February is Black History Month. It’s a month where we typically honor those from the past who have made an impact on American culture for equal rights, those who have invented, those who have a helped others and those who have inspired everyone to be the best they can be.

28 Innovate applies a new twist by highlighting innovators and difference makers who are making an impact – and changing history – TODAY. Follow us on Twitter and friend us on Facebook to be notified as we announce the daily profiles.

28 Innovate is a lead-in to the Top Ten Black Innovators of 2014 Awards. The winners will be announced on March 1st. Click to see the 2013 or 2014 Innovate 28 Profiles.


FEBRUARY 1 // AVA DUVENARNAY

is a writer, producer, director and distributor of independent film.

Nominated for two Academy Awards, five Critics Choice awards, five Independent Spirit Awards, and four Golden Globes her current film “Selma” chronicles the historic 1965 voting rights campaign led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  DuVernay directed the film from her screenplay, with Oprah Winfrey and Brad Pitt’s Academy Award winning company Plan B serving as producers.

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FEBRUARY 2 // TRABIAN SHORTERS

is a social entrepreneur with over 20 years of experience in diverse fields including national service, technology, nonprofit, philanthropy and social entrepreneurship. An expert on using asset framing to address social problems, Trabian is best known for applying asset framing to black male issues.

In winter 2011, he launched BMe Community while serving as Vice President at the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Trabian left Knight in July of 2013 to grow BMe Community. BMe builds caring and prosperous communities inspired by black men.

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FEBRUARY 3 // LYNNE D JOHNSON

is a Content + Community Consultant developing content and community strategies that help brands become more humanized and build better communications and relationships with consumers toward driving brand awareness, loyalty, and purchase intent.

She was formerly a Director of Digital and Social Media at Waggener Edstrom, a Senior Social Media Strategist at R/GA, the digital agency of the decade, and SVP, Social Media for the Advertising Research Foundation, where she was responsible for expanding the ARF’s social media presence, and managing the ARF Social Media Council. In her role there, she also guided members on how they could best utilize social media to gain insights and achieve their business objectives.

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FEBRUARY 4 // ERIN HORNE MCKINNEY

currently serves as a the Mayor of Washington DC’s Tech & Innovation Sector Manager representing technology firms, entrepreneurs, and organizations that want to locate or grow in the District of Columbia. Erin is responsible for the Office of the Deputy Mayor of Planning and Economic Development’s recent launch of “Digital DC,” a marketing and branding campaign and economic development initiative to promote Washington, DC as the leading community in the innovation and high-tech economy.

Prior to joining DC Government, Erin served in leadership roles with the National Association of Multicultural Digital Entrepreneurs (NAMDE), the National Diversity Council, and the Maynard Institute.

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FEBRUARY 5 // KALIMAH PRIFORCE

is the co-founder of Qeyno Labs – a hackathon incubator that harnesses the interests of high potential youth from low-opportunity settings into STEM career pathways. Qeyno launched the first hackathon for Black Male Achievement and the first Startup Weekend in Oakland (California). In partnership with Yes We Code and Essence, Qeyno launched the first hackathon at the annual Essence Festival in New Orleans.

He has been featured on Essence Magazine, Jet, KQED, NPR’s “Tell Me More”, PBS Newshour, Black Enterprise, CNN, Time.com, San Francisco Magazine, and has been recognized by the White House as a Champion of Change in increasing STEM diversity and access.

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FEBRUARY 6 // PHILLIP AGNEW

first came to community activism as a student at Florida A&M University after 14-year-old Martin Lee Anderson was beaten to death at a Florida boot camp (the camp was shuttered soon after).  Seven years later, in response to teen Trayvon Martin being killed, Agnew formed the Dream Defenders, which brought vigor and national attention to the Martin case from the start.

The black-and-brown-youth-led Dream Defenders now has chapters on nine college campuses in Florida and highlights racial and social economic-justice issues like prison privatization, racial profiling and “zero tolerance” policies in schools – which many believe lead students of color straight into the prison system.

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FEBRUARY 7 // WILL PACKER

has established himself as one of Hollywood’s blockbuster hit makers with seven of his films opening number one at the box office.  In 2013, Packer signed first-look production deals with Universal Pictures and Universal Television.  Under both deals, he develops new projects for the studios under his Will Packer Productions banner.

In 2014, he accomplished the rare feat of producing two films in the top six at the box office and became one of the only African-American producers to have seven films debut at number one during opening weekend.

