From President Barack Obama to LeBron James, our 2013 Voices of Influence roster of men clearly defines courage, accomplishment and the belief that anything is possible. WAOK salutes these powerful men for using their voices of influence to spark positive change in the community and impact the world!
President Barack Obama
After making history in 2009 as the first African American to become the 44th President of the United States, and having been re-elected in 2012 for another term, President Barack Obama continues to be an example of public service and leadership. Since acquiring position in the White House, President Obama has put Americans back to work, instituted ObamaCare, invested in clean energy, advanced women’s rights in the workplace and has ended the war and threat of terror in Iraq! He embodies the dream of all Americans who strive for social and racial equality in our country and allows all Americans to dream in color. WAOK salutes the historic voice of President Barack Obama.
A gifted actor, screenwriter, director, playwright, film and television producer, Tyler Perry is a man of many talents. With box office hits like Diary of a Mad Black Woman, Why Did I Get Married (part 1 and 2), Madea’s Family Reunion, For Colored Girls and many more, he continues to break down barriers and stereotypes when it comes to the production and support of African American movies. In addition to movies, Perry has dominated television with shows House of Payne, Meet the Browns and For Better or Worse. WAOK salutes the directing voice of Tyler Perry!
Roland S. Martin is an award-winning and multifaceted journalist. He’s a nationally syndicated columnist, a CNN Analyst, a commentator for the TV One Cable Network and serves as the host and managing editor of Washington Watch with Roland Martin. Having received many awards and accolades from the NAACP, the National Association of Black Journalists and many more, Roland Martin has become instrumental in giving vocal platform to the African American community! WAOK salutes the influential voice of Roland Martin!
REV. AL SHARPTON
A Baptist minister, civil rights activist and television/radio talk show host, Rev. Al Sharpton has become one of the most influential people in American culture. He hosts his own radio talk show, Keepin’ It Real, which broadcasts in over 40 markets five days a week. In addition to being a consistent, go-to commentator on various news programs such as CNN and The O’Reilly Factor, Reverend Al Sharpton serves as the anchor for MSNBC’s Politics Nation, a nightly talk show that sets a standard and breaks down barriers for the African American image. WAOK salutes the game-changing voice of Rev. Al Sharpton!
Playwright, director Kenny Leon is a prominent voice in arts and theatre. A graduate of Clark Atlanta University, Kenny Leon has forged his way in becoming one of the foremost African American directors of our time! He is the founding artistic director of True Colors Theatre, which is dedicated to the diversity and preservation of the African American classics. His credits include a Tony Award winning revival of A Raisin in the Sun, and the 2012 made-for-television movie and African-American reprise of Steel Magnolias. WAOK salutes the imaginative voice of Kenny Leon!
MAYOR KASIM REED
Since his inauguration as the 59th Mayor of Atlanta in 2010, the Honorable Kasim Reed has worked diligently to impact the community and give back in service and support to various city initiatives, leadership programs and the arts. Mayor Reed’s civic reputation has also opened doors for him to be featured on national news programs such as Meet the Press, Charlie Rose and Andrea Mitchell Reports as well as national publications like The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Atlanta Journal Constitution, Ebony, and Black Enterprise. Mayor Reed has proved himself to be a political superstar and WAOK salutes the political voice of Mayor Kasim Reed!
Kevin Hart has burst onto the scene as one of the most versatile comedic actors in film and television. Debuting his career on an amateur night in a Philadelphia comedy club, Hart’s success has skyrocketed into sold out concerts, platinum DVD sales and a plethora of leading film and TV roles. His most notable performances have been his comedy shows I’m A Grown Little Man, Seriously Funny, and Laugh at My Pain. Hart is also known for gut-busting roles in the hit movies Soul Plane, Death at a Funeral, Not Easily Broken and Think Like A Man. He’s evolved from shoe salesman to a household name and that’s why WAOK salutes the comedic voice of Kevin Hart!
MAYOR COREY BOOKER
The Honorable Corey Booker serves as the Mayor of Newark, New Jersey. Elected because of his mandate for change, Mayor Booker has made strides in realizing his bold vision for his city and beyond. His service to set national standards in urban transformation and economic abundance has inspired our nation. Using new and innovative ideas to rehabilitate families and communities, Mayor Corey Booker continues to prove his famous words which proclaim, “Democracy is not a spectator sport!” WAOK salutes the innovative voice of Mayor Corey Booker!
LEBRON “KING” JAMES
LeBron James has redefined what it means to be an All-Star in the world sports. Nicknamed “King James,” LeBron began his NBA career in 2003 with the Cleveland Cavaliers. In 2010, backed by a highly publicized and controversial free-agency period, James left the Cavaliers to become a part of the Miami Heat. Alongside the talents of Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh, King James set his sights on winning his first NBA Championship, and it 2012 he did just that. He was also named the 2012 Sportsman of the Year in Sports Illustrated magazine. Despite public criticism, LeBron James ranks as one of America’s most influential athletes and remains an example of greatness both on and off the court. WAOK salutes the champion voice of Lebron James!
