Introducing theGrio's 100 class of 2012: America's best

theGRIO EDITORIAL - We believe it's important celebrate the giants of yesteryear as well as those who are beginning to shape our nation's future today...

Tomorrow marks the beginning of another Black History Month.

We at theGrio believe that it is a time to reflect on black America’s past as well as America’s future. We believe it’s important to celebrate the giants of yesteryear as well as those who are beginning to shape our nation’s future today.

This year, as happens every four years, the month-long celebration of Black History Month takes place during the height of a very contentious presidential campaign. What makes February 2012 different from any year before is that for the first time, the incumbent president is African-American.

Thus race, fairly or unfairly, has become a factor in this election.

We have seen candidates use divisive rhetoric that recalls old stereotypes about black Americans. Words have been used to infer that blacks are somehow lazy, that they prefer “food stamps” over a decent and honest paying job, and that they are easily susceptible to political “brainwashing.”

The truth about black America is far different. Within the African-American community there are problems, but there are also people who are developing solutions. Three years ago, we launched the first theGrio’s 100 list to highlight the solution-makers.

It is against today’s backdrop that we are extremely proud and honored to present theGrio’s 100 list, class of 2012. This is a list that highlights the best, not just from the black community, but from all of America. These are 100 individuals with stories of perseverance, ingenuity, and triumph that define the American dream, and provide hope to black, white, brown, gay, straight, rich, poor, Republicans and Democrats alike.

We hope you enjoy.

What is theGrio’s 100? What does it take to get on this list?

– TheGrio’s 100 are 100 people making history today — 10 people in 10 fields of expertise: Business, Health, Education, Science & the Environment, Media, Pop Culture, Arts & Culture, Service & Activism, Politics and Sports.

– To make TheGrio’s 100, the body of your work cannot yet be complete. Folks who have already seen the height of their careers are not on this list. This list is for people who still have work to do.

– We also looked at scale. It’s one thing to influence a small community or a certain group of people — but we specifically targeted history makers who have the potential to make changes and who offer inspiration to not just one neighborhood, not just one group of people — but to all of America.

This is the third annual theGrio’s 100 list.

Who decided who made the final list?

-The editorial team at fielded hundreds of suggestions from around the country. We polled our media colleagues coast to coast who tell the stories of people who make a difference every day. We asked our contributors and experts in their respective fields.

– Our team worked hard to make sure we had a lot of diversity on this list. Young and old, from coast to coast, we wanted to present a really interesting range of history makers.

– The entire list is 100 percent new. No one is a repeat.