from Hong Kong to San Francisco’s Chinatown and the effects of Gulf War Syndrome on American soldiers.
As anchor of CNN Newsroom in the weekend Holmes has broken numerous major breaking news stories, including the terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India and the conflict between Russia and the former Soviet Republic of Georgia in 2008; the Virginia Tech.
CNN correspondent Joe Johns reports on government accountability, waste and fraud for Anderson Cooper 360° and other programs throughout the network. He played crucial role in the network’s America Votes 2008 coverage.
CNN White House correspondent Dan Lothian updates us on the President’s every move. He was the network’s Boston bureau chief prior to going to the White House.
CNN White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux covered Senator Barack Obama for an entire year and then trailed him to the White House. She has also interviewed former presidents George W. Bush, George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton and former first ladies Hillary Clinton and Laura Bush.
CNN anchor Fredericka Whitfield covers everything from the White House to the economy with with smarts, humor and a deep knowledge of past and current stories. She has also covered the Persian Gulf region during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Beijing, China during the 2008 Summer Olympic Games and Washington, D.C. during the 2009. presidential inauguration.
Kathie-Ann Joseph, M.D.
Harvard and Columbia graduate Dr. Kathie-Ann Joseph spearheaded an initiative with a life sciences research company to study Black women’s tumors and genes. She also plays a key role in setting diversity standards for cancer trials and research through the National Surgical Adjuvant Breast and Bowel Project.
Kevin Fenton, M.D.
Dr. Fenton, 43, who specializes in infectious diseases, may be the most effective weapon in the government’s fight against AIDS—the leading cause of death among Black women 25 to 34. Along with others from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), he developed a Heightened National Response (HNR), which targeted African-Americans.
Ursula M. Burns
With less than 16 percent of Fortune 500 corporate officer positions held by women, according to Catalyst research, Burns, who is the CEO and Director of the Xerox Corporation, has shattered the idea that the only way to reach the highest office in the C-suite is through privilege and pedigree.
CNN anchor Don Lemon snagged the first live interview with Michael Jackson’s father shortly after the super-star’s death. His recent “Black Men in the Age of President Obama” CNN examined the issues Black men face in the age of Obama.