Well, the readers of Booker Rising have spoken! Sixty-seven individuals were nominated for this year's list, based on who readers believe most reflected the values of this blog and Booker T. Washington during 2009. Over four days of voting, a semi-finalist list of nine candidates (who combined received the Top five most numerous nominations for this year's honor) was then whittled down to three finalists by hundreds of Booker Rising reader votes. The combined semi-finalist and finalist tally for the top three candidates: economist Thomas Sowell received 48.7% of the vote, blogger Constructive Feedback/Cultural Strategist received 29.3%, and entrepreneur John Hope Bryant received 22% of the vote.
1. Thomas Sowell - 2009 Bookerista Of The Year
Conservative economist & syndicated columnist | Hoover Institution | metro San Francisco, California, USA
2009 claim to fame: father of contemporary U.S. black conservatism
Clearly, Booker Rising readers are fans of Dr. Sowell. For more than 30 years, Dr. Sowell, 79, has been holding court as America's most influential black conservative voice. He is also one of USA's most prominent conservatives, across race. This year, he released yet another book, The Housing Boom And Bust, which hit both the New York Times and Business Week best-seller lists. In his weekly column - which is in more than 150 newspapers in USA and Canada - Dr. Sowell opines about economics, politics, & social issues.
2. Constructive Feedback/Cultural Strategist
Conservative blogger | metro Atlanta, Georgia, USA
2009 claim to fame: arguing for organic management of Black America
Booker Rising doesn't know his real name, but regular readers of this blog are familiar with his work from his two blogs. CS/CB is one of five bloggers who made this list. His brand of urban conservatism focuses on liberal Democratic control of institutions in places where blacks are in highest concentration and questioning whether they are meeting black permanent interests of safe streets, quality schools, thriving local economies, and healthy lifestyles.
3. John Hope Bryant
Philanthropic entrepreneur & centrist | Operation HOPE | Los Angeles, California, USA
2009 claim to fame: promoting financial literacy as the next Civil Rights Movement
Mr. Bryant, 43, is the founder of Operation HOPE, an L.A.-based organization that helps individuals and families who are hungry, homeless and at risk to achieve increased stability and self-reliance. Possessing an entrepreneurial background where he developed a $25 million business, he is also the vice chairman of the President's Council on Financial Literacy. This year, Mr. Bryant released Love Leadership: A New Way To Lead In A Fear-Based World and it debuted at No. 8 on the CEO-Read Bestseller List.
4 (tie). Ayaan Hirsi Ali
Libertarian feminist | American Enterprise Institute | Somalia/Netherlands/USA
2009 claim to fame: criticizing Islam's role in oppressing women
Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a 40-year-old Muslim-turned-atheist who tied for fourth place in the semi-final round, is one of the most prominent critics of Islam. Born in Somalia, the former Dutch parliamentarian has been under 24/7 protection because of Islamic death threats on her life for criticizing the religion. A U.S. resident since 2006, this year Ms. Hirsi Ali weighed in on issues like the Swiss ban on mosque minarets construction, "honor killings", and the Sudanese female journalist who almost got flogged for wearing pants. She also claimed that U.S. President Barack Obama was letting down moderate Muslims with his speeches and actions, and not defending America's ideals. She's so controversial that a roman a clef film on her was chased out of Kenya (where she partly grew up) last month. Meanwhile, a variety of the black tulip was named after her in the Netherlands, where the tulip is the national flower.
4 (tie). Dambisa Moyo
Conservative economist | Zambia/Britain
2009 claim to fame: opposing government foreign aid to Africa
Dambisa Moyo, 40, exploded on the scene this year with her controversial best-seller Dead Aid: Why Aid Is Not Working And How There Is A Better Way For Africa. The Zambian-born economist argues that decades of foreign aid has undermined Africa's progress, and she highlights free-market solutions so the continent can be a global player. Dead Aid has been translated into several languages. Dr. Moyo, who once worked for the World Bank and Goldman Sachs, is advising African leaders such as Rwandan President Paul Kagame on weaning off foreign aid. She also had a punch thrown at her in Canada for expressing her views.
