Black Pioneers, Artists, Leaders, Titans & Icons: Time’s 100 Most Influential People


September 26, 2020

They’re influencing the world!

TIME released its annual list of “100 Most Influential People,” sharing eight different magazine covers to their social sites. The list of 100 influencers are broken down into five different categories: pioneers, artists, leaders, titans, and icons.

Gracing the covers are Houston rapper Megan Thee Stallion, Canadian singer/songwriter The Weekend, former NBA star Dwayne Wade and his wife actress Gabrielle Wade, and Black Lives Matter founders Alicia Garza, Opal Tometi, and Patrisse Cullors. 


We’ve compiled a list of every Black pioneer, artist, leader, titan, and icon included in the 2020 “TIME’s 100” list. 


Megan Thee Stallion

Photo Courtesy of Dana Scruggs/TIME


“There was something about this woman. Once you discover her, you become a fan. I don’t like to put the stigma of the word strong on Black women because I think it dehumanizes us, but she has strength—strength through vulnerability. She’s lost much of her family—her mother, her father, her grandmother—yet she is the epitome of tenacity, of pulling herself up by her bootstraps… She’s deep. She’s enrolled in college. She’s an entertainer. She’s a free spirit; I see that in her. The industry might try to pigeonhole her in this rap game, but she’s got a plan that’s much bigger. And we got her.” – Taraji P. Hanson

Giannis Antetokounmpo

Photo Courtesy of Nicolas Nicolas Messyasz/Sipa/Associated Press


“Paul Simon sang that ‘every generation throws a hero up the pop charts.’ The same is true in sports. Every generation finds an athlete who embodies the qualities we all wish we had: dedication, focus, exceptional athleticism, and grace under pressure. Giannis Antetokounmpo, who just won a second straight NBA MVP award, has all that and more. To watch him play is to see not just what is, but also what is possible.” – Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Ibram X. Kendi

Photo Courtesy of Philip Keith/TIME


“It is no surprise that Kendi has emerged as one of the most important scholars of his generation, accurately interpreting the civil rights gains and losses across the many years. But Kendi doesn’t simply engage in the “paralysis of analysis,” as Martin Luther King Jr. once observed. He provides concrete and actionable steps and recommendations that we can all take to wipe out the vestiges of racism and bigotry and strive to be—to use the term Kendi popularized in 2019­—anti-racist.” – Rev. Al Sharpton

Tomi Adeyemi

Photo Courtesy of Djeneba Aduayom/TIME


“Tomi is the god of ideas. She’s inspiring a lot of young people to write. She creates the very world that we as actors get to play in. And the big-screen adaptation will hire a lot of people and bring more representation to our industry—all that comes directly from Tomi’s imagination. She is going to be very powerful when it comes to bringing stories and ideas to the forefront.” – John Boyega

Maya Moore

Photo Courtesy of Omar Vega/Invision/Jordan Brand/Associated Press


“With multiple WNBA championships, Olympic gold medals and back-to-back collegiate national titles, Maya Moore is ‘the greatest winner in the history of women’s basketball,’ as Sports Illustrated put it… Moore has brought the same skill and determination that has made her one of the best basketball players in the world to her advocacy. This summer, she once again prevailed, helping to win the release of Jonathan Irons, who had spent more than 20 years in prison after being wrongly convicted. In the U.S. criminal-justice system—which treats you better if you are rich and guilty than if you are poor and innocent—that is a remarkable achievement.” – Bryan Stevenson


Photo Courtesy of Texas Isaiah/TIME


“She wielded us with actual proof of our collective existence, our lives and our contributions. Tourmaline gave us evidence of our lineage, and in a culture where histories of marginalized people—particularly Black trans and queer people—aren’t preserved in mainstream storytelling, Tourmaline is a force showing us to ourselves, proving to anyone paying attention that trans people have always been here.” – Janet Mock

Abubacarr Tambadou

Photo Courtesy of Yagazie Emezi/The New York Times/Redux


“International law is not the exclusive preserve of the rich and powerful countries… you do not have to have military power or economic power to stand for justice, to stand for what is right. We are doing this in the name of humanity.” – Abubacarr Tambadou on why he decided to bring a case before the International Court of Justice, accusing Myanmar of perpetrating genocide against the Rohingya community.


