When we sat down to plan our annual Power Issue, we knew we wanted to create something special. So we dispatched Senior News Editor Tatsha Robertson to Washington, D.C., to interview Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and we assigned veteran journalist Charlayne Hunter-Gault (below) to travel to Monrovia, Liberia’s capital, to interview President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. Both of these amazing features paint compelling portraits of women at the uppermost levels of influence and authority who face incredible challenges.

While these stories, along with our cover feature on Hollywood titan Queen Latifah (“She’s the Boss,” page 180), offer remarkable insights, it’s our feature on 15 notable power players that makes us most proud. Within this seven-page package, you’ll meet ordinary sisters who are accomplishing the extraordinary in the fields of medical research, politics, entertainment and more. Each woman is impressive in her own right, but what really makes the group outstanding is their collective impact on our lives. All share a firm commitment to serving our communities and making a difference in the lives of others.

Kawanna Brown, chief operating officer of Magic Johnson Enterprises, personifies that spirit. This dynamic executive, 34, drives the organization’s efforts to develop businesses in our underserved and overlooked communities. When I first met Kawanna at an awards program sponsored by the Network Journal, a magazine that focuses on Black professionals and small-business owners, I was impressed with her enthusiasm for her firm’s objectives. She glowed as she told me that the company’s development arm, Johnson Development Corp., and Starbucks are jointly poised to open their one hundredth partnership store this year. This move is significant because it demonstrates the organization’s unwavering commitment to bringing quality products, services and jobs—essentials we all know have been lacking in many urban areas—into our neighborhoods. Kawanna’s mission, and that of the Magic Johnson brand, go beyond the bottom line.

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We hope our special Power Issue inspires you to advance your own career and community. E-mail me at angela@essence.com to let me know who motivates you.