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FEBRUARY  8 // HANK WILLIAMS

is a serial tech entrepreneur  and co-founder of Platform, a non-profit organization aimed at increasing the participation and success of underrepresented minorities in the innovation economy. One of Platform’s first endeavors, Platform Summit, took place July 12-14, 2013 at the MIT Media Lab in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

The invite-only gathering brought together 30 of the world’s foremost thinkers across various fields as speakers to explore new ideas, highlight and model success stories, and accrue tactical resources toward the goal of fostering the kind of innovation-driven prosperity that has escaped blacks, Latinos, and women.

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FEBRUARY  9 // ZAY AND TASHA COLLIER

Zay is a pilot, a technologist, and an educator with a passion for educational reform and re-development. As an undergraduate at Cornell University, Zay was a key participant in several NSF-funded coalitions including ECSEL and Synthesis. Both coalitions were tasked with transforming engineering education at the college, primary, and secondary school level.

Tasha has been a self-made businesswoman since the age of 19. Even while attending Howard University in Washington, DC she was building her client base for her new venture. She successfully opened the doors of “Tasha’s Tresses Hair Studio”, after doing everything from securing funding and building out a facility to developing a marketing plan and hiring a full staff. She grew her business to profitability and had a widely established clientele before she reached the age of 22.

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FEBRUARY 10 // JOEY WOMACK

is a rebel with a cause. Hired gun. Analytics junkie. Optimist. Cynic. Serial envelope pusher. Cult creator. Antihero. Pick one, and Joey Womack embodies it. Recently, Joey has taken on the challenge of “saving the world” by co-founding Amplify 4 Good Corporation which works to raise basic need averages of under-served communities around the world up to the respective countries’ national averages relative to economic development, education, health & wellness, and safety.

The nonprofit organization does this by focusing on amplifying the capacity and funding readiness of nonprofits and minority entrepreneurs through a series of products and programs which include Goodie Nation, sf35, Founders’ Therapy, Goodie Hack, Goodie Marketing, and Party Well. Do Good.

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FEBRUARY 11 // RASHAD ROBINSON

serves as Executive Director of ColorOfChange, the nation’s largest online civil rights organization.

Under Rashad’s leadership, ColorOfChange has been at the forefront of issues ranging from fighting for justice for Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, and Eric Garner, to battling attempts to suppress the Black vote, to ending Pat Buchanan’s tenure as an MSNBC analyst.

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FEBRUARY 12 // MARQUES BROWNLEE

also known by his stage name MKBHD, is a video producer, host, tech-reviewer and Internet personality, best known for his technology-based YouTube channel, MKBHD.

The channel, a concatenation of MKB (Brownlee’s initials) and HD (for High Definition), has over 2.1 million subscribers taking the place as the most subscribed tech channel on YouTube and over 205 million total video views. In August 2013, Vic Gundotra, the former Senior Vice President, Social for Google, called Brownlee “the best technology reviewer on the planet right now.

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FEBRUARY 13 // FELECIA HATCHER

has been honored by the White House as a 2014 Champion of Change for STEM Access & Diversity, Black Enterprise Innovator of the Week and Essence Magazine Tech Master. Hatcher has been featured on the NBC Today Show, The Cooking Channel, and Grio’s 100 African American’s Making History for her wildly successful company Feverish Ice Cream & Gourmet Pops where she serves as the Chief Popsicle.

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FEBRUARY 14 // DR. IVOR HORN

is a board-certified pediatrician and Medical Director of the Center for Diversity and Health Equity at Seattle Children’s Hospital. In addition to practicing as a community-based primary care pediatrician, Dr. Horn is an NIH funded investigator whose research interests focus on health care communications and child health disparities.

She is a leading thinker on how social media and mobile health (mHealth) technology can be used to impact child health disparities.

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FEBRUARY 15 // VAN JONES

is a CNN political contributor, regularly appearing across the network’s programming and special political coverage. Jones has founded and led four not-for-profit organizations engaged in social and environmental justice.

Jones is a Yale-educated attorney. He is the author of two New York Times best-selling books, The Green Collar Economy (2008) and Rebuild the Dream (2012). The second book chronicles his journey as an environmental and human rights activist to becoming a White House policy advisor. He was the main advocate for the Green Jobs Act. Signed into law by George W. Bush in 2007, the Green Jobs Act was the first piece of federal legislation to codify the term “green jobs.” During the Obama Administration, the legislation has resulted in $500 million in national funding for green jobs training.

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FEBRUARY 16 // LINCOLN STEPHENS

is a former Advertising Account Management Executive (Carol H Williams, Martin Retail, and TracyLocke) turned activist, muckraker and entrepreneur. In his professional career, Stephens has worked with top brands such as Frito Lay, Quaker, Pepsi, Cadillac, Hummer, Chevrolet, and Coca-Cola.