The Weeknd

Photo Courtesy of Nabil Elderkin/TIME


“He’s a mysterious figure in an era when mystery is rare in pop. And you never know what to expect next… He has so many different types of music tucked up his sleeve that he incorporates into his vision. He’s not interested in commerciality for commerciality’s sake, but he’s one of the biggest-streaming artists on Spotify. Like Prince, he marches to his own beat. That’s an exemplary way for an artist to be.” – Elton John

Michael B. Jordan

Photo Courtesy of Mickalene Thomas/TIME


“I remember watching Fruitvale Station and thinking, ‘Who is this kid?’ Michael B. Jordan just has a presence—and an energy and a talent—that stands out. It’s refreshing. What I’ve learned about him in the short time I’ve known him has led me to admire his work ethic, his intensity, and his desire for excellence…He already is a force in front of the camera, but he’s going to be an even bigger force behind the scenes. When it comes to Michael, we should expect the unexpected.” – Denzel Washington



Photo Courtesy of John Shearer/Country Music Association/Getty Images

“Halsey is the type of person who leaves a lasting impression on everyone she meets. She has an incredible ability to exude this magic from within herself. Her bold spirit really shines through her music and performances, as well as her life. And that spirit and passion have been instilled in us and inspired artistic ambitions of our own.” – BTS

Jennifer Hudson


Photo Courtesy of Dylan Coulter/TIME

“Jennifer brings her whole self to everything she does. It’s a blessing. She has developed such an impressive career as a singer and actor because of her work ethic and her professionalism—and of course her talent. Every time I see her, I acknowledge how great she is.” – Mary J. Blige

Dapper Dan


Photo Courtesy of Kevin Trageser/Redux

Dapper Dan is the blueprint for our culture in hip-hop. He defined fashion in “the hood” and in celebrity culture. According to him, dapper no longer belonged just to Wall Street and business professionals; Dan claimed the term for the Black community. I realized in watching Dan how truly inspiring he was—he never stopped working and always remained diligent to his craft. His influence extends far past his defining style.” – Missy Elliott

Julie Mehretu


Photo Courtesy of Heather Sten

“Julie Mehretu’s work—painting abstract three-dimensional landscapes that represent our often chaotic socio-political climate—is profoundly meaningful in the way that it frames stories and places. She creates her own language that serves as a portal to a place where expressionism collapses time, only to reveal our relationship to space.” – David Adjaye


Michaela Coel

Photo Courtesy of Anna Rosova/TIME

“Michaela makes work that forces the audience to grapple with themselves while also taking herself to task. Usually, with Black women protagonists, everyone’s mission is to make you like or root for them. But Michaela shows us that sometimes we can be our own worst enemy. She reminds me that the only person who can destroy me is myself. She’s showing us a piece of ourselves that is rarely captured onscreen.” – Lena Waithe



Kamala Harris

Photo Courtesy of Nolwen Cifuentes/TIME

Kamala’s nomination is the realization of a dream that so many have struggled for so long to make possible…Kamala every day embodies the beliefs and expectations of little girls and young women who see themselves in her. We speak of our elders and we say, “We are, because of them.” Years from now, a generation of young people will look at Kamala and say, “We are, because  of her.” – Ayanna Pressley


Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

“Crises so often tell us who we are and what we’re made of. For Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the COVID-19 pandemic is just such a defining moment. Throughout his career, and as director-general of the World Health Organization, Tedros has stood firmly for equity and access—the idea that all people, wherever they are and whatever their circumstances, have the right to quality health care.” – Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala


Dr. Jean-Jacques Muyembe Tamfum

Photo Courtesy of Matthieu Alexandre/AFP/Getty Images

“Dr. Jean-Jacques Muyembe Tamfum is a fellow Congolese citizen and medical colleague for whom I have great respect. His fight against Ebola, from helping discover the virus in 1976 through the recent outbreak from 2018 to 2020, has greatly benefited the people of Congo as well as the entire world. For five decades, he has been a model of excellence for humanity as he gives hope to the most vulnerable. Dr. Muyembe is among the exceptional men who advance science and truly make a difference.” – Denis Mukwege



