Who is the first person you think about when you hear “Black History Month”?
Since the Civil Rights Era, which more or less ended in 1968, some may argue that there have not been many African-American leaders that we'll be celebrating in 50 years.
In fact, in 2013, Robert L. Johnson, the chairman of The RLJ Companies, conducted a poll, which found that 40% of African-Americans believe that “no one speaks for them.” That’s right, no one. Not Barack. Not Michelle.
The general sentiment is that there aren’t many young African-American leaders that are speaking for the African-American community. However, perception is not always reality. If we change our view on what it means to be a Black social leader in the modern age of digital organizing and activism, then we can see a new generation that’s filled with some of the most dynamic leaders of the last 30 years.
Decentralized local activists that work towards a common national goal have replaced the conventional ways of the past, where centralized activists were the face of national movements. Tweets and Facebook groups have replaced the era of grandiose speeches and national media broadcasts.
But in 50 years, will we recognize these current African-American leaders as deserving to be memorialized during Black History Month? Will we celebrate their ability to digitally mobilize thousands of people to march for social causes, or their ability to reach millions with 140 characters, as much as we celebrate the ability to organize the March on Washington or write such great literary pieces as “The Souls of Black Folks”?
Out of the young crop of African-American leaders - such as Phillip Agnew, Jesse Williams, Charlene Carruthers, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Tef Poe, and Nelini Stamp, to name just a few - will we get to see remembrances of their contributions in the next 50 years?