6. Rama Yade
Secretary of State for Sport & moderate-conservative | République Française | Senegal/France
2009 claim to fame: maverick who will criticize her center-right party
Known as "La Rebelle" (The Rebel) in France, the Senegalese-born Secretary Yade, 33, polled as France's most popular political figure for most of the year. In June, President Nicolas Sarkozy eliminated her position as human rights minister and transferred her over to Sport due to her outspokenness on France's relationship to various dictators and not ceding to his wish for her to run for the European Parliament. She has since done battle with her ruling center-right UMP party over overturning tax cuts for athletes (she opposed the reversal) and President Sarkozy appointing his collegian son Jean Sarkozy to oversee France's largest business district (which ended after cries of nepotism). There was recently a big push to get her to contest next year's regional elections in Val d'Oise (a poor, mostly immigrant area) instead of in Hauts-de-Seine, her affluent home area where elected careers are often launched. She fought the move - calling it "ethnic parachuting" - and prevailed.
7. Kevin Jackson
Conservative Republican blogger | St. Louis, Missouri, USA
2009 claim to fame: criticizing the Obama administration & the Democratic Party
Mr. Jackson holds court at his blog The Black Sphere, where he opines about political issues. This year the up-and-coming pundit self-published The Big Black Lie: How I Learned The Truth About The Democrat Party. The Midwest bookerista has spoken at dozens of Tea Party rallies across the United States, and appeared on Glenn Beck's show on the FOX News Channel a number of times this year.
8. J.C. Watts
Conservative Republican businessman & lobbyist | J.C. Watts Companies | metro Washington, D.C., USA
2009 claim to fame: formidable lobbying
Mr. Watts, 52, is chairman of J.C. Watts Companies, a public relations and business consulting group. A former four-term Congressman, his lobbying clients include NASCAR, the Bowl Championship Series, and the American Civil Liberties Union. Mr. Watts also has an occasional column. There was a lot of buzz this year that he'd run for governor of Oklahoma, his home state, but he decided to stay out of the race.
9. Walter E. Williams
Libertarian economics professor & syndicated columnist | George Mason University | metro Washington, D.C., USA
2009 claim to fame: promoting limited government in USA
Since the 1980s, Walter E. Williams, 73, has been prominently arguing for laissez-faire capitalism and against Big Government. In his weekly column - which is syndicated in 140 newspapers across the U.S. - Dr. Williams opines about the role of economics in various facets of American life, discussing his field in language that laymen can understand.
10. Andrew Mwenda
Libertarian journalist | The Independent | Kampala, Uganda
2009 claim to fame: pushing the envelope of press freedom in Uganda
As founder of The Independent, Mr. Mwenda focuses like a laser on government malfeasance and Big Government to help ensure accountability to Ugandan citizens. He is so vocal that several times this year, he was detained by police and they frequently harass him and his staff. He is facing trial on 21 charges (including sedition for publishing a political cartoon that was critical of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni) for his hard-hitting journalism.
11. Cory Booker
Mayor & moderate-liberal Democrat | City of Newark | Newark, New Jersey, USA
2009 claim to fame: overseeing the lowering of the crime rate in a troubled city
Mayor Booker, 40, is making big changes in Newark, once considered one of America's worst cities. Police department reforms and the installation of hundreds of security cameras around the city have helped cut the murder rate by a third, and shootings have dropped even more sharply. Mayor Booker takes a hands-on approach to tackling crime, even going out with regular citizen patrols and the police to see what things are like on the ground in Newark. He is also known for his regular use of social media to help spread the word about his policies, and for raising money for local charities.
