Except for the many civil rights pioneers we’ve come to know and revere, there has been a dearth of new leadership within the African American community. Granted, only seven years ago the country welcomed its first Black president; and it appears the Christian church continues to be a guidepost for Black believers. Nevertheless, a passing of the baton seems appropriate for these trying times.

As the dust settles from more than two years of civil unrest related to police misconduct involving the killing of unarmed Blacks males, some critics have cited a need for youth-driven leadership. The million dollar question is: who will step up to the plate and assume this mantle?

Our Weekly conducted a nation-wide search and developed a list of potential individuals ages 20 to 40 years old who stand as plausible candidates. The criteria we used to determine leadership included impact, involvement, success in motivating and galvanizing people, and being at the forefront in their respective fields.

Justin Simien, 31

Justin Simien is an American film director and writer. His first feature film, “Dear White People,” won the United States Dramatic Special Jury Award for Breakthrough Talent at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival. Simien started work on what would become “Dear White People” in 2006, with inspiration for the script coming from his feelings while attending the predominantly White Chapman University in Orange, Calif. In 2012, he created a concept trailer using his tax refund as funding. With the concept trailer as a centerpiece, he launched a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo to raise $25,000 but he got an overwhelming response and managed to raise $40,000 instead.

The film premiered in the U.S. Dramatic Category at 2014 Sundance Film Festival on January 18, 2014. In its opening weekend the film grossed $344,000 in only 11 locations for an $31,273 per theater average. “Dear White People” also won Simien the “Audience Award” at the 2014 San Francisco International Film Festival. Simien was also named to Variety magazine’s 2013 “10 Directors to Watch” list.

Ory Okolloh, 37

Ory Okolloh is a Kenyan activist, lawyer, blogger and she currently holds the position of director of investments at Redwood City, Calif.-based Omidyar Network, a philanthropic investment firm for socially conscious entrepreneurs. Okolloh formerly worked to expand Google’s growth and development in Africa. In 2006, she co-founded Mzalendo (Swahili: “Patriot”), a website that helps Kenya’s electorate keep track of the activities of their representatives in parliament. Mzalendo closely monitors and analyses every bill, every speech and every member who passes through Kenya’s parliament, and helps promote transparency and accountability in government.

When Kenya was engulfed in violence following a disputed presidential election in 2007, Okolloh helped create the website Ushahidi (Swahili: “Witness”), that collected and recorded eyewitness reports of violence using text messages and Google Maps.

In 2003, Okolloh began a blog, kenyapundit.com. She used her new platform to encourage people to get involved in changing their world. She recognized that talking is only a small part of achieving change, and encouraged people to take action to bring about progress.

Okolloh also worked as a legal consultant for Non Government Organizations (NGOs) and has worked at the international law firm Covington and Burling, the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, and the World Bank in the past.

Okolloh, who was born into a relatively poor family, said that her parents sent her to a private elementary school that they could “barely afford,” which she said “set the foundation for what ended up being my career.” She earned an undergraduate degree in political science from the University of Pittsburgh and graduated from Harvard Law School in 2005.

Aja Brown, 33

Aja Brown currently serves as Mayor of Compton, Calif. On June 4, 2013, she made history as Compton’s youngest mayor ever elected. She won the election by a landslide, defeating both then-incumbent mayor Eric J. Perrodin and former mayor Omar Bradley.

While attending the University of Southern California in 2004, she began working for the city of Gardena as an economic development analyst. Later that year, she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in public policy, urban planning and development. In 2005, she earned a master’s degree in urban planning with a concentration in economic development.

In 2006, Brown began working for the city of Inglewood an urban planner. In 2009, she began working for the city of Compton’s Redevelopment Agency as a redevelopment project manager. In this role, she was responsible for overseeing the agency’s urban planning and economic development initiatives and leading the re-branding and marketing efforts of the agency. Brown also created and implemented Compton’s Apprentice Program designed to create jobs for local residents.

Christopher Gray, 22

In an episode of ABC’s business funding program, “Shark Tank,” Gray, a Drexel University student walked away with a deal for his Scholly app, created to improve access to scholarship support for aspiring college students.

Gray, a senior at the school, knows a thing or two about scholarships. He told the panel of Shark Tank venture capitalists that he was awarded 34 scholarships totaling $1.3 million. He used his knowledge to create Scholly.

Gray asked the sharks for an investment of $40,000 in exchange for 15 percent of his company, which had at that time sold 92,000 downloads of the app for 99 cents each before the show aired, according to Gray. Shark Tank personalities Lori Greiner of QVC fame and FUBU creator Daymond John immediately pounced on the offer, giving Gray exactly what he came in looking for.

The Philadelphia City Council recently honored Gray, a finance and entrepreneurship major, for serving as an exemplary role model of entrepreneurship, and for the success of Scholly. The resolution, which was introduced by council members Ed Neilson, (at large council member) and Janine L. Blackwell, District 3, lauded Gray for his determination to help other college students find scholarship money.

Gray’s appearance on Shark Tank catapulted Scholly to the top of the iTunes app store, resulting in weeks of press coverage and television appearances, including the announcement of a partnership with Saxbys CEO Nick Bayer to provide Scholly free of charge to all seniors at Center City’s Science Leadership Academy. Saxbys is a chain of coffeehouses.

Mali Music, 27

Kortney Jamaal Pollard, who performs under the stage name Mali Music, is an American recording artist, singer-songwriter and producer. Born in Phoenix, Ariz., he learned to play the piano at age five and at age 11 was active in the ministry of music in his church.

Pollard’s two independently released albums, “The Coming” (2008) and “The 2econd Coming” (2009), earned him much critical and underground acclaim. In 2011, he was the first inspirational artist to be a part of BET’s highly-touted “Music Matters” series. Signed to RCA Records in 2013, Mali’s first major album, “Mali Is…,” earned a Grammy nomination for Best Urban Contemporary Album.

Shaka Smart, 38

Shaka Dingani Smart is the fiery head coach at the University of Texas. He began his coaching career in 1999 as an assistant at California University of Pennsylvania. He was later hired as director of basketball operations at the University of Dayton. Smart went on to become an assistant coach at the University of Akron for three years, Clemson for two, and at the University of Florida for one.

Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) hired Smart to be the head coach in the spring of 2009 after the program’s previous coach, Anthony Grant, left to become the head coach of the Alabama Crimson Tide men’s basketball team. Smart’s hire made him the 10th-youngest head coach in Division I. In his first season, he led the Rams to a 27-10 season and a CBI (College Basketball Invitational) Championship after VCU swept Saint Louis University in the championship best-of-three series.

Smart led the Rams to their second consecutive Colonial Athletic Association Championship, where they lost to Old Dominion. On April 4, 2011, Smart agreed to an eight-year contract extension with VCU, increasing his base pay from $350,000 to $1.2 million per year, prior to any performance bonuses. On January 19, 2013, Smart became the second youngest active coach to win 100 games, with a 90-63 victory over Duquesne. On April 2, 2015, Smart accepted an offer to become the new men’s head basketball coach at the University of Texas, a basketball powerhouse.