10 Black Movers & Shakers Who Have Touched Our City
The Queen City is teeming with exceptional Black talent. Here’s a look at 10 notable Black Charlotteans who have made (and continue to make) an indelible mark on our city.
by Jonathan McFadden
All eyes are on Black lives right now — and they should be.
The brutal slaying of George Floyd last month has galvanized people across the nation, inspiring them to challenge police brutality and systemic racism. It’s also put the spotlight on the Black creatives, pioneers and leaders who have changed cities and shaped industries across the globe, and Charlotte is no different.
Disclaimer: This list is by no means exhaustive. We believe the contributions of Black Charlotteans are innumerable, and we know some very important people are missing from this rundown. This is simply a quick look at some people who are part of transforming our city for the better.
Alvin C. Jacobs
An Illinois native turned Charlotte transplant, Alvin C. Jacobs is a photographer and image activist who travels the country documenting social justice movements. His work has brought attention to the plights and triumphs of marginalized people all over the nation, including in Charlotte, where his “Welcome to Brookhill” exhibit spotlighted neighbors facing displacement from their housing complex.
Co-founder, BlkMrkt CLT
This prolific painter and innovator is an artistic virtuoso and champion of Charlotte’s Black artistic community. With photographer Will Jenkins, Dammit Wesley founded the BlkMrktCLT art gallery in Camp North End; started Let’s Talk Dammit, a monthly forum for creatives; and organized the Durag Festival, which celebrates Charlotte’s vibrant black culture. His work is thoughtful and in-your-face — just what we need to spur critical conversations.
An eclectic artist, fashion designer and entrepreneur, Davita co-founded the Dupp&Swat creative studio with her brother, Dion. She also co-founded the creative agency Hue House and the nonprofit CrownKeepers. She’s been a speaker at Creative Mornings; participated in Innovate Charlotte’s Venture Mentoring Service; and spearheaded various events and forums dedicated to empowering and engaging Charlotte’s Black creatives. Seriously, what hasn’t she done?
Superintendent, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools
Among Charlotte’s Black leaders, there is perhaps none more influential than CMS Superintendent Earnest Wilson. A former journalist, he leads one of the nation’s largest school districts — a role that puts him at the forefront of helping students navigate these hectic and unprecedented times.
Founder and publisher, Qcitymetro.com
Through his online news site Qcitymetro.com, veteran journalist Glenn has provided in-depth coverage of Charlotte’s Black community for more than a decade. With a community-first approach to their journalism, Glenn and his staff (Katrina and Kalan Louis) continue to give a prominent and necessary voice to Charlotte’s Black community.
Greg and Subrina Collier
This entrepreneurial husband-wife team are culinary masterminds changing the flavor of our city. Their first restaurant, The Yolk, has become a community staple, and there’s no doubt their newest spot, a modern juke joint called Leah and Louise, will be a major hit at Camp North End. The duo helped found the popular Soul Food Sessions pop-up diner, and their accolades keep adding up: Chef Greg has twice been nominated for the prestigious James Beard Award.
Harvey B. Gantt
Former mayor of Charlotte
Harvey B. Gantt served two terms as the first black mayor of Charlotte at the same time it began embracing its identity as a “New South City.” A retired architect, he remains active in Charlotte’s political scene, having served on many civic, cultural and business boards. His name is a fixture in the community: The Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture is named in his honor.
An educator, facilitator and proud agitator, Janeen Bryant has consistently spoken truth to power on behalf of underserved students and marginalized communities for 20 years. She serves as co-founder and director of operations for the Center for Racial Equity in Education (CREED) and founded Facilitate Movement, a consultancy that helps institutions organize and lead with cultural competency and empathy.
Executive director, League of Creative Interventionists
Jonell Logan is a distinguished arts advocate and curator who founded 300 Arts Project, which helps museums and colleges expand and document their exhibitions and collections. She also leads the League of Creative Interventionists, which funds projects by local artists, community leaders, social workers, teachers, etc., intended to uplift communities.
Current mayor of Charlotte
Charlotte’s first black female mayor, Vi Lyles has led the city through some turbulent times since her election in 2017. Although no stranger to controversy or criticism, Lyles’ leadership, diplomacy and compassion have been praised by even her staunchest political opponents.