Storytelling has always been an important part of African–American culture. Our rich history of oral tradition runs deep. In parts of West Africa, this job was carried out by the griot -a class of traveling poets, musicians, and storytellers who served as living archives of history and tradition. When the first African slaves arrived in the New World in the 1700s and 1800s, they brought this vast oral tradition with them.
It is through these various forms of oral communication passed down from one generation to the next that Alex Haley was able to excavate his family saga to deliver the groundbreaking novel, Roots: The Saga of an American Family.
From village raconteurs to modern day rappers, from Paul Laurence Dunbar to Kendrick Lamar – black creatives have always been committed to preserving history, expanding possibility, and advancing the narrative through the telling of impactful stories.
In honor of the modern griots out here creating dope, socially relevant content, Men of Courage salutes the following
9 Content Creators Who Are Changing The Game:
Donald Glover – Rapper, singer, producer, actor, sketch comedian, stand-up comic, screenwriter, director, TV star, and movie star, Donald Glover is in all the lanes!
From his Emmy-winning FX comedy Atlanta to his radical and inventive video for his hit single, “This is America,” Glover is one of today’s leading millennial creatives using his art to bring tough subject matter to the conversational forefront.
James Bland is having a moment. As show-runner, creator, and star of the hit webseries Giants, Bland’s refreshing coming of adulthood drama has already earned a Daytime Emmy nom for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Digital Drama Series.
With his hit series garnering more than 2 million views on Issa Rae’s YouTube channel and Best Drama at the Indie Series Awards, the content creator/actor is creating content and sharing stories from a black millennial perspective.
By every indication, we are witnessing an EPIC glow up in the making.
Barion Grant – With almost two decades of experience producing for media outlets such as MSNBC, ASPiRE TV, BET, TV ONE, MTV, and VH1, film and television producer, Barion Grant is a new media entrepreneur and co-founder of theGrio.com.
As principal of Angel Lion Productions, Grant has led production of 10 feature films. His credits include the Oscar nominated documentary, Tupac: Resurrection on which he served as Associate Producer and A Genius Leaves The Hood, a documentary on Jay-Z that aired as the #1 movie on TV ONE in 2015.
When it comes to advancing the narrative through culturally relevant content, Grant has been quietly influencing the game for over 15 years.
Shaka Senghor – A world-renown criminal justice reform advocate and New York Times Bestselling Author, Shaka Senghor is truly advancing the narrative around incarcerated and formerly incarcerated black men.
After serving a 19 year stint in prison for second-degree murder, the author and advocate has dedicated his life and his art to champion the cause of redemption for prisoners.
A Men of Courage co-founder and author of Writing My Wrongs, Senghor has secured deals with Oprah Winfrey and has been interviewed on OWN’s Supersoul Sunday’s and ‘Released’. Today, Shaka does what he’s passionate about and continues to lead the fight for criminal justice reform.
Ta-Nehisi Coates is one of the most prolific writers of our time. His writing touches everything from black culture to politics. Most notably he is author of Between The World and Me and We Were Eight Years In Power.
He is also known for his turn as comic book writer for the Black Panther comic book series. Ryan Coogler said that Coates’ take on the Black Panther definitely inspired the movie.
Ryan Coogler has used his directorial talent to deliver spotlight issues, celebrate culture, and deliver subtle social commentary with critically and commercially acclaimed films like Fruitvale Station, based on the true story of the murder of Oscar Grant in 2009 and Creed.
Recently, Coogler took on Marvel’s Black Panther grossing over $1 Billion mark at the worldwide box office.
Chance The Rapper – Already renowned for his rhyming skills, independent success in the music industry, and his radical philanthropic contributions for his home city of Chicago, Chance’s recent purchase of the local news, food and culture website, Chicagoist has taken his media takeover to the next level.
Chance is definitely making precise moves to enhance the culture in Chicago and the WORLD!
Kenya Barris is best known for the wildly successful black-ish on ABC. But he has been in the game for a minute and has passed production credits on some of our favorite shows including BET’s The Game.
In August, Barris will leave his overall deal with ABC and head over to Netflix for a deal reportedly offering him more creative control and more dollars.
Jordan Peele – In his directorial debut feature film, Get Out, Jordan Peele brilliantly merged the horror and humor of racial anxiety in an astute, culturally impactful, history making film for which he won an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.
Peele is undoubtedly a talented storyteller whose prose continues to make you think about social issues. He recently rounded out the cast for his follow up, Us, which includes Lupita Nyongo and Winston Duke.