Black History Month is celebrated every February, but in the creator economy, there are trailblazers who are redefining what it means to be an influencer every day, week, and month of the year. To celebrate these Black role models and mold-breaking artists on social media, Passionfruit compiled a list of some of the most exciting rising stars in the creator space who are truly changing the game.
Although these creators represent a variety of niches, from food to fashion, to education and activism, what they share is an unapologetic celebration of Black joy, history, and culture that inspires and informs millions of people around the world on TikTok, Instagram, and even the White House.
With so many trailblazers out there, these are just a few of the creators we believe can teach us something about what it means to make a difference in the world and harness the power of social media.
Jasmine Avery (@diaryofamadblackvegan)
When Jasmine “Jazz” Avery got started on TikTok in 2018, she noticed most vegan content creators had something in common: They were white. Fast-forward to 2023 and Avery, who is of Guyanese descent, racked up 44,000 TikTok followers, 54,000 Instagram followers, and over 3,000 YouTube followers, offering tips and encouragement for Black vegans who might face family pushback when altering traditional or culturally important dishes.
Like her recipes, which celebrate Guyanese culture with vegan versions of traditional dishes like pine tarts and pepperpots, Avery’s videos are colorful, casual, and feature more than a little spice. The result transforms what may seem like a drudgery to some—switching to a more restrictive diet—into a joyous celebration. In Avery’s capable hands, veganism isn’t just tempting, it’s downright exciting.
Jerome Foster II (@jeromefosterii)
As well as fighting climate change, 20-year-old Jerome Foster II is a force of nature in their own right. They founded an immersive technology company at 14, interned for the legendary civil rights activist John Lewis at 16, and became a nationally recognized climate activist by 18 years old. In 2020, Foster stood outside the White House for over 50 weeks as part of the School Strike for Climate Change. Now, as the youngest presidential advisor in history, Foster is working from the inside.
As a member of the president’s Environmental Justice Advisory Council, Foster works alongside people twice his age to address the disproportionate harm climate change and pollution caused to communities of color. Inherent in Foster’s activism is the belief not only that something must be done about climate change but that solutions can address historic injustices at the same time.
Katie Robinson (@pikachulita)
In a world dominated by straight white men, a queer Black gamer like Pikachulita is a breath of fresh air. She’s been thriving on Twitch for seven years, gaining 15,800 followers and accumulating over 137 million views, and is now a member of organizations like Black Girl Gamers and the Noir network.
Most importantly, she didn’t get there by shying away from politics. In between Fortnite matches, Pikachulita is unapologetically outspoken on issues ranging from diversity in gaming to racism on Twitch to why Final Fantasy XVI should have incorporated more people of color. She also uses her platform to elevate the voices of Black trans people, hosting chats with trans gamers to educate her followers.
Using a platform to raise awareness might seem relatively easy, but Pikachulita uses hers to make a real-world impact, too. While many Twitch streamers accept tips, she often directs the generosity of her followers toward charity and mutual aid efforts instead. Most recently she’s raised money for the survivors of the deadly earthquake in Turkey and Syria.
Kissy Duerré (@kissyduerre)
Named one of TikTok 2021’s Black Trailblazers, Kissy Duerré gained over 700,000 TikTok followers since starting her account during the pandemic.
During this time, Duerré has been building a community for herself and other Black trans creators on the platform—a place to engage with audiences on difficult topics while also sharing her perspective on things like fashion, dating, and viral trends.
But even in delving into lighter topics, Duerré never glosses over how her intersecting identities shape her everyday life—and the conversations that facilitate online. Duerré has not shied away from using her platform to stand up for other trans creators on the platform in the face of cyberbullying and transphobic attacks. She is a true leader in the TikTok world to be paying attention to in the years to come.
Mya Pol (@immarollwithit)
A self-proclaimed “accidental activist,” Mya Pol found themself in need of a wheelchair after suddenly developing unusual symptoms that changed their life in the middle of their sophomore year of college. They first gained attention on the platform after sharing a video of themself dancing in a wheelchair.
Since going viral on TikTok, Pol used her newfound platform to shed light on the unique challenges faced by people with disabilities in day-to-day life, and the complexities of changing a society that historically has not been accommodating those groups. Pol has also made a point to emphasize how different disabilities look from person to person, and how sometimes they aren’t necessarily visible to us at all. Pol also brings awareness to issues many disabled and Black creators face—including censorship, whitewashing, and harassment.
Throughout their advocacy, Pol maintained the spirit of her original viral video, utilizing social media to empower others and spread joy. We’re excited to see what they do next.