Born in Dallas, Texas, Lincoln is a graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia where he received a Bachelor’s in Journalism with a focus in Strategic Communications and recently completed his Master’s Degree in Entertainment Business at Full Sail University.

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FEBRUARY 17 // GINA PRINCE BYTHEWOOD

wrote and directed the widely-acclaimed feature film LOVE & BASKETBALL, which premiered at the 2000 Sundance Film Festival. Prince-Bythewood won an Independent Spirit Award for Best First Screenplay and a Humanitas Prize for her work on the film. She followed that success with the HBO film “Disappearing Acts.”

In 2008, she wrote and directed the celebrated adaptation of the best-selling novel, THE SECRET LIFE OF BEES. The all-star cast included Dakota Fanning, Queen Latifah, Paul Bettany, Jennifer Hudson, Sophie Okonedo and Alicia Keys. The film won two People’s Choice Awards and two NAACP Image Awards.

Her third feature, BEYOND THE LIGHTS, was released on Nov. 14, 2014. The love story, set in the music world, stars Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Nate Parker, Minnie Driver and Danny Glover. It received rave reviews and landed on a number of top critics Best of 2014 lists.

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FEBRUARY 18 // MICHAEL SEIBEL

has lived and worked in the Bay Area for the past 8 years.  Currently he works at Y Combinator as a full-time partner.

Previously, Michael was a co-founder and CEO of Justin.tv from 2007 – 2011 and the co-founder and CEO of Socialcam in 2012. During 2012, Socialcam participated in Y Combinator, raised angel financing from a group of amazing investors, and sold to Autodesk Inc. for $60m (link).  Needless to say – it was a busy year.  In 2014 Justin.tv became Twitch Interactive and under the leadership of Emmett Shear and Kevin Lin sold to Amazon for $970m.

Before getting into tech, he spent a year as the finance director for a US Senate campaign and before that,  graduated from Yale University with a bachelor’s degree in political science.  Today he spends the large majority of his free time cooking, reading, traveling and going for long drives. Michael currently lives in San Francisco, CA with his amazing fiancé Sarah.

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FEBRUARY 19 // JOAH SPEARMAN

has been called upon to offer communications and social media counsel to the Director of FEMA, the VP of Communications for Volkswagen USA, the VP of Strategic Communications for FedEx, the Commissioner of the Pac-10 Conference, the VP of Corporate Communications for Kimberly-Clark, the CEO of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, the VP of Public Affairs for the University of Texas at Austin and the Chairman of the International Olympic Committee.

Three weeks after Hurricane Katrina, Joah moved to D.C. to become the head speechwriter for FEMA, just days after the resignation of Michael Brown, which helped to pave the way for increased transparency and their use of social media. Later, he consulted former members of Congress, and the top leaders for the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, the International Olympic Committee, Volkswagen and Northrop Grumman, often being the chief social media eyes and ears in high-pressure situations.

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FEBRUARY 20 // ANDRE BLACKMAN

is an agent of change and innovation within the public health community. He is very passionate about the role of new media, mobile technology and other useful innovations as it relates to health communications and the improvement of public health in general.

Andre has been a featured speaker/commentator on a number of Public Health 2.0 related conversations around HIV/AIDS, mobile health, health disparities and new forms of health journalism. He has worked alongside organizations such as the Black AIDS Institute, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dept. of Health and Human Services and the North Carolina Division of Public Health to educate and promote innovation around important health initiatives and opportunities.

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FEBRUARY 21 // TIFFANI ASHLI BELL

is the co-founder of the Detroit Water Project- a brain child of two social media pen pals. Tiffany and her partner, Kristy, have found a way to help Detroit residents in need pay off their water bills. After a few hours of planning on Twitter, they launched a website to find people who needed help paying off their water bill, connecting those in need with willing donors. Formerly the CEO of Pencil You In, an online appointment scheduling tool. Tiffani is a 2014 Code for America Fellow and Howard University alumna.

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FEBRUARY 22 // SHONDA RHIMES

is the Creator and Executive Producer of “Grey’s Anatomy,” and “Scandal” and the Exec Producer of “How to Get Away With Murder.”

Shonda Rhimes is the creator of the hit ABC series “Grey’s Anatomy,” which chronicles the personal and professional lives of surgical residents in Seattle and “Scandal,” which revolves around the life and work of a professional crisis manager and her complicated relationship with an embattled White House administration. Rhimes also created the “Grey’s Anatomy” spinoff series “Private Practice,” which ran on ABC for six seasons, and is the executive producer of the ABC series “How to Get Away with Murder,” which premiered in the Fall of 2014.

