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Missing from Texts: Critical Changemakers

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As we reflect on this past year, it's important to understand and acknowledge the sacrifices and compromises that we have made as a community. And even more so, to recognize and celebrate the selfless contributions of people to our world - even during COVID. Here are some changemakers from around the country who do amazing work and deserve to be celebrated for their contributions, the pathways they have set before and ahead of themselves, and the inspiration they provide to the countless activists who will continue doing work for our communities.

Lesson Tip: Transform the content you see here into a lesson! Using this Critical Changemakers worksheet which can be found on PBS LearningMedia, have students build out a profile of each of the leaders below as a starting point to them creating their own history book. This book they create can be digital -- a video, a TikTok, a presentation -- or an artistic pamphlet, book -- the possibilities are endless on what the final product can look like. 

This lesson can be used as a catalyst for deeper classroom conversation. How can students critically analyze what is and is not included in textbooks? What is and is not included in the curriculum? How can students use primary and secondary sources to create original media and expand their awareness of how representation in media shapes our understanding of the world around us.

Educators, as you construct your lesson plans this upcoming school year, scaffold these leaders and history that may not be in textbooks to provide a more inclusive and authentic snapshot of what it means to be a change-maker and leader!

Tymber Hudson

“Being myself is not always easy, but it’s a journey I’m willing to take.” 

Fuse music, dance, fashion, community organizing, and public speaking – and you have Tymber Hudson. They/she created They Slay!, a multimedia lifestyle blog centering on Tymber’s life as a Black nonbinary person. Growing up in rural Oklahoma, life for Tymber was never easy. Today, Tymber tells it like it is – whether speaking to a new generation to fight for liberation, keeping it real with LGBTQ+ young people, or advocating for LGBTQ+ and civil rights on Capitol Hill. They/she also created a podcast called Unplaceable to shed light on the
experiences of QTBIPOC impacted by the foster care system. Tymber brings it all to center stage with passion and progress. 

Mari Copeny

“My generation will fix this mess of a government. Watch us.” 

Age is just a number. At 13 years old, Mari Copeny is an activist, philanthropist, and self-described ‘future president.’ With a sharp mindset well beyond her years, Mari turned to activism during the Flint Water Crisis. Instead of feeling helpless like so many, Mari jumped into action. She fights for the kids in Flint and has expanded her commitment to help communities across the U.S. dealing with toxic water. She currently has Go Fund Me campaigns, including the Little Miss Flint Clean Water Fund. Ensuring clean water in
her community is just the start.



Jasiri X

Freeing Minds One Rhyme at a Time

If you are Jasiri X, there is no fine line between Hip Hop and activism. Jasiri X uses his platform to rap about social injustice, deliver keynote addresses, speak on scholarly panels to Ivy League schools, and get deeply involved in national civil rights movements. Jasiri X is the founder of 1 Hood Media, a collective of socially conscious Hip Hop artists and activists who use art to raise awareness about social injustice locally and globally. His rap songs call out culturally current messaging to represent the times, from Free the Jena 6 to The Whitest House. As a six-time Pittsburgh Hip Hop honoree, Jasiri X is not content to simply speak on injustice; his passion inspires him to action. 

Blair Imani 

Equality for HER

No box will fit Blair Imani, a critically acclaimed historian, social activist, public speaker, educator, and influencer. She is the author of two historical books, Modern HERstory: Stories of Women and Nonbinary People Rewriting History and Making Our Way Home: The Great Migration and the Black American Dream. The New York Times praised her “unique brand combining progressive lessons with vibrant visuals and a perky, quirky delivery.” Her passion is to fight for women and girls, global Black communities, and the LGBTQ community.  Blair is the founder and Executive Director of Equality for HER, including an internship program, which builds empathy and skill development in social justice for its participants. Whatever the platform – TikTok or a viral TEDxBoulder talk – Blair speaks HER truth. 

 Mike Lang

“I saw how technology could transform and transfer information to students far more efficiently than me trying to explain it.” 

