Ground Force: Grassroots activists rally communities to bring social and political change

Erica Thompson

President Obama launched My Brother's Keeper in February 2014 "to address persistent opportunity gaps faced by boys and young men of color and ensure that all young people can reach their full potential." Two years into the initiative, communities across the country have accepted the president's challenge and are working toward the program's milestones, which emphasize access to education and jobs, and the availability of second chances for the incarcerated.

As one of the participating communities, Columbus has taken some initial steps - creating a task force, partnering with local organizations and establishing a focus on mentorship.

But outside of the government program are individuals who have empowered themselves to make a difference in the lives of both young men and women of color in the city. Whether they emerged from student organizations or just decided to spend their free time volunteering at schools, they have been working in the community for years. In many cases, they have already had major successes, and will keep doing the work as new presidents come and go and initiatives are started and stopped.

Of course these individuals don't always get the recognition they deserve, so we thought we'd take time to highlight five who are working to better their communities. Their efforts, which run the gamut from changing policy and shaping legislation to building self-esteem in kids through direct interaction, demonstrate there is no one-size-fits-all approach to activism.