DR. STEVE PERRY
Dr. Steve Perry has been deemed “America’s Most Wanted Educator.” Dedicating his life to transform the educational experience for all children, Dr. Perry proved that intention can become reality when he instituted the Capital Preparatory Magnet School in 2004. Capital Prep has been recognized as one of America’s best high schools sending 100% of its graduates to four-year colleges. Dr. Perry is a columnist for Essence magazine, the author of Man Up and Push Has Come to Shove, serves as a CNN Education Contributor and has appeared on hundreds of radio and television broadcasts and at educational and cultural forums around the country. He is currently the host of TV One’s emotional series Save My Son. WAOK salutes the educational voice of Dr. Steve Perry!
Benjamin Jealous is the 17th President and CEO of the NAACP. Appointed at age 35 in 2008, Jealous is the youngest to lead the historic organization. He has served throughout his tenure with fresher ideas and has refreshed the purpose and direction of the organization by executing successful campaigns abolishing the death penalty for children, passing federal legislation against prison rape and so much more. A fifth generation member of the NAACP, Benjamin Jealous comes from a long line of freedom fighters… a legacy he uses to encourage the African American community. WAOK salutes the generational voice of Benjamin Jealous!
Before becoming the Director of Business Development for the popular social media platform, Foursquare, Tristan Walker worked unpaid for 30 days to prove that his talent and creativity could build an empire. It wasn’t long before he was negotiating deals with Starbucks, the NBA, the New York Times, MTV, Bravo network and many more. He has recently moved on from his position at Foursquare to pursue greater opportunities, yet remains a social media star. His success has encouraged the African American community to re-imagine what’s possible. WAOK salutes the creative voice of Tristan Walker!
Emmy-award winning journalist and television anchor, Don Lemon, is one of the most recognizable faces on television. Lemon has served as a correspondent for Today, Weekend Today, NBC Nightly News and MSNBC, and is currently an anchor on CNN. Known for being outspoken, Lemon fearlessly commands respect for African American broadcasters. In 2011, he released his memoir Transparent, which acknowledged him publicly as a gay man and tackled racism, homophobia and sexual abuse in the Black community. It’s clear that Lemon uses his voice of inspiration to address the issues no one else wants to talk about. WAOK salutes the daring voice of Don Lemon!
WILL PACKER & ROB HARDY
Director Rob Hardy and Producer Will Packer created Rainforest Films in 1994, after the success of their first film Chocolate City. Since then, they’ve continued to return to the big screen with memorable movies such as Stomp the Yard, This Christmas, The Gospel and Obsessed as well as the blockbuster, ensemble cast hits Takers and Think Like A Man. Their work also expands beyond movie theaters into television sets, having produced various episodes of ER, Criminal Minds, Single Ladies and more! WAOK salutes the entrepreneurial voice of Will Packer and Rob Hardy!
The success of R&B group, New Edition, can be summarized in one word… ICONIC! Ronnie, Bobby, Ricky, Mike and Johnny, became household names overnight. Taking the world by storm with hits like Candy Girl, Count Me Out, Mr. Telephone Man, Popcorn Love, Cool It Now and Can You Stand the Rain New Edition was quickly deemed the originators of the boy band movement of the 80s & 90s, which laid the foundation for groups such as New Kids on the Block, Menudo, The Backstreet Boys, NSync and Boyz II Men. Despite their growing pains, New Edition is now celebrating 30 successful years in the industry of entertainment and remains relevant to audiences, both new and old. WAOK salutes the legendary voice of New Edition!
“Fela will live forever!” That was the anthem chanted by the million strong mourners as they paid their last respects at the Nigerian musician and social activist’s funeral in 1997. Mention his name anywhere in Africa and you can be sure that it will raise a smile and the soft, fond utterance “Fela!” The same can be said for the countless celebrities who all lift their hats to Fela. This affection and respect was for a man who earned it the hard way – using his music to speak out against all forms of injustice – a one man Amnesty International. He will live forever through the incredible legacy of more than 50 albums of music which he has left us and would have relished the plaudits heaped upon the hit Broadway musical entitled Fela! as it continues to tell his story and delight audiences on its travels around the world. WAOK salutes the courage of Fela Anikulapo Kuti!
Baltimore native, Cedric Walker, is a preeminent live entertainment promoter and major force in urban, art, music, theater and festival productions. Being both a pioneer and visionary, Cedric saw the growth potential in ethnic commercial theater. In 1994, he founded the Universoul Circus and has produced over 8500 performances to live audiences of more than 18.5 million people in over 60 major markets across the USA! Such success makes it one of the top Circuses in the country. The UniverSoul Circus has aired on HBO to a base viewership of 23.2 million households and nominated for an Emmy Award! WAOK salutes the big top voice of Cedric Walker!