12. Michael Steele
Party chairman & moderate-conservative | Republican National Committee | Prince George's County, Maryland, USA
2009 claim to fame: heading USA's main opposition party
Michael Steele, 51, made history this year when he was elected the Republican Party's first black chairman in a hotly contested six-person race in late January. Since that time, he has been the face of the GOP in the media, and busy fundraising and heading up the political party's goal of making comeback in the 2010 mid-term elections.
13. James Shikwati
Libertarian activist | Inter-Region Economic Network | Nairobi, Kenya
2009 claim to fame: training Kenyans to be entrepreneurs
As head of the Inter-Region Economic Network, Mr. Shikwati's goal is to get more Africans to create wealth through free enterprise. The 39-year-old activist works with small farmers to help them increase their agriculture output, trains university students on free-market principles, and holds activities to get youth involved in entpreneurship. He is also one of the people behind The African Executive website, and writes a weekly column in Business Daily (Kenya) about organically building Africa's skill base.
14. Rejoice Ngwenya
Executive director & libertarian | Coalition for Market & Liberal Solutions | Harare, Zimbabwe
2009 claim to fame: challenging totalitarianism in Zimbabwe
There is one Zimbabwean writer who fears reprisals, such that this individual asked Booker Rising to conceal his or her identity to prevent any repercussions. Mr. Ngwenya signs his name to his posts, where he takes on President Robert Mugabe's Marxist regime and promotes classically liberal (aka libertarian) solutions. Affiliated with AfricaLiberty.org, he also writes op-eds about things happening throughout southern Africa.
15. Dr. Arthur Kobina Kennedy
Medical doctor & moderate-conservative activist | New Patriotic Party | Ghana/USA
2009 claim to fame: furthering the self-reflection concept for Ghana's political parties
Dr. Kennedy had a controversial year, with the release of Chasing The Elephant Into The Bush: The Politics Of Complacency. Having served as the center-right New Patriotic Party’s communications director for the 2008 presidential campaign, Mr. Kennedy has analyzed campaign mistakes by the NPP - which lost the presidential election by less than 1% to the center-left National Democratic Congress after eight years in power, and whose symbol is the elephant - so it can run a better campaign in 2012. It didn't sit well with his partymates. However, Dr. Kennedy's book helps strengthen Ghana's democratization process, and has furthered the reflective memoir concept into the Ghanaian political scene.
16. Sandy Cane
Mayor & conservative | Town of Viggiù | Viggiù, Italy
2009 claim to fame: becoming Italy's first black mayor
In June, Mayor Cane, 48, was elected Italy's first black mayor in local elections which coincided with the European Parliament vote. She is now in charge of the tiny town of Viggiù (pop. 5,100), near the border with Switzerland. She's been called "Italy's Obama", One big difference: Ms. Cane, whose father is African-American and mother is Italian and who was born in America, became an unlikely star of Italy's Northern League, a populist anti-illegal-immigrant party. A former hotel director & English translator, Mayor Cane is working to revitalize Viggiù by promoting cultural tourism.
17. Artur Davis
Moderate Democratic politician | U.S. House Of Representatives | Birmingham, Alabama, USA
2009 claim to fame: being a moderate voice in the Congressional Black Caucus
One of the few moderates in an otherwise liberal Congressional Black Caucus, Rep. Davis, 44, has forged a centrist voting record. Whether it was opposing missile defense cuts, pressing for extra funding in the farm bill for black farmers seeking compensation for racial discrimination in a 1999 settlement with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, (unsuccessfully) pushing for an amendment to require Congress to sign up for the same health care as regular Americans as an accountability measure, or supporting stronger consumer protection laws, Rep. Davis was in the mix.
18. Justice Malala
Center-right columnist | Financial Mail | Johannesburg, South Africa
2009 claim to fame: keeping government officials accountable to citizens
In his weekly column in the Financial Mail, Mr. Malala combines a restaurant review with a hot topic in South African news. Whether it's focusing on government malfeasance and out-of-control government spending, advocating for capitalism against efforts to nationalize South African industries, chastizing Marxist politicians who claim to be "for the people" while living like royalty off taxpayer dollars, taking on the police for their "shoot to kill" policy, or opposing cultural practices that he believes are outdated, Mr. Malala is on the case. He also contributes op-ed to The Sunday Times in South Africa.