Gabrielle Union

Photo Courtesy of Texas Isaiah/TIME

“Gab’s commitment to authenticity is without compromise. Few people in her position are willing to admit when they are learning and growing, and to be transparent through that process like she does. And as a friend, I can attest to the fact that who she is in the public eye is who she is in private. It’s that consistency that her fans and followers have come to not just love and rely on, but also be influenced by.” – Tarana Burke


Dwayne Wade

Photo Courtesy of Texas Isaiah/TIME

“Dwyane Wade was one of the greatest shooting guards in NBA history—he was amazing at getting to the basket. But he has also always seen his role as greater than basketball. He has always been willing to spend his social capital on standing up for other people, using his platform and his philanthropy to move the conversation forward. He doesn’t have to do these things. But he sees that he has a larger purpose, and that his athletic career put him in a position to make the world a better, safer and more loving place.” – John Legend


Claire Babineaux-Fontenot


Photo Courtsey of Sarah A. Miller—Tyler Morning Telegraph

I remember the first time I got a bank card, the first time I was able to swipe a card for groceries instead of having to pay cash or check. I broke out in a nervous sweat because I didn’t know if I had enough money in my account to cover the items I had picked out, imagining the embarrassment if I had to choose what to keep or put back. I think of the Americans—as many as 54 million—dealing with food insecurity this year. These are our friends, colleagues, neighbors and children (the number of kids facing hunger could rise to 18 million this year) for whom Feeding America works tirelessly to provide food at food banks across the country, thanks to its leader Claire Babineaux-Fontenot. – Rachael Ray

Tyler Perry


Photo Courtesy of Paola Kudacki/TRUNK Archive

“There’s no one else like him. In the entertainment business and in life. He’s a true visionary. A trailblazer… In a recent essay on his hopes for the future of our country, he wrote he will explain to his son ‘that progress is made in small steps and even if you get exhausted to fight on, because there are always signs of daybreak before the morning comes.’ He makes me proud. And I know wherever the ancestors abide, his mother Maxine is there and they are all smiling, saying, ‘Well done, son, well done.’” – Oprah Winfrey

Robert F. Smith


Photo Courtesy of Christian K. Lee/The Washington Post/Getty Images

“Robert F. Smith is perhaps the savviest investor in America today… [He] has keenly recognized that the most important way to use wealth and considerable resources is to reinvest in people and their communities, societies and futures. If we can perpetuate this priority, we just may have a shot at creating a better world for future generations.” – Samuel L. Jackson & LaTanya Richardson Jackson

Lewis Hamilton


Photo Courtesy of Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

“Lewis Hamilton is someone I’ve idolized…I’m the only Black driver in NASCAR’s top level. So Lewis’ example—as the lone Black F1 driver—is particularly meaningful for me… Lewis’ mental preparation, his aura, his ability to capitalize on every opportunity to use his platform to drive out racism are more than just a model for race-car drivers and other athletes. He’s an inspiration for everyone.” – Bubba Wallace

Patrick Mahomes


Photo Courtesy of Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

“When Patrick Mahomes steps onto the football field, all eyes are drawn to him. It’s not just that his combination of athleticism, creativity and vision is fun to watch. What his play really showcases is his love of the game and the commitment he’s made to his teammates and coaches, and it’s clear that is the true foundation of his success…There is a lot more promise in Patrick Mahomes’ future than just on-field accolades. He already has started to build a legacy as one of the most impactful athletes of his generation, and I, for one, am excited to see what is next.” – Derek Jeter

Tony Elumelu


Photo Courtesy of RGA/REA/Redux

“A mere handshake says a lot about Tony Elumelu. His gritty grip underlines his charming, tenacious personality: a man who hardly backs down from any challenge. The same engaging qualities have propelled him from a modest beginning in Nigeria to becoming chair of the United Bank of Africa, and one of the most innovative and ambitious business leaders of his generation. He is a leading proponent of “Africapitalism,” a belief that Africa’s private sector can and must play a leading role in the continent’s development through long-term investments, as well as entrepreneurship and regional connectivity.” – Aliko Dangote

General Charles Q. Brown Jr.


