A Change Maker is someone who takes a proactive approach to countering hate and creating inclusivity. From campaigning to conversations, tech to town halls, shared meals to sparked movements, they understand that disrupting hate requires interventions at every level of society. Find out how they are addressing hate, bias and discrimination by creating — creating awareness, dialogue, connections, and ultimately real and lasting change — and how you can support their efforts.
Barbara Poma, owner of Pulse Nightclub, was raised in Coral Springs, Florida. She graduated from the University of Central Florida and worked as an educator in the Orange County Public School system for three years. Ms. Poma has built and operated several businesses, most significantly Pulse Nightclub, which was established in 2004 as a tribute to her brother John who passed away from HIV/AIDs.
On June 12, 2016, Pulse Nightclub became the scene of one of the nation’s worst mass shooting in modern American history. Since then, Barbara has shifted her focus to preserving the memory of those who lost their lives, survivors, and their loved ones. She now serves as Executive Director of OnePulse Foundation, Inc. which has been established to oversee a community initiative to create a permanent memorial to Pulse and those who perished. Learn more.
Alana Simmons, 28, of Columbia, SC, is the founding CEO of the non- profit, Hate Won’t Win Movement, Inc. The Hate Won’t Win Movement was founded in June of 2015 after her grandfather, Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr., along with eight others were murdered in the hate crime known as the “Mother” Emanuel AME Church Massacre in Charleston, SC.
Since then, Alana has dedicated herself to working in communities, churches, schools, and businesses as a motivational speaker and organizer of unity. Alana’s work with the Hate Won’t Win Movement has been awarded and featured by a number of organizations and outlets such as the King Center, the Anti-Defamation League, Essence Magazine, Glamour Magazine, Public Allies, and many others. Learn more.
Captain Paiute: Indigenous Defender of the Southwest is a comic-book series featuring a Native American superhero who understands the unique beauty and challenges of reservation life. While growing up, artist Theo Tso never saw himself or his Native American community reflected in the comic books he loved. When he did encounter native characters, they tended to be a sidekick or a mystic rather than a hero. To help address such restrictive representations, he created Captain Paiute, which helps readers understand the history of the Paiute tribe, while disrupting damaging cultural stereotypes about indigenous people. Learn more.
Hello Hijab creates tiny head scarves for dolls to help make playtime more inclusive. Though millions of Muslim women across the world choose to wear the hijab, American children rarely see them in the toys in their homes or classrooms, which can contribute to stigma or reinforce narrow definitions of beauty. By diversifying dolls, founders and local moms Gisele Fetterman and Kristen Michaels aim to empower Muslim children, fight Islamophobia, and inspire all children to embrace difference. All proceeds support organizations that protect and honor multicultural communities. Learn more.
HOODED is a multimedia project designed to disrupt dangerous, negative perceptions of black men and boys. Created by 19-year-old Myles Loftin, the series features four African American teenagers in hooded sweatshirts — a clothing item that has become a cultural shorthand for racialized fears. But in contrast to the standard, ever-present media portrayal of an African American teen in a hoodie as a threat, Loftin’s subjects are joyful, colorful, and a powerful challenge to a set of stereotypes that have grave consequences for black men and boys and for America. Through his art, he aims to open up a broad cultural conversation about the power of identity. Learn more.
Athlete Ally educates and activates athletic communities to eliminate homophobia and transphobia in sports, and to use their platforms to speak out for LGBTQ equality. The program was founded by Hudson Taylor, a three-time All-American wrestler at the University of Maryland. Since its founding, Athlete Ally has attracted more than 150 professional and Olympic athletes as Ambassadors of the organization; has 50+ college and universities with student-run Athlete Ally chapters; and continues to leverage their partnerships with athletes, teams and leagues to advance their impact on LGBTQ public policy efforts. Learn more.
Chicken & Egg Pictures supports women nonfiction filmmakers whose artful and innovative storytelling catalyzes social change, creating a space where women can challenge the status quo in film and learn from one another. Founded by Julie Parker Benello, Wendy Ettinger, and Judith Helfand, the organization breaks new ground for artists and activists with a shared belief in the power of women storytellers. Over 13 years, the organization has grown into a bold community of artists, mentors, activists, and friends who celebrate each other’s talent and foster one another’s growth in the industry. Learn more.
Pathos Labs creates empathy-based virtual reality experiences to challenge assumptions and increase understanding. As the son of Iranian and French immigrants, founder Romain Vakilitabar believes that when we engage with those with whom we might not otherwise interact, perspectives and biases begin to change. Building on the success of its previous experiences, including Strangers and My Beautiful Home, Pathos’ upcoming project, The Other, seeks to do just this. The film and accompanying curriculum bring viewers face-to-face with those who are often treated as “different,” inviting all of us to confront and reconsider the assumptions we make. Learn more.
The Better Arguments Project™ equips Americans to reach across political, cultural, and economic divides to have arguments that bring us closer together instead of driving us further apart. The project centers on the simple idea that America doesn’t need fewer arguments, it needs better arguments. Encouraging people to understand themselves and each other, ask great questions, and learn how to really talk — and listen, this effort has a special focus on reaching high school students. The project is a collaboration between the Aspen Institute Citizenship and American Identity Program, Facing History and Ourselves, with support from Allstate. Ready to start a Better Argument? Learn more.
EmbraceRace supports parents and caregivers in raising kids who are thoughtful, informed, and brave about race. The organization was founded by Andrew Grant-Thomas and Melissa Giraud, whose experience as social justice workers and educators, and as partners and parents to multiracial children, inspired them to identify, curate, and create the kind of tools they struggled to find for themselves. Through resources, discussions, and networks, EmbraceRace aims to foster resilience in children of color and to nurture cross-racial inclusivity and empathy in all children. By helping grown-ups raise kids who think critically about racial inequity, EmbraceRace supports a multigenerational movement of racial justice advocates. Learn more.
Equality for HER empowers those who identify as women to combat violence and inequality. The effort was founded by Blair Imani, whose experience as a black, bisexual, Muslim woman inspired her to create a platform for the voices and perspectives of women who don’t fit neatly into traditional identity boxes. By creating resources, lesson plans, toolkits, and explainers on key issues facing people who identify as women — from sexual assault and interpersonal violence to gender diversity — Imani hopes to invite more Americans into the conversation, and to chart the path toward a more inclusive world. Learn more.
Data For Black Lives (D4BL) inspires people with expertise in science and tech to put their knowledge to work fighting discrimination and promoting equality. The program, co-founded by Yeshimabeit Milner and Lucas Mason-Brown, seeks to build a network of “movement scientists” — scientists, engineers, coders, and mathematicians committed to using data to create measurable, positive change in the lives of black people. D4BL held its inaugural conference at MIT in 2017, with a focus on helping emerging “movement scientists” apply their skills to identify inequalities, accelerate the work of local organizers, and prevent technology from undermining vulnerable communities. Learn more.