It may seem that black role models are hard to come by, when in fact, new black role models emerge every day. It’s important that African American teens and young adults realize that positive figures do exist. These living legends weren’t born into wealth or fame; they each carved their own way. This list goes beyond the Oprahs and Barack Obamas of the world and recognizes other, relatable figures for the up-and-coming generation.
In the early 90s,Ice Cube emerged as one of the originators of gangsta rap, but in the pursuit of bigger things, he has since flourished as a prominent director and producer. The cult classic “Friday” catapulted him from being just another rapper to calling the shots as an executive producer. He has since produced a myriad of movies, sitcoms and documentaries, including the sequels to “Friday,” “Barbershop,” “Black. White” and “Are We There Yet,” the sitcom and movie.
Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears
At 27, most adults are still trying to find themselves; at 27, Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears was already established as a lawyer and judge in Georgia. She was later appointed to the Georgia Supreme Court as chief justice and made history as the first black female to serve as chief justice in the nation. Chief Justice Sears has since retired from the bench and works in private practice as a managing partner with the Atlanta law firm of Schiff Hardin LLP.
The once homeless Tyler Perry has moved up the ranks. In 2009, he was ranked by Forbesmagazine as the sixth highest paid man in Hollywood. Perry’s movies and plays have filled a void in Hollywood for entertainment that caters to the African American audience and put many black actors and actresses to work. Taking a $5.5 million budget, Perry turned “Diary of a Mad Black Woman” into a box office hit, grossing more than $50 million in worldwide.
The name Kenneth Chenault may not immediately ring a bell, but American Express certainly does. Chenault is the chief executive officer and chairman of AE. He is the third African American in history to serve as CEO for a Fortune 500 company. Still not impressed? Maybe this will help-in 2008, he earned approximately $42 million.
Today’s youth are just not motivated and their environment plays a key role. Lack of positive role models incorrectly leads many to believe that success is impossible. These role models are living proof that it is possible to turn lemons into lemonade. The next time you hear our youth complaining about “no one to look up to,” use these figures as inspiration.