Who will be the next Barack and Michelle Obama? We take a look at the emerging political players in the trenches—elected officials, activists and local leaders making their mark in the nation’s capital and around the nation.
By Cynthia Gordy
Name: IMPACT: Joe D. Briggs, Adria F. Crutchfield, David J. Johns, Angela T. Rye and Ryan M. Scott
Position: IMPACT Board of Directors
The five directors behind IMPACT, a networking organization for young professionals of color—from Capitol Hill staffers to CEOs and nonprofit directors—understand the importance of making connections in Washington, D.C. But in addition to networking events, the group holds candidate forums, lecture series and roundtable discussions to help emerging leaders use their influence to achieve social change.
“We’re about young professionals of color highlighting and supporting each other in their endeavors, wherever they might be,” says Adria. F. Crutchfield, 28, IMPACT’s Director of Political Education and a Congressional liaison for the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Name: Addisu Demissie
Position: National Political Director at Organizing for America
Remember Obama for America, the well-oiled grassroots organization that helped get President Barack Obama elected? The movement gave way to Organizing for America, which has built on campaign momentum across the country to promote the President’s agenda—and Addisu Demissie is at the helm. The Yale Law School graduate, who worked on Hillary Clinton’s campaign though the Indiana primary, cites health care reform as one of his most critical goals.
“What I love about this work is that you’re putting one foot in front of the other, watching numbers grow,” he says, in reference to the organization’s swelling ranks of volunteers. “You always feel like you’re making a difference every day.”
Name: Cheryle Jackson
Position: President of Chicago Urban League, U.S. Senate candidate
As the current president of the Chicago Urban League, Jackson has worked to revitalize the city’s schools and neighborhoods through economic development programs. Now she’s ready to hit the national stage by running for the Illinois U.S. Senate seat once held by President Barack Obama and currently occupied by Senator Roland Burris. Jackson, who once served as the top aide to former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich and counts President Obama as a friend, says she’s running to bring a different perspective to government.
“There is no plan in the federal, state or local level to develop economic opportunities in communities where few have existed before in Illinois,” says Jackson.
Name: Isadore Hall
Position: California State Assemblyman
Representing the 52nd Assembly District that includes his hometown of Compton, Isadore Hall is the youngest African-American in California state legislature. He previously served in Compton’s City Council, where he oversaw efforts to boost funding for schools and hire better teachers, and promote small business growth. Just days after taking office in the 80-member California Assembly last December, Assembly Speaker Karen Bass appointed him to her leadership team. He currently serves as Assistant Speaker pro Tempore.
Name: Oscar Braynon II
Position: Representative, Florida House of Representatives
The Democratic Deputy Whip of the Florida House of Representatives, Oscar Braynon II represents the Miami suburb of Miami Gardens. Having previously served as a City Council member and Vice Mayor of Miami Gardens, in 2006 he was featured in Ebony magazine’s “30 Leaders Under 30” feature on emerging politicos. His major goals include bringing down homeowner insurance rates and securing funds for public transit and public safety.
Name: Dyonicia Brown
Position: Communications and Outreach Director for ServeDC
In the same vein as the President and First Lady’s call for national service, ServeDC is the D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty’s call to service. Dyonicia Brown is the woman behind the Office on Volunteerism’s marketing, outreach and public relations, working to boost the spirit of service amongst D.C. residents through partnerships with civic groups, government agencies, and national service programs. Brown worked for Phillip Morris USA before joining the public sector.
Name: Andrew Gillum
Position: City Commissioner for Tallahassee, Florida
Andrew Gillum first entered politics as a 23-year-old student at Florida A&M University and became the youngest person ever elected to the Tallahassee City Commission. Dedicated to working at the local level, where he implements policies around the justice system, housing, and education, Gillum says one of his proudest accomplishments has been bringing a computer program to what had been one of the city’s worst-performing schools.
“A personal driver for me is helping out traditionally marginalized communities,” he says. “Those people who don’t usually find a voice or an advocate.”
Name: Angela Sailor
Position: Director of Coalitions for the Republican National Committee
After elected Chairman of the Republican National Committee this year, Michael Steele vowed to make the GOP younger and more diverse. His first step in achieving this goal was hiring Angela Sailor, who serves in a new department for the organization, targeting communities and constituencies that are traditionally underrepresented in the Party.
Sailor, who formerly served as the RNC Director of African-American Affairs, where she was charged with reaching out to Black voters during George W. Bush’s 2000 presidential campaign, is committed to taking the Republican message to all corners of the country.
Name: Stefanie Brown
Position: NAACP National Field Director
Responsible for organizing national campaigns for the 2,300 NAACP units across the country, Stefanie Brown trains members how to create a strategy around an issue, wield their collective power, launch petition drives, and talk to elected officials.
“I just took 40 students to Savannah, Georgia, to work on a campaign around Troy Davis [a death row inmate widely believed to be wrongfully convicted], and you could see the light bulbs going off in their minds,” says Brown, who previously served as the NAACP’s National Youth and College Division Director.
Is there an emerging African-American leader in your community? Tell us about who they are and what they’ve done below.