9 Black Creatives Who Are Making History

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9 Black Creatives Who Are Making History
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Photo: STYLECASTER/Getty

Rooted in celebrating the achievements of African-Americans and their many contributions to society, Black History Month amplifies the stories of individuals who famously fought for the basic rights and opportunities that were once denied to black citizens, and broke barriers across a range of institutions. And rightfully so. The praises of men and women such as Frederick Douglass, Harriett Tubman, Martin Luther King, Jr., James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, and countless others could not be sung loud enough.

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We (should) all know the accomplishments of the aforementioned, and learning more about those on a path to joining their names in the history books only adds to the inspiration one tends to glean this time of year. With that in mind, we’ve been reading up on the nine young creatives ahead, who are making black history at this very moment. They’re designers, entrepreneurs, artists, and more, and these are their stories; a few of many, many more.

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Kimberly Drew
Kimberly Drew

The current social media manager for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Drew emerged as a champion for artists of color in 2011 when she launched the Black Contemporary Art Tumblr page while studying at Smith College. Last year the New Jersey Native was asked to curate the White House Instagram account during the South by South Lawn Festival—a nod to the creative prowess she’s flexed from her own wildly-popular handle, @museummammy.

Photo: instagram / @museummammy
Azède Jean-Pierre
Azède Jean-Pierre

Solange, Lady Gaga and Michelle Obama have all worn Jean-Pierr’s designs, which are heavily influenced by her Caribbean roots. Born in Pestel, Haiti and raised in Atlanta, Jean-Pierre studied at the Savannah School of Art and Design before apprenticing under Ralph Rucci. She launched her namesake NYC-based label in 2012, and showed her most recent collection in Paris. Marrying fashion with social impact, Jean-Pierre hires artisans in developing countries with the aim of establishing long-term professional opportunities.

Photo: instagram / @azedejean_pierre
Rujeko Hockley
Rujeko Hockley

After graduating from Columbia University with a degree in Art History, Hockley joined the Studio Museum of Harlem as a curatorial assistant. Following a teaching stint in Southeast Asia and a four-year post at assistant curator of contemporary art at the Brooklyn Museum, she’s now one of two newly-minted assistant curators at the Whitney. Drawn to works examining race and gender, Hockley co-curated We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965–1985, opening at The Brooklyn Museum in April, and is current Ph.D candidate at the University of California, San Diego.

Photo: instagram / @rjkhckly
Kelsey Lu
Kelsey Lu

The talents of the impeccably-dressed twentysomething you saw sitting front row at Gucci last season extend far beyond that of knowing how to rock a pantsuit. A classically-trained cellist, Lu recorded her debut EP Church live in front of friends and family at the Roman Catholic Church of the Holy Family in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. As prolific in classical music as she is in underground hip-hop—the latter of which she delved into while recording with Nappy Roots in Atlanta—she spent part of last year collaborating with Blood Orange and Solange on their respective albums Freetown Sound and A Seat at the Table.

Photo: Getty
Kyla Marshell
Kyla Marshell

A graduate of both Spelman and Sarah Lawrence, Marshell’s poetry and essays have been published in The Guardian, Bookforum, O the Oprah Magazine, and more. Her awards include receiving the Jacob J. Javitz Fellowship in 2011, and she’s currently a development and marketing associate at Cave Canem Foundation, an organization dedicated to fostering the talent and professional development of black poets.

Photo: instagram / @khellonmars
Madison Maxey
Madison Maxey

A 2017 Forbes 30 Under 30 honoree, Maxey was awarded a $100,000 Thiel fellowship in 2013 to launch a wearable technology venture. She’s since founded her fashion engineering company, Loomia, lent e-textile advice to the White House, and collaborated with Zac Posen and Google on an LED dress worn by Lupita Nyong'o. Her current collaborators include The North Face and Topshop, and last year she was among those recognized at Marie Claire’s first-ever Young Women’s Honors.

Aurora James
Aurora James

You know those furry slides that the fashion industry set is obsessed with? The ones that have spawned dozens of copycats? They’re one of many designs that have helped propel James’s impressive professional ascent. The founder and creative director of Brother Vellies, James’s shoes are inspired by traditional African footwear, and handmade by artisans in Kenya, Morocco and South Africa. In 2015, James was one of three winners of the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund.

Dawnn Karen
Dawnn Karen

Looking to blend her interest in fashion and fascination with psychology, Karen pioneered the academic and professional field of fashion psychology while study for her master’s degree at Columbia University. Last year the 26-year-old became the youngest instructor in the Fashion Institute of Technology’s history when she pitched and got approval for a course exploring why people dress the way they do how style influences human behavior. In addition to teaching, Karan currently helms the online Fashion Psychology Institute.

Photo: instagram / @iamdawnnkaren
Kelechi Anyadiegwu
Kelechi Anyadiegwu

When Anyadiegwu took note of how many women were on a perpetual hunt for African-inspired clothes—and how few retailers catered to the market—she took the very logical and business-savvy step of launching e-commerce site, Zuvaa. The global marketplace caries 70-plus brands and counting, many of which are emerging labels often overlooked by larger, corporate retailers. 

Photo: instagram / @kelechiujuu

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  • Kimberly Drew
  • Azède Jean-Pierre
  • Rujeko Hockley
  • Kelsey Lu
  • Kyla Marshell
  • Madison Maxey
  • Aurora James
  • Dawnn Karen
  • Kelechi Anyadiegwu
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