Since their inception in the early 1800s, historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) have produced some of the finest and most celebrated African-American men and women across the country in every human endeavor.
HBCUs are breeding grounds for cultural awareness as well as character and community building. In an effort to socialize and honor the wealth of talent each these institutions yield, the annual celebration – HBCU 30 Under 30 – was born. Those who have made the 30 under 30 classes in years prior include civil rights leaders, doctors, Olympians, educators, politicians, lawyers, musicians, engineers, actors/actresses, humanitarians, professional athletes, religious leaders, bankers, writers, and scientists. Check out the former classes here. This year, we are ready to highlight the best class yet!
Every institution, large or small, has scholars that deserve to be nationally recognized for their achievement and/or contribution. These leaders represent the best-of-class HBCU scholars who embody the mission of our beloved institutions. They while blaze a trail in their own regard.
HBCUs have more to offer than homecoming; and as members of the HBCU community, it is our duty to reach back and pull forward.
This year we are pleased to announce 30 distinguished HBCU-educated scholars.
(30) Demetrius Johnson Jr. – University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff
Demetrius Johnson Jr. is the youngest out of all existing HBCU supportive organizations to operate a non-profit organization in supporting HBCUs and the first President, CEO, and Founder of HBCU Campaign Fund organization, which is based out of Chicago, Illinois. Mr. Johnson is a native of Chicago, Illinois, and is currently an undergraduate student at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (a historically black college and university located in Pine Bluff, Arkansas), where he is studying in the field of computer science to be expected to graduate in May 2016. Mr. Johnson is a graduate of Christian Fenger High School. At UAPB, Mr. Johnson served in many organizations such as SGA, UPB (Union Programming Board), and the Arkansasawyer to name a few. He worked as a student coordinator at the Harrold Complex Living and Learning Center on campus.
Upon graduation, Mr. Johnson is seeking graduate school in the field of non-profit leadership, public administration, business management or educational leadership preferably at a HBCU in the growth of him to improve his skills and knowledge in the betterment of operations of HCF. He is inspired in wanting to pursue in becoming a President or Chancellor of an HBCU institution one day and as well as operating HCF.
As described as a high energize, enthusiast and visionary advocate for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Mr. Johnson vision of the HBCU Campaign Fund were to organize a non-profit organization that will be an essential tool to support the significance, another avenue of advertisement and raise contributions to providing assistance for HBCUs and students who attend them. HCF was founded in 2012 and incorporated as a non-profit in 2015. Mr. Johnson dream goal is to assist HBCUs in continuing to be primer institutions that were created to serve academic excellence to the African-American community and as of today a diverse population.
Mr. Johnson intentions for the HBCU Campaign Fund in becoming a foundation to give back to HBCUs and students and join the list of other organization such as United Negro College Fund, Thurgood Marshall College Fund, and Tom Joyner Foundation. He wants HCF to be the field of promoting the existence into the eyes of future interest students and supporters to attend and support HBCUs by keeping them alive for many years and centuries to come. He wants to live to grow and learn by being the first President and CEO of HCF in improving and moving the organization to serve HBCUs, students, and alumni.
As a young up and coming President and CEO of a non-profit who is inspired and dedicated to working in helping educational institutions that were created over 140 years to teaching and training African-Americans. Mr. Johnson hopes to experience and expertise working with HBCU Chancellors and President, faculty and staff, students, alumni, supporters, corporation support and fellow HBCU supportive organization. He also hopes to experience and expertise working with the college students from an empowerment and youth-driven perspective.
(29) Valerie Edwards – Elizabeth City State University
Even back in high school in Whiteville, NC, Valerie Edwards had her eye on the news. She paid attention to newspapers, to the local news, to the news magazines that gave her a window to the wider world, to the national news that morphed into the 24/7 institution it is today.
Valerie’s curiosity has paid off, because now, after four years at ECSU, she’s headed to one of the pre-eminent schools of journalism in all the world— The Columbia School of Journalism, in New York City. She’ll pursue a Master’s of Science degree there. Valerie credits much of this new opportunity to two professors at ECSU, her Honors advisor Dr. Velma Blackmon and Professor Kip Branch, her advisor on several school publications.
“The thing that made ECSU so great for me was that I got a whole education, one that pushed me to learn but that did it in a way that was right for me. My professors knew me by name and really got to know me. And I was encouraged to try things outside my usual frame of concentration. In my case, I’ve always been interested in verbal things, and I sort of always knew that I’d be doing something in that direction, but I also needed to broaden my experience. I was able to do that at ECSU in ways that no other school offered. In fact, I am a double major in Mass Communications and Aviation Science and I’m licensed to fly a Cessna 150. Imagine doing that at any other school!”
“In short, I came away from ECSU ready for the world, with lots more to take with me than I brought with me to school. And I thank ECSU for that.” Edwards is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., National Association of Black Journalists, Sigma Tau Delta International English Honor Society, Women in Aviation International, and Active Minds.