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FEBRUARY 23 // JUSTIN SIMIEN

is an American film director and writer. His first feature film Dear White People won the U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for Breakthrough Talent at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival.  Simien has also been named to Variety magazine’s 2013 “10 Directors to Watch” list.

Simien started work on what would become Dear White People in 2006, with inspiration for the script coming from his feelings while attending the predominantly white Chapman University.  In 2012, he created a concept trailer using his tax refund as funding.  With the concept trailer as a centerpiece, he launched a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo to raise $25,000 but he got an overwhelming response and managed to raise $40,000 instead.

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FEBRUARY 24 // TRISTAN WALKER

is the Founder & CEO of Walker & Company Brands.

Prior to his founding Walker & Company he was an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Andreessen Horowitz. Prior to his time at Andreessen Horowitz, he was the Director of Business Development for foursquare, where he oversaw strategic partnerships and monetization. In this role, Tristan managed integrations with large brands and media entities including American Express, The New York Times, CNN, MTV, Starwood Hotels & Resorts, and Starbucks. He has been named a USA Today Person of the Year in 2014, Ebony Magazine’s 100 Most Powerful People list, Vanity Fair’s “Next Establishment,” Fortune Magazine’s 40 Under 40, AdAge Creative 50, The Hollywood Reporter’s Digital Power 50, and Black Enterprise’s 40 Next.

He is also the Founder and Chairman of CODE2040, a program that matches high performing black and latino undergraduate and graduate coders and software engineering students with Silicon Valley start-ups for summer internships. Tristan holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from Stony Brook University, where he graduated as valedictorian, and an MBA from the Stanford University Graduate School of Business. He currently lives with his wife and son in Palo Alto, California.

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FEBRUARY 25 // MONIQUE NELSON

thought she wanted to be an entertainer as a child, but as she grew older she realized she wasn’t so much interested in the stage, but in standing out. Now, Nelson is CEO of UniWorld Group, the longest-standing multicultural advertising agency in the U.S. Founded in 1969 by Byron Lewis, the company moved Nelson into the top spot last year after she put together a team and asked Lewis if she could move “from background to lead.” Thanks to her more than 15 years of experience in brand management, with an emphasis on lifestyle, entertainment and youth marketing, Nelson got there.

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FEBRUARY 26 // BRIAN WILLIAMS

is the founder and CEO of Purchase Black LLC. He began working on PurchaseBlack.com during his Master of Business Administration at The University of Texas – McCombs School of Business.  Brian attended Purdue University’s Dean’s Honor Engineering College where he graduated with a degree in Industrial Engineering in 2007. Brian then became a Consortium Fellow and enrolled in McCombs School of Business, a top 20 MBA program on a full tuition scholarship. During his time at Texas, he studied African American business success and was inspired to use his newfound knowledge of business to not only create an enterprise, but to also be a credit to his community.

In 2013, Brian founded Purchase Black LLC, an ecommerce platform created to connect high quality products of African American interest to online African American shoppers through the actual businesses that sell them similar to Amazon, Etsy, and Ebay. Brian has built the PurchaseBlack platform largely on his own while attending McComb’s prestigious business school, saving an estimated $70,000. Brian’s primary concern is leaving his community better than he found it, and using any assets he can to make a large, positive impact.

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FEBRUARY 27 // ANDREW WEST

is a Technology Thought-Leader, Social Entrepreneur, Innovator, Author & S.T.E.M. Advocate

Andrew West is a nationally acclaimed Technology Thought-Leader, Innovator, Author, and Tech Entrepreneur. West was recently recognized as U.S. Top 100 Social Media influencer, and Houston Top 40 under 40 for Entrepreneurship, Social Impact, and Technology Leadership. West has been featured in Microsoft’s Born to Learn Ed Technology Blog, Innov8Tiv Magazine, and Computerworld Magazine.

Andrew is a visionary, strategist and implementer who synthesizes facts, events and concepts to develop successful outcomes. His passion for the ever-changing world of technology drives an expertise and understanding that he easily conveys to audiences. He excels in making the complicated seem simple. West speaks on the subjects of STEM, diversifying Technology, urban economics, innovation economy, technology adoption and entrepreneurialism.

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FEBRUARY 28 // MITZI MILLER

is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist Mitzi Miller has been at the helm of JET magazine since 2011. Within two short years, her vision of revamping the iconic 62-year-old brand was realized with a successful cover-to-cover redesign, new website launch, improved social media presence, and consistent media coverage of buzz-worthy stories featured in its pages.

After majoring in English at Florida A&M University, Miller began her career at Honey magazine, where she grew from intern to entertainment editor. She later became an associate relationship editor at JANE magazine.

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