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By Sylvia Cunningham

Honorees from TIME Magazine’s “100 Most Influential People” include writers, scientists, athletes, musicians and politicians - people from various walks of life who are shaping the world, for better or worse.

Released Thursday morning, the 2016 list highlights people embodying a “breakthrough” in some way or another, said TIME managing editor Nancy Gibbs.

“Down to the last person, they have the power to make us think. And they are using it,” wrote Gibbs about this year’s honorees, who are divided into five categories including Pioneers, Titans, Artists, Leaders, and Icons.

Below are some of the people defining Black Excellence in 2016:


Ibtihaj Muhammad

Fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad poses for a portrait (edited to add special effects) at the 2016 Team USA Media Summit at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on March 9, 2016 in Beverly Hills, California.Harry How / Getty Images

"Today Ibtihaj is one of the best fencers in the world—and an observant Muslim woman. This summer, she will represent the U.S. at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. And when she competes for her country, representing all of us, she will be the first American Olympian to do so while wearing the hijab. Ibtihaj embraced what made her stand out, and she’s an Olympian because of it." - Keith Ellison

Mussie Zerai

Eritrean priest Mussie Zerai poses on October 9, 2015 in Erlinsbach. Zerai, a well-known priest from Eritrea, regularly passes on distress calls on the "Watch the Med" network. The brutal regime in Eritrea is one of the main causes of migration into Europe, and Zerai's number is passed widely around Eritreans on the move.FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP/Getty Images

"A staunch critic of restrictive visa policies and the deep-rooted prejudices behind them, Zerai takes the view that “no one is illegal.” Instead, he advocates vocally, tirelessly for solutions to the problems driving people to flee war, persecution or even environmental changes in their home countries, and for more humane policies to help them reach safer conditions." - Ai Weiwei


Stephen Curry

Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors shoots the ball during the game against the Houston Rockets in Game One of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2016 NBA Playoffs April 16, 2016 at ORACLE Arena in Oakland, California.Noah Graham / NBAE/Getty Images

“Many of our sports heroes are sold to us based on their superhuman skill level. But every so often we get to experience one who combines these superior physical gifts with humility and grace while also letting us into his life to share the journey to greatness with him.” – Misty Copeland

Dwayne Johnson

Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson attends CinemaCon 2014 Off and Running: Opening Night Studio Presentation from Paramount Pictures at Caesars Palace on March 24, 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada.Alberto E. Rodriguez / Getty Images for CinemaCon

“My master plan: Dwayne becomes the governor of Florida in eight years and the President in 12, and he’s the best President we’ve had since Ronald Reagan.” - Peter Berg


Ta-Nehisi Coates

Writer Ta-Nehisi Coates speaks onstage at the New Yorker Festival 2015 - The Fire This Time at SIR Stage 37 on October 4, 2015 in New York City.Anna Webber / Getty Images for The New Yorker

“He claimed the National Book Award for best nonfiction this year, but don’t think that this is the culmination of his work. He has much more to say, and we will all be the wiser for reading it.” - Bryan Stevenson

Idris Elba

Idris Elba attends the EE British Academy Film Awards at the Royal Opera House on February 14, 2016 in London, England.Gareth Cattermole / Getty Images

“Maybe it’s funnier for the writers, but truth was I felt sanguine about ending Stringer Bell’s arc in the third season of The Wire. For one thing, it made sense thematically to impale both Bell and Bunny Colvin simultaneously on the horns of reform. For another, I knew Elba, as true a leading man as I’d ever encountered, was not going to starve.” - David Simon

Ryan Coogler

Director Ryan Coogler attends the 'Fruitvale Station' Photocall during the 66th Annual Cannes Film Festival at the Palais des Festivals on May 16, 2013 in Cannes, France.Andreas Rentz / Getty Images

“On the biggest screen, he confers humanity and beauty on people told they are innately without it.” - Ta-Nehisi Coates

Taraji P. Henson

Actress Taraji P Henson poses for a portrait at the American Black Film Festival on June 12, 2015 in New York City.J. Countess / Getty Images Portrait

“When you are on set with Taraji, she listens, but she also questions. She challenges everyone to go the extra step to get it right. She has a deep understanding of the human condition, and she displays it with her eyes—the pain, the happiness, the love, the laughter. She probably would have been a great silent actor, but then the world wouldn’t have had Cookie.” - Lee Daniels