(28) Kaj Najee Gumbs – Morehouse College
Kaj Najee Gumbs is an active 20 year old Man of Morehouse. As a student at Morehouse he has taken on many roles. In 2014 Kaj Became the youngest Keynote speaker at the Chantilly Pyramid Minority Student Achievement Committee’s (CPMSAC) annual award ceremony; the largest minority Award Ceremony in the State of Virginia. Over the last two summers Kaj has worked as a Public Affairs and Political Affairs Summer employee for the United States Ambassador to Canada, Bruce Heyman. In June of 2015 he was appointed as a Peace Corps Campus Ambassador to the campuses of Morehouse College, Spelman College, and Clark Atlanta. Later that year he was elected as the Vice President of the Morehouse College Young Democrats of America, he works for Razor Solutions Group LLC., a political consulting and fundraising firm, and at the beginning of 2016 he was appointed and sworn in as Georgia NAACP Youth and College Division Political Action Committee Chairman.
Over his short tenure with his position, Kaj has set a strict agenda for himself. Over the last two months he has done community outreach and taken on fights against the potential legislation in the state of Georgia such as: Georgia House Bill 859 that allows the concealed carry of a firearm on public colleges in the state of Georgia, and Georgia House Bill 757 that allows the discrimination of LGBTQIA folk from being served by any business that feels it against their religion. Kaj has testified in front of the Georgia Senate Judiciary Committee to speak out in opposition of House Bill 859. Once the bill was ultimately passed, Kaj has been an outspoken advocate against the bill, and has worked to continuously put Governor Nathan Deal to veto the bill.
Kaj has also set forth an initiative to reach out to the next generation and express to them the importance of becoming civically engaged. He has recently concluded an almost 2 month tour in which he has gone out to high schools in the Greater Atlanta Area, such as Benjamin Elijah Mays High School, and discussed the importance of becoming civically engaged, the importance of sexual assault prevention and reporting, and has also garnered results by registering almost 100 young students to vote.
While working for the United States Ambassador to Canada, Kaj worked as a direct point of contact between the State Department and the Canadian and U.S. sports teams during the Pan-American Games in Toronto, Canada, the largest sporting event to ever be held in the country. Currently, Kaj works for the offices of a “Georgia Stand-up,” a non-profit organization in the state of Georgia that takes on a plethora of issues, from Sexual Assault to voter disenfranchisement. Alongside his work with the non-profit, he has advocated and is in the process of working with the Fulton County Board of Elections to help get voter polling booths on all three campuses in the Atlanta University Center. During the summer Kaj will be working for the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, focusing on keeping strong Unions in the city of Atlanta and protecting the rights and dignity of all working class people.
(27) Imani Pope-Johns – Howard University
As someone who has a passion for seeing people with their own businesses thrive, the only way she saw fit is to help others is through publicity. As a former magazine writer and 20-something media maven, Imani has been able to secure red carpet appearances, develop partnerships, increase social media visibility, secure product placements, press in local to international media and much more.
Essence.com, Yahoo!, Thrillist, Conde Naste Traveller, Yahoo Travel, TheRoot.com, BET.com, Heed Mag, Sister2Sister Magazine, Fox 5 News DC, Black Enterprise, AFROPUNK.com, Singersroom.com, MTV, BeMagazine, Soultrain.com & more…
Imani began marketing her services under the name, ModelisquePR (2010 – 2012) with her former client, singer Qwanell Mosley of music group Day26. After years of work, she created Influplexity, LLC; a publicity boutique providing services to beauty, lifestyle (food, fitness, finance, tech, wine) and music. The company motto is sophisticated influence and she strives to provide clients with media services of quality with grace.
Check out her most recent clients were Airfordable, Sole Savers, Finances Simplified and MECKids
(26) Dennis Richmond Jr. – Claflin University
Class of 2017 | African and African American Studies Major – Education Minor Dennis Richmond, Jr. is a 21-year- old graduating senior at Claflin University in Orangeburg, South Carolina and upon graduation (2017) will be a second generation Claflinite, following his mother Mrs. Hortena D. Richmond. While matriculating and Claflin, Richmond has been awarded over a half dozen scholarships. Two of his scholarships and his summer 2016 fellowship have all been through the UNCF. Richmond has appeared on over two dozen television stations through the UNCFs, “An Evening of Stars” event, to which he was awarded a $25,000 scholarship through Target and the UNCF.
Richmond’s most notable piece of work to date, prior to his demonstrated passion for genealogical research, is advocating for HBCUs through his New York State HBCU Initiative. He continues to, “beat the drum for HBCUs” as former Claflin professor Patricia H. Koger stated to him over a year ago. Richmond travels across New York, free of charge to educate students about the importance of HBCUs and the benefits, scholarships, and networking opportunities that can be achieved when they attend them. Richmond’s initiative is specifically for New York and many New Yorkers are very much aware of it. He is sponsored by businessman and rapper Jadakiss, Former NBA Player and Ex. Dir. of The Nepperhan Community Center in Yonkers, NY Rev.Dr. Jim Bostic, three NYS Assembly members; J. Gary Pretlow, N. Nick Perry,and Shelley Mayer and he has gained the support of LHHNY’s singer and songwriter Cardi B, Congressman Eliot L. Engel, NYS Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Dr. Ivory A. Toldson of The White House Initiative on HBCUs, andAshley Sharpton to name a few.
