11/23/2015 05:43 pm ET

The Amazing Black Activists We're Thankful For in 2015

Power to the people.

Thanksgiving is a time for reflecting on what and who we're most thankful for. This year has been, without a doubt, one of the hardest for people of color. From Ferguson to Mizzou, racial tensions in the United States seem at an all time high. But there are activists -- online commentators, celebrities, and organizers -- who are doing something about it, and that's something to be grateful for. Below are just a few of the black activists we're thankful for this year: 

  • 1 Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi - Creators of #BlackLivesMatter
    Jemal Countess via Getty Images
    Garza, Cullors and Tometi are the three women behind the #BlackLivesMatter movement. The trio met through the Black Organizing for Leadership & Dignity (BOLD) organization, which trains people to become community organizers. They launched the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag in September 2013. Through the hashtag and the movement surrounding it, they have launched demonstrations in the wake of Mike Brown and Eric Garner's killings, and have helped launch a national conversation about the harsh realities of race and police brutality in America.
  • 2 Shaun King
    King has been a controversial but important figure in the modern-day fight for civil rights. With over 200,000 followers on Twitter, King has become a leading voice in the fight against police brutality and social injustice. Through his social media presence and work as social justice columnist for the New York Daily News, King has been able to spread awareness about numerous police brutality incidents, including that of Mike Brown.
  • 3 Janet Mock
    Noam Galai via Getty Images
    Janet Mock is a journalist, TV personality, and LGBT advocate. She made headlines in 2011 when she revealed in a Marie Claire article that she is a trans woman and since then, she has been an active voice in the trans community, publishing her memoir "Redefining Realness" in 2014. 
  • 4 Michelle Alexander
    Alexander is a professor, writer, and civil rights advocate best known for her book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, about America's prison-industrial complex. Through her writing and lecturing across the nation, Alexander has become a powerful advocate for social justice and reform, particularly in the prison system. 
  • 5 Jimmie Briggs
    Jemal Countess via Getty Images
    Briggs is a writer, educator, and executive director of the Man Up Campaign. The initiative, launched in 2010, seeks to to end gender-based violence and spread education about gender equality, particularly to disadvantaged youth. 
  • 6 Jonathan Butler
    Michael B. Thomas via Getty Images
    Butler made headlines this month when he went on a hunger strike in protest of racist incidents at the University of Missouri, also known as Mizzou.The grad student announced that he would not eat until administrator Tim Wolfe resigned and apologized for not addressing racism on campus. Wolfe did resign, and Butler's actions along with the student group Concerned Student 1950 helped spark demonstrations against racism on campuses across the country. 
  • 7 Jesse Williams
    Gabe Ginsberg via Getty Images
    Jesse Williams is best known for playing hot doctor Jackson Avery on "Grey's Anatomy," but he is also making a name for himself as an outspoken activist against racial inequality. In addition to speaking out against police brutality and discrimination on his widely-followed Twitter, Williams is also on the board of directors for The Advancement Project, a civil rights advocacy group.
  • 8 Amandla Stenberg
    At just 17 years old, Stenberg has gone from just another young Hollywood actress (she played Rue in "The Hunger Games") to one of Time's Most Influential Teens of 2015. Stenberg has passionately called out everything from cultural appropriation to the "angry black girl" narrative, and is a spokesperson for No Kid Hungry, a charity that combats childhood hunger in the United States.
  • 9 Johnetta Elzie
    Wally Skalij via Getty Images
    At just 26, Elzie has become one of the most prominent civil rights activists in America. As one of the leaders of the We The Protesters activist group, Elzie has helped organize protests in Ferguson, and collected vital data on police brutality across the nation.
  • 10 Deray McKesson
    MICHAEL B. THOMAS via Getty Images
    Deray McKesson was one of the most vocal activists following the shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown Jr in Ferguson. A founder of We The Protesters, McKesson has become a prominent and important voice against police brutality. "So much of the work in the past year was focused on exposing and convincing and saying to people 'this is what happened' and 'this is what's wrong', 'believe me and listen'," he told AFP last year. 
  • 11 Bree Newsome
    Adam Anderson / Reuters
    In June, Newsome was arrested when she removed the Confederate battle flag at a Confederate monument at the Statehouse in Columbia, South Carolina. The flag was raised again by capitol workers about 45 minutes later, but Newsome's act of defiance against the racist symbol sparked debate and lead to the eventual permanent removal of the flag.
  • 12 Feminista Jones
    Feminista Jones has amassed a large online following thanks to her insightful and blunt approach to feminism. Jones has described herself as a "post-modern, sex-positive black feminist," and through her blogging has combatted stereotypes and stigmas against black womanhood. 
  • 13 Michaela Angela Davis
    Johnny Nunez via Getty Images
    Once firmly entrenched in the fashion world, writer Michaela Angela Davis has emerged over the last few years as a passionate activist and advocate for social justice and representation. Davis is a member of the board for Black Girls Rock! and has written extensively about black female identity and sexuality.
  • 14 Laverne Cox
    Ben Gabbe via Getty Images
    As a star in Netflix's "Orange is the New Black," Cox has made strides as one of the most prominent trans women of color in the industry today. In addition to that, she's used her platform to raise awareness about the plight of trans people, and recently completed the documentary "Free Cece," about Cece McDonald, a trans woman who was sentenced to 41 months in prison for defending herself against a hate crime. 
  • 15 Ta-Nehisi Coates
    Paul Marotta via Getty Images
    Ta-Nehisi Coates has been described by novelist Toni Morrison as "the James Baldwin of our era." Like Baldwin, Coates has used the written word as a tool for activism, poignantly capturing black American identity with essays like "The Case For Reparations" and his book "Between the World and Me."
  • 16 Black Twitter
    AndreyPopov via Getty Images
    "Black Twitter" is hard to pin down as an entity, but there's no doubt that in 2015 the conversations amongst black people online. From pulling together to get racists fired  to fighting colorism with hashtags like #FlexingMyComplexion, Black Twitter has been at the forefront.


Also on HuffPost: 

Powerful Black Lives Matter March In Washington