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Top Individuals of 2015
Published December 30, 2015

Risë K. Philips

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Courtesy Photo

The late Risë K. Philips, President and CEO of T.H.E. (To Help Everyone) Health and Wellness Centers help to bring health and wellness to the South L.A. area in 2015. Phillips, who assumed leadership of T.H.E. in 2009 after a broad executive career in the private and public national and international health care sectors, led a major organizational turnaround of T.H.E. – then a struggling Federally Qualified Health Center based in South Los Angeles. This turnaround resulted in marked financial stability, an expansion of its six sites located in Los Angeles County. Services they offer include annual physical exams, family planning, pediatric care, cancer screening, chronic disease screening and treatment, HIV/AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections screening and treatment, prostate exams, vaccinations, dental health services, nutrition health education and mental health services. These services are available to the community, regardless of the patient’s ability to pay. Philips passed on Tuesday, February 10, at her home in Los Angeles, CA leaving behind a program that will benefit the community.

Ava DuVernay

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AP Photo

Ava DuVernay has taken Hollywood by storm and has been one of the stand out director of 2015.  At the age of 27, she established her own public relations agency, working in the film industry as a publicist for years while laying a foundation for her directing career. Her first film was a documentary entitled, “This Is The Life” (2008), a love letter to the L.A. Hip-Hop scene in Leimert Park. That film was followed by “I Will Follow” (2010), “My Mic Sounds Nice:  The Truth About Women in Hip Hop” (2010), “TV One Night Only:  Live from the Essence Music Festival” (2010), and the “Middle of Nowhere” (2012), which would unite her with actor David Oyelowo together for the first time and lead to the making of the 2014 Academy Award nominated film, “SELMA”. Her success is leaving a trailblazing signal for directors of color and gender. She has even been honored with her own Barbie doll recently.

Barack and Michelle Obama

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AP Photo

President and First Lady Obama close out a challenging year with a number of successes. President Obama has on his list of accomplishments diplomacy with Iran and Cuba and an Asia-Pacific trade agreement as big wins for his administration, legalizing gay marriage, congressional rewrite of the No Child Left Behind law, and 6 million people signed up for health care under the Affordable Care Act.  The First Lady Michelle Obama also kept busy in 2015 with the launch of Let Girls Learn, a U.S. government-wide initiative to help girls around the world go to school and stay in school. She has been a constant champion of her Let’s Move campaign and Reach Higher Initiative, which encourages youth to continue their education. As President Obama closes out his term as president, he dedicated to addressing terrorism at home and abroad. The Obamas close out this year making strides in creating a better United States of America.

Black Athletes of the University of Missouri Football Team

Football Team

AP Photo

The president of the University of Missouri, Tim Wolfe, resigned when around 30 Black football players announced their refusal to participate in team-related activities due to unaddressed racial tensions on campus. Black student groups have complained about injustices, including racial slurs, being committed at the predominantly white university, according to CNN. The Tigers’ protest  came amidst protests on the campus and added the necessary push to bring attention to racial relations on the campus. Wolfe said the University of Missouri is working to create a plan that promotes tolerance and diversity by April, according to Huffington Post.

Brittany “Bree” Newsome

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AP Photo

Activist and filmmaker, Brittany “Bree” Newsome scaled a metal pole using a climbing harness and removed the confederate flag from the grounds of the South Carolina state capitol. Her daring act of civil disobedience sent shockwaves of courage and inspiration through a nation reeling from numerous injustices committed against the African American and Black community. She refused law enforcement commands to stop the act and was arrested along with James Ian Tyson, who is also from Charlotte, North Carolina.

Chris Paul

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AP Photo

NBA All-Star and Clippers point guard Chris Paul has been busy this year giving back to the community. In July, the Chris Paul Foundation and the Clippers Foundation collaborated to renovate a community center in Compton. Renovated rooms included a video/sound studio, game room, and outdoor activity area. In September, Paul partnered with insurance group State Farm to launch the “Exist to Assist” community outreach program, which consists of the Chris Paul Family Foundation collaborating with State Farm to assist community outreach projects in cities throughout the country. In October, he partnered with State Farm and Jordan Brand’s WINGS to donate a computer lab with state of the art equipment to the Brotherhood Crusade’s afterschool program.

Bill Duke

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AP Photo

Actor, director and conscious motivator are just some of the words that describe Bill Duke. He has been busy trying to enlighten the Black community by exposing some of the ugly truths that exist in our backyard. His latest project, “Light Girls”, is a documentary film and book follow-up to “Dark Girls”, which is based on the serious problem of skin color discrimination within certain ethnic cultures. He also has the Duke Youth Media Camp a training and educational program that focuses on teaching youth the trade and craft of media production including film and video production, screen-writing, producing, directing and editing. Duke has shared much of his time attending seminars giving film students and aspiring actors tips for success in the industry, upcoming projects and humanitarian work.

Louis Farrakhan

Farrakhan Voting Rights Act

“Justice or Else” was the theme of a rally in October,  organized by Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan to mark the 20th anniversary of the Million Man March. Messages from the first march in 1995 were echoed in speeches from African-American leaders, including Farrakhan, calling for unity and institutional reform in social justice issues affecting the black community. More significantly, he called for a boycott of Black Friday, asking black consumers to not go out and spend money in places that don’t support them.

Kamala Harris

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AP Photo

California Attorney General Kamala Harris was busy in 2015 making sure California residents needs and concerns were met. She announced in January she would run for Barbara Boxer’s U.S. Senate seat. Her issues of focus has been on cracking down on sex trafficking, mental health, truancy and in mending the relationship between the Black community and law enforcement just to name a few.  Harris also received the endorsement of the Congressional Black Caucus Political Action Committee (CBCPAC) for U.S. Senate.

Kendrick Lamar

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This year,  Kendrick Lamar released his third studio album “To Pimp a Butterfly”, incorporating elements of funk, spoken word poetry and jazz in the hip hop record – it debuted atop the charts in the U.S. and the UK. The album was preceded by its lead single “i”, which earned him his first two Grammy: Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Song. He made local headlines by going back to his hometown, Compton, California and serving as the grand marshal of  the city’s annual Christmas parade

 

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