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Tomorrow's Leaders: 13 Faces to Watch

All under age 50, these young African American activists are carrying the torch for change

Cory Booker, 45

En español | As mayor of Newark, N.J., Booker showed his accessibility by living in public housing and becoming a Twitter fanatic. He once even rescued a neighbor from her burning house. Booker won a special election to the U.S. Senate in 2013, and was elected to a full term in 2014.

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Charlene Carruthers, 29

Carruthers' passion is mentoring young activists to become leaders who fight for the rights of voters, workers and immigrants and against unequal treatment of women. According to her Twitter profile, she's "living at the intersection of blackness + womanhood + discovery."

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Majora Carter, 47

Growing up in New York, Carter saw her South Bronx neighborhood used as a dumping ground. So she started efforts to carve out public parks and bring environmental jobs to the area, and has exported the lessons she learned at home to communities around the world.


Rosa Clemente, 42

A community organizer and feminist, Clemente speaks out against rap lyrics that glorify violence against women. In a recent Google Hangout, the 2008 Green Party vice presidential candidate said: "We need brothers … to stand up against rape culture."


Ta-Nehisi Coates, 39

The national correspondent and blogger dives into culture, politics and social issues for The Atlantic. His essay "Fear of a Black President" considered Barack Obama's multiracial heritage from multiple angles. "Equality that requires blacks to be twice as good," he wrote, "is not equality — it's a double standard."


Kelly Fair, 35

She was named a "Neighborhood Hero" for mentoring girls in Chicago, and her accomplishments have also been celebrated by first lady Michelle Obama at the White House. Fair’s nonprofit, Polished Pebbles, emphasizes communication skills, peaceful conflict resolution and career preparation.

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Van Jones, 46

After making his mark as a young human rights activist focused on police brutality, Jones became an advocate for "green-collar jobs," which provide a living wage, improve the environment and spur development. Today he cohosts CNN's Crossfire.

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Mia Love, 39

The U.S. representative for Utah's 4th Congressional District and former mayor of Saratoga Springs, Utah, celebrated MLK Jr.'s birthday last year with this thought: "Dr. King wanted freedom, and I don’t believe he ever intended for any of us, whether black, white or any other color or group, to receive special status in society."

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Thione Niang, 37

Born in Senegal and now living in the United States, Niang founded the Give1Project to train young leaders around the world how to tackle poverty and underdevelopment. "No child should have to die because of lack of clean drinking water," he told Congress in 2010.


Steve Perry, 45

Perry is the founder and principal of Capital Preparatory Magnet School in Hartford, Conn., a pre-K to 12th grade program that sends nearly all of its graduates to four-year colleges. His mantra: Higher expectations for underserved children will lead to their success.

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T.W. Shannon, 36

The speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives is also a member of the Chickasaw Nation. Even those who have little, he says, "will tell you that dependence on government doesn't work," while "personal responsibility" is essential.


Bryant Terry, 41

The chef and author of Vegan Soul Kitchen credits his grandparents in Memphis, Tenn., for inspiring him "to grow, prepare and appreciate good food." Whether judging a "vegan gumbo cook-off" or writing about a vegetarian Thanksgiving, Terry is more than a foodie; he's a health activist.


The Rev. Lennox Yearwood Jr., 45

Since 2003, Yearwood has organized efforts to register young voters, encourage community service and support human rights with such hip hop luminaries as Sean "Diddy" Combs, Russell Simmons and Jay-Z. He continues that work as president and chief executive of the Hip Hop Caucus.


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Originally published February 20, 2014
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