Maya Angelou: Poet, singer, memoirist, and activist. Angelou used her gift of prose to create a change in people’s hearts. As a child, a period of abuse took her voice, but she overcame her adversity to become one of the most famous and influential voices of all time. She published 7 autobiographies, 3 books of essays, several books of poetry, and is credited with a list of plays, movies, and television shows,
Nick Cave: A Missouri native-born in Fulton, raised in Columbia and a graduate of KCAI. Cave is a renowned fabric sculptor and performance artist. He is best known for his Soundsuits – wearable fabric sculptures that are bright, whimsical, and other-worldly. His work can be found at Smithsonian, San Francisco Museum of Art, Boston Museum of Art, and the Nelson Atkins.
Will Smith: As an actor and singer Smith has been nominated for five Golden Globe Awards and two Academy Awards, plus has won four Grammy Awards. He is the only actor to have eight consecutive films gross over $100 million in the domestic box office and eleven consecutive films gross over $150 million internationally.
Lenora Payne founded the Lenexa based TGS -Technology Group Solutions in 2005. Under Lenora’s leadership, TGS has been recognized and has received many awards, including 50 Fastest-Growing Women-Owned/Led Companies World-Wide and she was a Midwest Entrepreneur of the Year Finalist.
Robert F. Smith: Founder & CEO of Vista Equity Partners, in 2019 Smith pledged to pay off student loans for the entire graduating class of Morehouse College. His Forbes Billionaire debut was in 2015 – net worth $2.5 billion.
David Steward once watched his car get repossessed from his office parking lot. Today, he’s the billionaire Founder & CEO of World Wide Technology—one of the largest black-owned businesses in America. His Forbes Billionaire debut was in 2018 – net worth of $3.4 billion.
Emanuel Cleaver II is a United Methodist pastor as well as a House of Rep. for Missouri. Plus, he was the first African American Mayor of Kansas City. His municipal stewardship includes 18th and Vine Redevelopment, the establishment of a Family Division Court, and the reconstruction plus beautification of Brush Creek.
Barack Obama: With a message of hope, Obama became the first Black president of the U.S. in 2008 and reelected in 2012. He helped pass the Affordable Care Act, promoted inclusion for LGBTs, issued wide-ranging executive actions concerning global warming and immigration.
Anita L. Russell was named 100 Most Influential Kansas Citians for 2015. In addition to serving as President of the Kansas City, Missouri Branch of the NAACP, Russell is a member of its National Board of Directors. Her unwavering commitment to the greater KC community includes efforts to involve today’s youth in all aspects of the socio-economic landscape through education, civil rights activism, and civic service.