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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

  • Newark mayor Cory Booker sits and listens in the courtyard of an apartment complex on Hawthorne Avenue in Newark.
    Andy Mills/Star Ledger/Corbis

    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' passion is mentoring young activists to become leaders who fight for the rights of voters, workers and immigrants and against unequal treatment of women.
    Arcus Foundation

    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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  • Remember the past, help shape the future.

    AARP Offer: Remember the past, help shape the future

    Share your stories and help advocate for political support to protect your future.   Join AARP to support living with dignity and purpose.

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  • Environmentalist Majora Carter on her green roof  in the South Bronx

    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.

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  • Rosa Clemente at Recreate 68 rally at the Colorado state capital during Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado

    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."

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  • Columnist Ta-Nehisi Coates.

    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."

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  • Kelly Fair leads Polished Pebbles
    Ollie Photography, Inc.

    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, special adviser for green jobs, enterprise and innovation with the White House Council on Environmental Quality, speaks at a session during the National Summit in Detroit, Michigan.
    Bloomberg/Getty Images

    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 is interviewed at an office in Washington, D.C.
    CQ-Roll Call/Getty Images

    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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  • Chairman of the Young Democrats of America, Thione Niang speaks during the symposium 'New World New Capitalism' in Paris, France.

    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.

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  • Dr. Steve Perry
    Mathew Imaging/WireImage/Getty Images

    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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  • Speaker of the Oklahoma House, Rep. T.W Shannon, R-Lawton, applauds on the floor of the House during the second day of a special session of the legislature in Oklahoma City.

    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.

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  • Author and chef Bryant Terry poses for a photograph with some freshly picked mustard greens from his home garden in Oakland, California.

    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.

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  • Rev. Lennox Yearwood, Jr., addresses survivors of Hurricane Katrina and their supporters as they demonstrate outside the White House after a march that started on Capitol Hill in Washington.

    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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  • AARP Baby Boomers (Sean McCabe)
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