Kendrick Lamar

Recording artist Kendrick Lamar performs on stage during the Coca-Cola Music Mix at the NCAA March Madness Music Festival Day 2 at Discovery Green on April 2, 2016 in Houston, Texas.Gustavo Caballero / Getty Images for Turner

“Kendrick should be applauded for inviting us to face things that are uncomfortable, for celebrating our will to survive and for being audacious enough to grapple with the questions that we all need to answer if we ever hope to get free.” - Alicia Garza


Jaha Dukureh

Honoree Jaha Dukureh attends the L'Oreal Paris Women of Worth 2015 Celebration - Inside at The Pierre Hotel on December 1, 2015 in New York City.Neilson Barnard / Getty Images for L'Oreal Paris

“In speaking out against female genital mutilation, Jaha Dukureh has refused to let horror be silenced. When she was an infant, her external sexual organs were amputated in her native Gambia. Now living in Atlanta, she founded Safe Hands for Girls to fight the practice both internationally and in the U.S., where 500,000 women have been or are at risk of being victimized.” - Peggy Orenstein

Barack Obama

AUSTIN, TX - MARCH 11: President of the United States Barack Obama speaks during the 2016 SXSW Music, Film + Interactive Festival at Long Center on March 11, 2016 in Austin, Texas.Neilson Barnard / Getty Images for SXSW

“President Obama and my husband were two God-fearing, charismatic black men dedicated to public service and to their wives and two daughters. They were both voices for the voiceless who got up with smiles when they got knocked down.” - Jennifer Pinckney

Darren Walker

Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation, speaks during a panel discussion at the annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) in New York, U.S., on Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2014.Michael Nagle / Bloomberg via Getty Images

“His leadership is authentic, and his focus on equality is nothing short of revolutionary, a clarion call for the world of philanthropy and an inspiration to those of us working for a more just and loving world.” - Elton John

Lester Holt

Nightly News anchor Lester Holt on February 13, 2013.Paul Drinkwater / NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

“He always does his homework, so his questions are thoughtful and insightful. He doesn’t take his privileged position in our country for granted, and he doesn’t insert himself into the story. People liked Walter Cronkite because they trusted what he had to say, and Lester is from that same mold.” - Scott Kelly


Denis Mukwege

Congolese gynaecologist, specialised in treating victims of rape and extreme sexual violence, Denis Mukwege speaks after receiving the prestigious Sakharov human rights prize for his work in helping thousands of gang rape victims in the Democratic Republic of Congo on November 26, 2014 at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, eastern France.FREDERICK FLORIN / AFP/Getty Images

“What Dr. Mukwege and his team at Panzi Hospital do is extraordinary. Theirs is a reality where 48 women in the DRC are raped every hour, according to a 2011 report. They have treated more than 46,000 victims of sexual- and gender-based violence—6-year-olds and octogenarians alike. Beyond healer to these women and girls, Dr. Mukwege is hope.” - Jill Biden

Usain Bolt

Usain Bolt of Jamaica crosses the finish line to win gold in the Men's 4x100 Metres Relay final during day eight of the 15th IAAF World Athletics Championships Beijing 2015 at Beijing National Stadium on August 29, 2015 in Beijing, China.Michael Steele / Getty Images

“Usain makes music on the track; he runs with great joy, with passion and with soul. He has that smile, that Jamaican flair. It’s a swagger and confidence that we all really enjoy. A lot of people who get to that superstar level pretend to be somebody else. I think that’s the thing I like most about Usain. He’s real.” - Ziggy Marley

Lewis Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP sits in his car in the garage during qualifying for the Formula One Grand Prix of Austria at Red Bull Ring on June 20, 2015 in Spielberg, Austria.Mark Thompson / Getty Images

“If he were to retire tomorrow, he would still be among the very best champions who have ever lived. And I think he’s just getting started. The sky is the limit for him.” - Mario Andretti

Nicki Minaj

Rapper Nicki Minaj performs in concert during X Games Austin at Circuit of The Americas on June 5, 2015 in Austin, Texas.Rick Kern / WireImage

“She’s an icon, a boss and a role model to all these young girls out here on how to do it the right way. Her work ethic speaks volumes and has yielded these results. The scary thing is she’s still going. Ha! Nicki Minaj will go down as one of the best to do it in the history of music.” - Lil Wayne

Read the full list of TIME Magazine’s “100 Most Influential People” here.

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