LOS ANGELES — Donnel Baird intends to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 2-3 percent in the next five years. His vision earned him a slot as a community crusader on the prestigious Ebony magazine Power 100 list.
Social justice advocate Susan Burton’s mission is to end mass incarceration among women. She is considered the modern day Harriet Tubman for her relentless work leading formerly incarcerated women out of the darkness of the prison system to a brighter future.
Burton’s trailblazing grassroots nonprofit organization, A New Way of Life Re-Entry Project, received the honor in the Luminaries category.
Selected and compiled by the editors of Ebony magazine, individuals who are leaders in their field and make a significant impact on the black community are given the nod to join the influential Power 100 list and garner the recognition as a game changer. The categories include Entertainer of the Year, Icon, Disruptors, Luminaries, Community Crusaders, Trendsetters, Technies, Entrepreneurs and more.
The gala, held at the Beverly Hills Hilton Dec. 1, attracted a capacity crowd of the who’s who in black America. This year’s entertainment opened with Willow Smith, daughter of Will and Jada Pinkett Smith, and comedian/actor Deon Cole served as the master of ceremonies.
Baird and Burton are beacons of hope in two different spectrums of what America needs to thrive. Their stories are prime examples of what embodies the Ebony Power 100 list of influencers — African American super heroes from millennials to baby boomers.
As the founder of the tech-sector start up, BlocPower, Baird, 36, is known as the “fixer,” of inner cities across America. His determination to build healthier, greener and smarter communities started in his own backyard of Brooklyn, New York, where BlocPower has been contracted to work on 1,000 buildings.
“We are bringing cutting-edge technology to existing and new structures — from homes to schools to hospitals and churches — to increase energy efficiency for urban communities,” said Baird, who is the son of Guyanese immigrants.
“We are expanding from New York to Philadelphia, Atlanta, Chicago, Oakland and in conversations to include Los Angeles to create better communities and green construction, installation and maintenance jobs for the out-of-work populations.”
He said his company will train and welcomes ex-offenders, aged out foster care individuals and people of all ages that are ready to roll up their sleeves and work.
Susan Burton is an author and founder and executive director of A New Way Of Life Re-Entry Project. Her memoir, “Becoming Ms. Burton: From Prison to Recovery to Leading the Fight for Incarcerated Women,” takes you on her heart-wrenching journey of one tragedy to another unimaginable set of circumstances.
She is a survivor who was sexually abused as a child, lost her 5-year-old son and served six prison terms for drug-related crimes. With the help of a local foundation, Burton was able to break her cycle of recidivism. Now, through her own organization, Burton helps other women rehabilitate.
“The [prison] guard told me, ‘You’ll be back’ and I came back. I came back and led women up out of that place,” said Burton. More than 1,000 women have received help from Burton and are leading a successful life outside of the prison system. Her organization provides housing and support to formerly incarcerated women for successful community re-entry, family reunification and individual healing.
The millennial Baird and the baby boomer Burton may be an unlikely pair; however, it goes to show you that a generation gap is never too wide to make differences that count in the lives of many.
From California home-grown U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters to power couple Ervin “Magic” and Cookie Johnson and international award-winning actress Viola Davis to straight out of Compton’s Kendrick Lamar, the Ebony Power 100 list is a glimpse of the brilliance that walk among us.
To review the entire list, go to The Ebony Power 100.