Alonzo Washington, who started out as a political activist, came to see comic books as a way to grab kids’ attention about violence. Washington eventually turned his childhood hobby into a full-fledged business called Omega 7 Comics, a series of independent comic books featuring black superheroes.
To many, dance pioneer Garth Fagan’s most recognizable work is the Tony Award winning Broadway musical The Lion King. Yet to those familiar with modern dance, Fagan’s entire work over his lifetime is quite revered. The 71-year-old Jamaican American has toured Latin America as a dancer and studied with the greats, including Alvin Ailey, José Limón, and Pearl Primus.
It isn’t everyday that a man discovers his passion for cooking behind bars and becomes a nationally recognized chef. Of course, Food Network host Jeff Henderson is not your everyday man. His autobiography, Cooked: From the Streets to the Stove, From Cocaine to Foie Gras, sums up his extraordinary climb to the top of the cuisine world.
Katori Hall, 30, is a playwright and performer from Memphis, TN. Her recent play The Mountaintop received its world premiere in London. It received the 2010 Olivier Award for Best New Play and has garnered Hall numerous other awards and fellowships.
Think about the smooth, mellifluous sounds of the cello. Now think about the thumping, staccato of beatboxing. You don’t often hear the two in the same song, but 23-year-old classically-trained cellist Kevin Olusola has become a YouTube sensation for his innovative method of blending the two together.
Korto Momolu is a fashion designer who was the first-runner-up and “fan favorite” on the fifth season of the then-Bravo TV show Project Runway. Known for designs inspired by her West African heritage, Momolu studied fashion at the Parsons School of Design in New York, and designed women’s wear and accessories in Arkansas before earning her spot on Project Runway.
Misty Copeland, 29, did not start ballet until she was 13, beginning at a local Boys & Girls Club. The Californian’s most prized achievement to date happened in 2007, when she was appointed as a soloist at the famed American Ballet Theater. She is the first African-American soloist at the historic theater in 20 years.
Radcliffe Bailey, 43, has been described as one of the most prominent living artists in Atlanta, known for his installation and mixed-media works depicting African and American history. Bailey has lived in Atlanta for most of his life, and uses this historical backdrop in many of his works.
Ryan Speedo Green is a 25-year-old rising bass baritone opera star who has received national acclaim after overcoming a life full of obstacles to pursue his dreams.
Playwright and actor, Tarell Alvin McCraney, 31, is catching the attention of the theater world with his The Brother/Sister plays, a trilogy which explores homosexuality, family and Yoruba culture in rural Louisiana. McCraney grew up in Miami, with a brother in jail and a mother addicted to drugs. He brings his experiences to life on stage through these fictional works.
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African-Americans are no strangers to success in the arts but these 10 trailblazers are making their mark in where people of color traditionally have less representation. Their drive and passion for their craft landed them a spot on this year’s theGrio’s 100 list.