When should learning about injustice begin? If you ask Apple distinguished educator Mike Lang, it starts at a very young age. As a technology instructor in Las Vegas, Mike inspires his kindergarteners and first-graders to understand they have the power to change the world. Mike initiated a three-part project with his young students to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy and instill a sense of civic duty. Using books that offer self-reflection, iPads to capture and edit the world around them, and create speeches inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream.” The students’ collections will become interactive workbooks to share with community organizers and legislators in Las Vegas.  

Dr. Bettina Love

“Education can’t save us. We have to save education.” 

More than 100,000 people have bought her most recent book. Praise rolls in from fellow authors, Teachers of the Year, and reviewers for Dr. Bettina L. Love, the award-winning author of We Want to Do More Than Survive: Abolitionist Teaching and the Pursuit of Educational Freedom. Dr. Love is a sought-after public speaker on topics ranging from Abolitionist Teaching, anti-racism and Hip Hop education to Black girlhood, queer youth, and Hip Hop feminism. Always searching for new ways to express her truth, Dr. Love co-founded the Abolitionist Teaching Network to support teachers and parents to fight injustice within their schools and communities. A professor at the University of Georgia, Bettina has spoken at the White House Research Conference on Girls and provided commentary for news outlets from NPR and The Guardian to the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

Elroy EJ Johnson

“I have a lot of passion for education and for media, and I found my passion at the intersection of both.” 

Elroy EJ Johnson is an award-winning documentary filmmaker, a photojournalist, a grad student, AND a social studies teacher. A Dallas native, Elroy recently put his sharp documentary skills to work to create Building the Bridge, following the lives of three Black teenagers from Oak Cliff, Texas, pursuing STEM opportunities – and spotlighting what it means to be a Black male living in America. The doc took the award for best student film at the DC Black Film Festival. He’s also passionate about teaching, photography and community engagement through work with PBS. Expect more documentaries and media resources with messaging that matters – from the bright and curious mind of EJ.

Loira Limbal


 Shining the spotlight on films for and about communities of color 

What speaks louder than words? Moving pictures. Firelight Media is all in with nonfiction cinema by and about communities of color. Firelight produces documentary films, supports emerging filmmakers of color and widens the audience net. Firefly films have garnered multiple Primetime Emmys, Peabodys, and Sundance awards with films like Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool, The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution, and Freedom Riders. Loira Limbal is the Senior VP for Programs for Fireflight Media. Limbal is an Afro-Latinx filmmaker and DJ interested in creating art that reveals and affirms communities of color. She was also the founder of The Reel X Project, a social justice and creative filmmaking space for young women of color in the Bronx. 

Jessica Norwood
“Believe in you money.” 

Born in Alabama, she spent years in Washington, D.C.’s political scene, yet she says her heart is still in Africa. Jessica Norwood is the founder of Runway, formerly called the Runway Project, which uses entrepreneurship to close the wealth gap in African American communities. Runway provides pre-seed, or friends and family capital, to fund people of color-led companies. She calls this money “believe in you money.” Jessica is a financial activist, social entrepreneur and culture shaper named one of Essence magazine’s “50 Black Women Founders to Watch.” Worldwide, Jessica is sought after to speak about the intersection of culture and investing, emerging leadership, and pushing community investment into African American wealth creation. She has been featured on NPR, in Essence magazine and Fast Company. A lifelong Fellow of the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University, Jessica is a woman on a mission to close the wealth gap. 

Nupol Kiazolu
Using her voice to build a more inclusive democracy 

At just 20 years of age, Nupol Kiazolu  is the Greater New York chapter president of the Black Lives Matter  movement. She activates young people to register to vote. She was just 12 when Trayvon Martin was killed – and his death inspired her to a level of activism that keeps growing. Nupol does not believe she has the luxury of passivism. “As a young Black woman in this country, I don’t have the privilege to sit back and do nothing. I could still be killed because of the color of my skin,” says Nupol. The 2019 Miss Liberia USA beauty queen, Nupol was featured in the 2020 BET docuseries Copwatch America. Her continuing work with Black Lives Matter is contributing to building a more inclusive democracy. Keep an eye on this rising star.

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