AChange-Maker can be defined by different attributes, depending on who you ask. Bravery, kindness, brilliance, loyalty…the list goes on. But what do all of these qualities have in common? Anyone can embody them.
The fantastic thing about making the world a better place is that you don’t have to be superhuman (or super famous) to do so. While many of this year’s CASSIUS Change-Makers use their unique talents to uplift their causes, they all share a passion for making a difference.
So when you read their names and their causes, don’t get intimidated — let their stories serve as inspiration for becoming a change-maker in your own right.
Roll up your sleeves, CASSIUS crew… we’ve got work to do. Check out our honorees below.
The Philly rapper is launching a foundation with 76ers co-owner Michael Rubin aimed at championing criminal justice reform. The artist’s 2008 arrest and probation issues–including accusations regarding his judge’s motivations and claims of a court clerk allegedly soliciting money from him–have shed light on the loopholes in the criminal justice system as it pertains to men of color. Now out on parole and awaiting trial, the artist’s call for change is long overdue.
Proceeds from the rapper’s Traplord x Uniform collection of sustainable sportswear help supply school uniforms to children in Liberia who can’t afford them. “It can impact an entire generation because many kids [aren’t allowed in] school [without them],” he explains. Harlem’s own is no stranger to giving back, auctioning off a painting last year to benefit educational programs through the A$AP Foundation.
Quick thinking and sheer bravery prompted the 30-year old to wrestle a gunman to the floor, saving lives when the shooter opened fire at a Nashville Waffle House in April. “I think anybody could’ve did what I did if they’re just pushed in that kind of cage,” he told CASSIUS in an exclusive interview. “You have to either react or you’re going to, you know, fold.” Reluctant to be called a hero, the Alpha Phi Alpha member and HBCU alum created a GoFundMe campaign, raising over $241,000 for the victims’ families.
After the devastating Parkland school shooting led to the deaths of 17 of her classmates, the Marjory Stoneman Douglas senior emerged as an outspoken voice in the #NeverAgain movement, calling out national politicians and the NRA in the fight for gun control.
Earning the nickname “Spiderman” in May, the then-undocumented Malian immigrant scaled a building in 30 seconds to save a 4-year old boy dangling from a balcony in Paris. After the heroic act caught media attention, the 22-year-old was awarded French citizenship.
Desmond Is Amazing
10-year old LGBTQ activist and founder of the Haus of Amazing —the first drag house for kids—Desmond Napoles has inspired a new generation with his bold style and unapologetic self-expression. The self-proclaimed “drag kid” and LGBTQ advocate recently made his New York Fashion Week debut at the 2018 Gypsy Sport runway show.
Within the past year, Chella Man has taken over queer art world in a way that is uniquely his. The deaf, gender queer Jewish-Asian artist has a new column on them where he documents his experience walking through the world and debunking stigma about trans people and differently-abled people. When he’s not writing, he’s creating art, vlogging alongside his equally artsy girlfriend Mary V, and finding ways to be seen and help others live in their truth.
The trailblazing Muslim beauty made history as the first hijab-wearing model to be signed to IMG models, going on to grace the covers of British Vogue, Glamour, Teen Vogue and Allure magazines. The Somali-American refugee and newly minted UNICEF ambassador uses her platform to advocate for children around the world who have been forcibly displaced by conflict.
Whether on the screen or in the streets, Amandla Stenberg knows a thing or two about standing up for her beliefs. The actress was named Ms. Foundation’s Feminist Celebrity in 2015 and Time magazine’s Most Influential Teen twice (2015 and 2016). The ambassador for No Kid Hungry, an organization working to end child hunger in America, she’s also a supporter of the Ubuntu Education Fund. She’s been so influential that Beyoncé once told her that “When Blue grows up, I want her to be just like you.”
In June, first-time politician Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez became a household name when she knocked 10-term democrat Joe Crowley off his throne. In July, she won a primary she didn’t even run for when she owned the Reform Party write-in over Bronx Rep. Jose Serrano in the 15th congressional district. If there’s one lesson to be learned from the 28-year-old’s trajectory, it’s that anything is possible if you put your mind to it.
Chance The Rapper
Call him Chance the Philanthropist. Recently awarded an honorary doctorate from Dillard University, the rapper has worked extensively to end gun violence in his hometown of Chicago, and has given millions of dollars to schools to support arts and after-school programming. Just recently, he bought the Chicagoist “to run racist b*tches outta business,” as he shared in his new song, “I Might Need Security.” What’s next on his list? Who knows. But we know it’ll be great.
We stan superwoman/editor/activist Elaine Welteroth for multiple reasons, and you should, too. Aside from turning Teen Vogue onto its head she also oversaw the magazine’s first summit. She may no longer be in the magazine world, but she shows no signs of not slowing down. In fact, in partnership with Lou & Grey, she recently kicked off the second season of OKREAL’s “Girls Talk Real,” an interview series that highlights the success and challenges of influential women. Her story is a testament to how using your voice can change not only your life, but also the lives of others.
A superstar in the making, Indya Moore has already taken the world by storm as a model featured in campaigns for Gucci, Dior, and more. This summer, the gender nonconforming actress graced television as beloved Angel Abundance-Evangelista in Pose, the groundbreaking show about New York City’s 80s ball scene. When she isn’t modeling or performing, she’s speaking her mind on behalf of the trans community and communities of color.
This researcher and influencer has been making headlines since 2015 for his extensive strides in finding a cure for colon cancer as a college sophomore. Today, the Chicago native is considered one of the top 35 millennial influencers, has a TED Talk and is starting med school at Loyola University-Chicago.