Despite his rapid networking and growing fan base, Richmond has two internship experiences under his belt, both of which were completed summer 2016. He was the Education Policy and Public Affairs intern for The Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO) in Washington, D.C. and the Departmental Aide and Casework intern at Westchester County DSS’s Yonkers Office. He is a member of numerous organizations including The NAACP and Pi Gamma Mu Honor Society, and was a February 2016 Who’s Who Among Students In American Universities & Colleges Honoree.
(25) Malik Perkins – Central State University
As a recent graduate from Central State University I am thrilled to begin my career in my hometown with Newscenter 7! I am an All Media Journalist and I provide content for television, radio, and print. I was born and raised in Dayton, Ohio. I attended Dayton Christian Schools from Kindergarten all the way through High School at their various campuses. I ran track and played football as a student at Dayton Christian. I also played trumpet in the band for seven years.
In May of 2014, I graduated from Central State University with a bachelor’s degree in Communication with a focus in Broadcast Media. During my college years I was a member of the Invincible Marching Marauders, served as president of the National Association of Black Journalists, and hosted the radio program “Jazz at Sundown” on Jazzy 88.9 WCSU. I also worked in WHIO radio as a board operator and helped produce “Flyer Feedback.”
I was granted the opportunity to become an All Media Journalist during my last semester of college. I am looking forward to telling the stories of our community. I couldn’t be more excited about covering Dayton, Ohio!
(24) Nolan D. McCaskill – Florida A&M University
Nolan D. McCaskill is a breaking news reporter at POLITICO, where started as an inaugural member of POLITICO’s Journalism Institute in 2014 before accepting a yearlong fellowship through 2015.
Nolan is a 2014 graduate of Florida A&M University, where he received legacy, vision and student journalist of the year awards for his leadership and selflessness. He was also named a third-place College Journalist of the Year in 2014 by the Southeast Journalism Conference.
A former editor-in-chief of his college newspaper, The Famuan, and former producer for his university’s live television newscasts, Nolan has also completed internships at Ocala Style Magazine and The News & Observer.
(23) Shae Harris – North Carolina A&T
Shae is the Deputy Director at the Mayor’s Office on Returning Citizen Affairs in Washington, D.C, where she informs policies and legislation for people returning home from incarceration. In her capacity, she directs and coordinates operations, while serving as the liaison between her agency, community-based organizations and local/national stakeholders within the reentry community.
She received her Master of Public Administration from American University and holds a B.A. in Political Science from North Carolina A&T State University. She also received a Nonprofit Executive Management Certificate from Georgetown University.
Previously, she served as the School Partnership Manager for College Summit, the nation’s largest nonprofit dedicated to transforming the lives of low-income youth by connecting them to college and careers. Shae also has a wealth of experience from working with various nonprofits in the D.C. metropolitan region to improve the lives of marginalized and underserved populations in the District.
(22) Tariq Touré – Bowie State University
Tariq Touré is a Writer and Social Justice Advocate born and raised in West Baltimore, Maryland. Touré’s undergraduate career was spent at Bowie State University where he earned a full football scholarship. With a Master’s Degree in Social Work concentrating in Macro practice from Howard University, Touré has paired his renowned creative spirit with lifelong change agency, and catapulted himself among the best emerging new millennial thinkers in the world. In 2014 and 2016 Touré organized the first two annual “Professional Athlete Summits” engaging minority athletes in developing a wider perspective on the business and politics of sports.
Touré is the co-founder of the first Interfaith Rally Against Hate (IRAH) in response to violence against the marginalized religious communities. Touré’s debut compilation of poetry, “Black Seeds” was the number one selling book in African American Literature and in Black History Month of this year and is ranked in the top 100 best sellers on Amazon. In 2016, Touré has been recognized as one of the top 100 Muslim advocates for justice by MPower Change, and honored as the “Rising Community Voice” in Baltimore Magazine’s Best of Baltimore 2016 issue. International Hip Hop artist “Black Thought” and renowned Baltimore Author “D. Watkins” have regarded Tariq Touré as the “Amiri Baraka of this era.
(21) Christina Epps – Coppin State University
Christina Epps (born June 20, 1991) is an American track and field athlete who specializes in the triple jump. She competed at the 2015 World Championships in Beijing without qualifying for the final. Her personal bests in the event are 14.09 meters outdoors (+1.1 m/s, Eugene 2015) and 13.16 meters indoors (New York 2014).
Epps grew up in Morristown, New Jersey and graduated from Morristown High School in 2009.
Keturah Orji joined Team USA teammate Andrea Geubelle as the only two with 2016 Olympic Standard at 2016 United States Olympic Trials (track and field) and will represent the United States at Athletics at the 2016 Summer Olympics and in the fifth round the pair were joined by Christina Epps who jumped the 2016 Olympic Standard to form a trio for Rio.