by Sydney Boyd | February 28, 2024

Ten Black Floridians Shaping the Future

From politicians to chefs to artists, meet the Sunshine State’s influential Black changemakers.


In honor of Black History Month, we’ve compiled a collection of stories showcasing several remarkable Black Floridians. Their groundbreaking achievements and unwavering dedication to their crafts are felt throughout the Sunshine State as they shape the landscape of politics, arts, cuisine and beyond. Join us as we sit down with these inspiring individuals.

Maxwell Alejandro Frost: Making History As The Youngest Congressman

As the first Gen Z’er and youngest member to be elected to the House of Representatives, Maxwell Alejandro Frost is passionate about serving his 10th Congressional district in Orlando. He’s tackling big issues affecting the state, such as addressing climate change, the housing crisis, and gun violence while inspiring Floridians of all ages to make their voice heard. Flamingo Editor-in-Chief Jamie Rich caught up with Frost to learn more about the important work he’s doing on behalf of our state.

Nneka Jones: Art That Elevates Black Stories

University of Tampa graduate Nneka Jones’s mixed-media masterpieces are in high demand. Shortly after graduating, Time magazine commissioned her to create an ebroidered, yet unfinished, American flag to grace its cover in honor of the Black Lives Matter movement, and Disney World requested Jones to paint a mural at the Disney Springs Art Walk in 2020. She’s not afraid to make you uncomfortable, and these mixed-media works serve as the outlet for Jones to raise her voice on heavy topics. First being exposed to embroidery through her mother, Jones has combined her fine arts background with her love of textile and fiber arts to create meaningful pieces that aim to elevate Black women and their stories. Read more about Nneka’s story here.

Chef Leon Brunson: Serving Tallahassee With His Culinary Creations

Dance Dance Revolution and Waffle House have crafted Leon Brunson into the chef he is today. Serving the people of Tallahassee, Brunson’s journey is anything but traditional, including a neuroscience degree from Florida State University, but his lakeside restaurant, Leon’s at Lake Ella, is the newest venture in his story. Flamingo contributor Eric Barton sat down with chef Leon Brunson to learn how these two unlikely interests led him to a successful culinary career and a spot on Hulu’s food competition show, “Secret Chef.”

Nicole White: Bringing Jamaican Flair to South Florida Homes

Her strong design perspective and Jamaican background have cemented Nicole White as a risk-taking (and sought-after) interior designer. With a 15-year interior design career, including recognition from the Black Interior Designers Network and a collaboration with Tov Furniture, White is transforming spaces with her unique, vibrant touch. Flamingo contributor Nila Do Simon sat down with White to learn how this acclaimed Miami designer got her start.

Victor G. Harvey: Florida’s Award-Winning Black-Owned Bourbon Company 

In honor of the Sunshine State and its African American history, Victor G. Harvey created Fort Mosé 1738 Bourbon Whiskey, which was awarded a gold medal at the 2023 San Francisco World Spirits Competition. Harvey tells the little-known story of the first free Black community in the United States, pouring out centuries of storied secrets and smooth bourbon whiskey in every glass. Read more about Victor and his untold Florida history.

Jac Ross: Passionate Music that Speaks to the Black Experience

Recently teasing his first country music single on Instagram, Jac Ross is a multi-genre artist who is finding his way within the music industry. From debuting new music to performing at NFL games and releasing a Christmas album, this Live Oak native’s soulful voice and important messages create impactful melodies. Read Flamingo’s Q&A with Ross to learn where this soulful singer-songwriter finds the inspiration for his powerful tracks.

Sloane Stephens: More Than A Tennis Champion

Get on the court with Plantation native Sloane Stephens, tennis star and 2017 U.S. Open champion to hear her story of greatness and how Florida origins shaped her career. Stephens won the 2018 Miami Open and now partners with to provide 20 scholarships for students studying healthcare or attending a historically Black college or university. Read more about Stephens’ success story.

Barry Jenkins: Revolutionary Filmmaker and Producer

Known for his Oscar-winning film “Moonlight,” Barry Jenkins has captivated audiences through his gift of storytelling. More recently, his production company, Pastel, produced the critically acclaimed films “If Beale Street Could Talk,” “Aftersun” and six episodes of “True Detective” in 2024, HBO’s American anthology series. From Florida State University’s College of Motion Picture Arts to the red carpet, read more about Jenkins’s remarkable journey to success

Royce Lovett: From Tallahassee to the Voice

Tallahassee native Royce Lovett has been making music since he was a child, performing his songs to the empty field in his backyard. His blend of hip-hop, rock and reggae combined with his vulnerability make him a powerful performer, as his NBC’s “The Voice” appearances show. Now, he’s releasing music, with his most recent single featuring Bianca White in “God of Color.” Read Flamingo’s Q&A with Lovett to learn about his hometown of Tallahassee’s influence and his time on “The Voice.”

Deyona Burton: Breaking Barriers Through Waves

For many black Americans, the ocean is a haunting reminder of America’s racist past. Deyona Burton, a Jacksonville native, confronts this history head-on through surfing Florida’s Atlantic coast. Growing up near American Beach, Burton’s childhood days were filled with the sun and sand. Now, she finds community and power within the waves. Read the full story to find out how Burton overcame barriers as a Black surfer and her resounding strength.