19. Nyamko Sabuni
Minister for Integration & Gender Equity & moderate-conservative | Konungariket Sverige | Burundi/Sweden
2009 claim to fame: pushing less welfare & more work for Sweden's immigrants
Nyamko Sabuni, 40, is the woman behind Sweden's immigration policies, gender policies, along with consumer laws. An immigrant herself who has been living in Sweden since age 12, she understands the barriers that immigrants face in navigating the Sweden's inflexible labor market (where it takes an average of seven years for immigrants to find work, which Minister Sabuni is trying to get down to two years). Ms. Sabuni also pushed for language tests and mandatory courses for all immigrants seeking Swedish citizenship. In addition, she called for a strict age-18 minimum for marriage and combating female genital mutilation. A member of the center-right Liberal People's Party (think classically liberal), she views herself as sort of a Swedish version of Margaret Thatcher. Minister Sabuni was ranked #13 on Sweden's 100 most powerful people list this year.
20. Akindele Akinyemi
Conservative Republican blogger | Detroit, Michigan, USA
2009 claim to fame: promoting urban conservatism
Between his blog and his Facebook page, Mr. Akinyemi seeks to educate urban conservatives on educational policies, family values and creating a better community for our children. He also pushes for black urban conservatives to organize around an agenda that is unique from mainstream conservatism, arguing that conservatism is not a one-size-fits-all ideology.
21. Franklin Cudjoe
Executive director & libertarian | IMANI Center for Policy & Education | Accra, Ghana
2009 claim to fame: promoting free markets & individual liberty in Ghana
As head of the IMANI think tank, Mr. Cudjoe oversees seminars, policy programs, conferences and leadership development initiatives, to promote a more open Ghanaian society. He is also one of the individuals behind the AfricanLiberty.org website, which promotes African libertarian thought.
22. Hip Hop Republican
Moderate-conservative Republican blog | New York City, New York, USA
2009 claim to fame: pushing for a more centrist and inclusive Republican Party
Hip Hop Republican is a political/music blog led by a group of mostly black (although not exclusively) moderates, conservatives, and libertarian Republicans. With a strong urban conservatism streak, the blog discusses issues ranging from increasing GOP representation in urban areas, poverty, crime prevention, and yes, hip hop.
23. AlfonZo Rachel
Conservative Republican vlogger | Macho Sauce Productions | Los Angeles metro, California, USA
2009 claim to fame: using YouTube to promote black conservatism
Zo Rachel, 37, started out with posting his views about political topics - usually with a theatrical flair - on YouTube. The video blogger got so many hits that Pajamas Media decided to hire him into its fold. Whether the topic is abortion, health care, conservative women, affirmative action, or a push for why movement conservatives shouldn't press for a leader, Mr. Rachel has something to say about it.
24. Webster Brooks
Director of Research for Foreign Policy & moderate | Center for New Politics & Policy | Denver, Colorado, USA
2009 claim to fame: highlighting U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East & Eurasia
Mr. Brooks, 53, has been involved in Middle East issues for years now. His analysis on Iran, the Middle East and Eurasia appear in newspapers, on websites and blogs in the U.S. and internationally. He is also a foreign policy lecturer, and blogs at Brooks Foreign Policy Review.
Moderate-conservative Republican blogger | Chicago, Illinois, USA
2009 claim to fame: feminism from a center-right perspective
Holding court at her blog Autographed Letter Signed and often bringing anecdotes from her childhood as an often homeless youth, Afrocity - who is an archivist in her day job - combines feminism and Republican Party politics in her opinions about hot topics such as media bias, health care, abortion, race relations, and the public image of conservative female politicians.