Photo Courtesy of Kevin Dietsch/Pool/Associated Press

“On Aug. 6, the day he made history by becoming the nation’s first Black chief of a military service, General Charles “CQ” Brown Jr. made sure that proper attention was given to service members who never got the chance for career advancement simply because of the color of their skin. “It is due to their trials and tribulations in breaking barriers that I can address you today as the Air Force chief of staff,” Brown said after being sworn in… CQ has opened doors throughout his career and made sure that they have stayed open for those who follow. Meeting the challenges of this time will require visionary leadership. CQ has become a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff through competence and character. It’s a model worth following.” – Heather Wilson

Dr. Tunji Funsho


Photo Courtesy of Afolabi Sotunde/Reuters

“It’s not often an entire continent eradicates a disease, but on Aug. 25, 2020, that happened when Nigeria was declared polio-free, clearing the virus from its last redoubt in all of Africa. The person who did more than any other to drive polio to continent-wide extinction was Dr. Tunji Funsho, a former cardiologist and now the chair of Rotary International’s polio-­eradication program in Nigeria…This summer, the country marked four years without a case of wild polio, qualifying it for its polio-free certification, leaving Afghanistan and Pakistan as the only places in the world in which polio remains endemic.” – Jeffrey Kluger


Black Lives Matter Founders Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi


Photo Courtesy of Kayla Reefer/TIME

“I first heard about the Black Lives Matter movement the year my son Trayvon was killed. It wasn’t on a national level yet. It was just something that people were saying in our circles. To know that Patrisse Cullors and Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi were out there organizing this movement—I felt supported and encouraged. There are only three of them, but they are everywhere… This is about human lives. We want people to support us, stand with us, write a letter, speak to your local officials, join a rally. Do something. Make sure people are hearing your voice saying, ‘Black lives matter.’ We can’t give up. Patrisse, Alicia and Opal won’t.” – Sybrina Fulton

Billy Porter


Photo Courtesy of Paola Kudacki/TIME

“Look at this guy. You want to see living proof of talent, perseverance, tenacity, resilience, dedication to craft? When he couldn’t get in the front door, the side door or the window, he found a whole other route. And now—especially since his historic Emmy win for Lead Actor in a Drama Series last fall—the whole world has found him, and that makes me so happy.” – Cyndi Lauper

Naomi Osaka


Photo Courtesy of Danielle Parhizkaran/Reuters

“Believe me: it wasn’t easy. It took incredible focus, courage and intentionality to carry herself the way she did. To use her gifts and talents, her voice and her platform, to honor the preciousness of Black and brown lives. It took humility and grace to point beyond what she was doing, winning on one of the biggest stages in her craft, at something more important. She reminded us that we can all resist the excuses that guard us from giving love. Whatever power we have, the most lasting and life-­giving way we can steward that power is by using it to lift others up. Especially those who aren’t exactly like us.” – Maya Moore

Angela Davis


Photo Courtesy of Djeneba Aduayom/TIME

“Her love for Black people and humanity at large fuels her; you can see it reflected in her impact on our world. Her legacy is timeless; rooted in her truth, it encourages future generations to be courageous. As a child, her family friends were among the young girls killed in the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church. As a political leader, she was attacked, hunted and imprisoned; she dared to stand against a racist system. She’s seen and witnessed it all, and she continues to inspire, educate and resist oppression.” – Common

Allyson Felix


Photo Courtesy of Patrick Smith/Getty Images

“Allyson Felix is one of the most decorated athletes in track and field. When athletes like her speak out about the injustices they face, they are taking a stand for us all. So after Allyson publicly called out her sponsor at the time, Nike, for threatening to pay her less after she gave birth to her daughter in 2018, she had my attention and my support…After she came forward, Nike updated its maternity policies to safeguard athletes’ pay for 18 months surrounding childbirth. But society needs to protect all of its mothers…Thank you for using your voice to advance maternity rights, Allyson.” – Christy Turlington Burns

For the full TIME’s “100 Most Influential People” list, click here.


Congratulations to you all. Because of you, we can. 

Photos Courtesy of Time/Out Magazine

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