Orquinazia Scott (@orquinaziascott)
Orquinazia Scott, a Target worker who recently debuted her TikTok career, went viral this month for writing daily Black History Month facts on a whiteboard located in the back of the store she works at. She initially started documenting the facts on TikTok after finding out a co-worker had been erasing them.
The first fact was about how a Black man influenced Elvis’ style of dancing. For decades Black people have spoken out about how Elvis has been applauded for his style of dancing and singing which is highly influenced by Black culture, while Black musicians faced discrimination. Another fact detailed how Seneca Village, a once bustling Black community in New York City, had been turned into Central Park, displacing many of its original Black inhabitants.
While Scott is just starting out as a TikTok creator, she’s built a strong community of followers that resonated with her story, and she is dedicated to sharing Black History on and off-screen. We hope she continues to post, and we’re looking forward to seeing what happens next in her story.
Rynn Chambers (@rynnstar)
“Black neighborhoods are overpoliced, so, of course, they have higher rates of crime,” Rynn Chambers sang in a viral TikTok back in 2020. “And white perpetrators are undercharged, so of course they have lower rates of crime. And all of those stupid stats you keep quoting are operating on a small size. So shut up, shut up, shut up, shut up.”
The music teacher wasn’t expecting the short, off-the-cuff song imploring people to “shut up” rather than cite these skewed statistics, to go viral. But it exploded practically overnight, leading them down a new path of what they call “edutainment”—education and entertainment—on the platform.
With over a million followers on TikTok today, Chambers has continuously used their videos to draw attention to all sorts of modern and historical issues of racism and inequality as well as engaging in relevant pop culture discourse. Chambers make a difference by being themself, using their humorous personality, posting their latest takes on the latest trending topics, and sparking meaningful debate.
“My journey on TikTok has been one of a lot of listening, learning, and growth,” Chambers told Passionfruit. “I’m really grateful for the connections I’ve made within different communities over the past three years.”
Shahem Mclaurin (@5hahem)
From the impact of white supremacy on mental health to relationships, social worker Shahem Mclaurin has dedicated their TikTok account to raising awareness of mental health issues through an intersectional lens. Their dedication has paid off, and the TikToker, dubbed Dr. Durag, now has over 470,000 followers.
Unlike some TikTok accounts focused on mental health, Mclaurin mixes in a good amount of personal and entertaining content. They continue to go viral with videos such as their series discussing questions that have “changed people’s lives and the way that they think,” proving that their approach is providing value to their audience.
Committed to Black liberation, Mclaurin also created an ongoing series about LGBTQ and Black history, showcasing Black icons like James Baldwin and Nina Simone. They’ve issued a powerful reminder to their followers that “Black History is LGTBQ History.”
Zai Sylla (@zai_rambles)
Zai Sylla has made it her mission to highlight positive representations of Black culture by Black creators in films, television, and books, via her TikTok, which currently boasts over 200,000 followers.
Beyond just drawing attention to deserving content being made for a long underserved community, Sylla also discusses why this matters and how consuming fictional content that celebrates Black joy and community rather than just Black trauma is imperative in everyone’s journey towards becoming an antiracist ally.
“I think the step that everyone misses, this will basically connect all of the dots of everything you’re doing, it is empathy. Connection to Black experiences,” Sylla said in a TikTok. “Because even if you’re going to understand things with your head, empathy is going to allow you to understand things with your heart, in your soul. And the best way to do that is to watch Black movies.”
Zion Clark (@bigznoexcuses)
Born without legs due to a rare condition called caudal regression syndrome, Zion Clark grew up in foster care. He started wrestling in elementary school and ended his high school career with a 33-15 record in wrestling. But he didn’t stop there. Eight years later Zion Clark is not only an accomplished wrestler, but he’s also a wheelchair racer, mixed martial artist, the holder of two Guinness World Records, a memoir writer, and the subject of an Emmy-winning Netflix documentary.
As a motivational speaker to millions of TikTok and Instagram followers, Clark is a fierce advocate for mental health awareness, youth sports, and the foster care system. Clark encourages his followers to be kind to one another—and to themselves. As Clark said in a recent video, “kindness will always reward.”
Clark also shares gym clips, behind-the-scenes content, his day-to-day life, and his musical hobbies with his fans. His massive social media presence has landed him deals with top brands, including Disney, Spotify, Xfinity, Jamba Juice, and others. In January 2023, Clark signed with titan talent management company WME, opening up new doors for future media opportunities. We can’t wait to see what he does next.