WHY YOU SHOULD KNOW HER: DuVernay wrote the curriculum for the Diversity Center's LGBTQ Cultural Competency program, which prepares employees to better interact with the LGBT community. Local employers such as the Cleveland Metroparks and the InterContinental Hotel Cleveland have enrolled.
EARLY INFLUENCE: Both of DuVernay's grandmothers were active in community service. "They were incredible role models," she says. As a teen in southwest Michigan, DuVernay worked with her paternal grandmother on a summer school program for migrant farm workers' children.
CULTURAL ROOTS: As a student at Notre Dame College in South Euclid, DuVernay started the Catholic school's first gay-straight alliance and participated in the Black Scholars group, which helped students of color adjust to a mostly white school. It meant a lot to DuVernay, who has black relatives and whose name reveals Creole ancestry. "I'm pretty passionate about being from a mixed background," she says.
SAFE HOUSE: In her former job as youth coordinator at the LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland, DuVernay created the Transformers program for transgender youth and young adults. "I see the heart of a person," she says. "Whatever body we're in [isn't] as important to me anymore."
PASSION PARTNERS: DuVernay often goes to shows at the Beachland Ballroom and Tavern. Her partner, Maura Rogers, a local singer-songwriter, supports her activist work. "We're both very passionate about what the other person is passionate about," she says.