How ICON MANN's 28 Men of Change is Changing the World - By Xaque Gruber

Photo: Honorees Nick Cannon and poet Prentice Powell (Photo by Earl E. Gibson 3rd)

What do NASA astronaut Leland Melvin, Oscar nominated director Steve McQueen, fine artist Sanford Biggers, acclaimed chef Marcus Samuelsson, TV host Nick Cannon, Capital Prep Magnet School principal Dr. Steve Perry, Grammy winning record producer Swizz Beatz have in common?

They are all part of ICON MANN's 28 MEN OF CHANGE.

What is ICON MANN, you ask?

ICON MANN is a lifestyle media company with a purpose: to positively change the global dialogue surrounding Black Men, and shine a much needed light on these business leaders/philanthropists of every field. ICON MANN's 28 MEN OF CHANGE will be featured on BET Networks through the 28 days of Black History Month (February) profiling a different "Man of Change" each day. This culminates in a dinner allowing the honorees to come together to share resources and to push forward the conversation on the positive imprint that they will leave on the world.

Photo: Honorees Lee Daniels and Edward Lewis (Photo by Earl E. Gibson 3rd)

Founding co-partner, Tamara N. Houston credits actor Richard Roundtree for inspiring a paradigm shift within her to help launch ICON MANN.

Houston says,

"The bias lens shown towards Black men is irrefutable despite their unprecedented successes in every area of society yet as a whole, until now, until ICON MANN, we as a community have not spoken effectively to the solution of eradicating this bias to any great affect. In 2012, I was at a luncheon where Mr. Roundtree stood as a guest, deeply moved, saying that in his entire career he'd never been in a room with that many Black faces coming together for the sole purpose of uplifting one another. He said 'they don't do this for us. They don't do this to uplift Black men.' I can still feel the knot in my throat because with all the wonderful things this man has accomplished going back to 1970, he never heard his own community say, "you matter. We value you." The evidence of this alienation is everywhere, the marriage rate is down, suicide rate for Black men is going through the roof, and we have the power to change that. As Ndaba Mandela said in reference to his grandfather, Nelson Nandela 'It is in our hands.' There is no greater time to be a Black man than now."

When asked what being an ICON MANN meant to Honoree Wayne Brady, he replied -

"You probably don't have enough space in the article to answer that question. The ICON MANN experience has forced an internal dialogue. It's made me question "Who am I as a man? What do I want as a man? Who am I as a Black Man? And what do I want as a Black man?" So I am trying to take those things that these questions have awakened in me and take them to other people in my community. For me that's what it's about."

Photo: Honorees Nile Rodgers and Nnamdi Asomugha (Photo by Earl E. Gibson 3rd)

While he was in his twenties, Honoree Nnamdi Asomugha, a former NFL player, created the Asomugha College Tour for Scholars and the African initiative Orphans and Widows In Need. He is also active with the Clinton Global Initiative. Asomugha comments -

"If there were ever a time when we needed positive role models, the time is now. These men have worked every bone and muscle to get to where they are today. The path that my life has taken has been full of pleasant surprises, and being an ICON MANN makes me feel empowered and adds to that pleasant surprise."

Photo: Honorees NASA astronaut Leland Melvin and Dr. Robert Gore (Photo by Earl E. Gibson 3rd)

Houston reflects,

"Our men drive the ship and say this is what needs to change in our community, and they trust (partner) Adrienne Alexander and I, this ICON MANN platform. The only thing we want is to make them proud. Across America and the Diaspora there are young Black boys or girls, future leaders, who, starting February 1st can watch the 28 MEN OF CHANGE on BET and discover someone speaking to them talking about success, and the inspired pathway required to achieve it. ICON MANN is saying that the true measure of success is about what you give, and how you use that, which is ultimately your footprint, and that is how future generations will look at you."

Also being honored as part of ICON MANN's 28 MEN OF CHANGE:

Lee Daniels, Academy Award nominated Director (The Butler, Precious), producer (Monster's Ball, The Woodsman), and writer (The Paperboy)

Ndaba Mandela, Chairman, Africa Rising Foundation, which is furthering the work of his grandfather, Nelson Mandela

Nile Rodgers, Grammy winning producer/musician and founder of the We Are Family Foundation

Forest Whitaker, Academy Award winning actor

Steve Pemberton, Chief Diversity Officer of Walgreens, who is giving opportunity to Foster Care kids looking to support themselves.

Dr. Robert Ross, C.E.O. for The California Endowment, a health foundation which has raised 50 million dollars to help and support Black and Brown boys over the next several years.

Dr. Courtney Hollowell, Cook County Hospital Chairman of the Division of Urology

Charles Jenkins, Pastor of the Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church of Chicago; founder of FEED for Chicago

Edward Lewis, co-founder of Essence Magazine and Latina Magazine

Lonnie Bunch the Third, Founding Director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture

Ambassador Ron Kirk, Former U.S. Trade Representative for the Obama Administration

Dr. Robert Gore, the head of emergency medicine at SUNY in The Bronx, runs a youth violence prevention program in Brooklyn; helps builds hospitals in Haiti and Indonesia

The remaining 28 Men of Change will be announced on B.E.T. Networks through the month of February.

Twitter is @ICONMANN