Meet 2018’s Game Changers Of The Year

For some, 2018 was a year of white-knuckled anxiety, perhaps best exemplified by the long, nail-biting run-up to the midterms … which still, in their indecisive aftermath, offered little respite. Voting irregularities in Georgia‘s heavily contested gubernatorial election are the subject of a lawsuit. North Carolina’s board of elections refuses to certify a House race’s results, citing claims of “fraudulent activities.”

But even the state’s November 30 announcement is old news, swept up and away in a news cycle that long ago escaped tropical storm status and is quickly becoming something more like a news cyclone.

If you feel like 2018 — and its tragedies, triumphs, and Twitter feuds — knocked the wind out of you, you’re not alone. A lot happened this year. InSight landed on Mars. Crazy Rich Asians set box office records. School shooting survivors led one of the largest marches in U.S. history — a little more than a month after their lives were upended. More women were elected to Congress than ever before.

So let’s take this moment to exhale. Briefly.

Every December at A Plus, we honor those who stood up and stood out in the past year because of their compassion, bravery, ingenuity, and selflessness. Who offered hope in the midst of the torrent. Who succeeded in changing narratives to such an extent that they became symbols of a more idealistic, more perfect union.

As 2018 draws to a close, we are proud to share with you A Plus’ newest class of Game Changers, chosen both for their achievements over the past year and their demonstrated beliefs that things can change … if only we keep working at it.


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Ady Barkan

Ady Barkan speaks at a rally.

Ady Barkan speaks at a Families Belong Together rally in June, 2018. Credit: Karl_Sonnenberg / Shutterstock.com

When dad and activist Ady Barkan was diagnosed with ALS in 2016, he made an extraordinary choice. Despite the sudden limit set on years he would be able to spend with his young son, and despite significant hardship, he chose to dedicate his time and his talents to traveling the country in support of health care reform. By his summer 2018 tour, Barkan had become one of the issue’s most visible — and most dedicated — advocates.

Asked by A Plus if he had any advice for young activists that hoped to follow in his footsteps, he was characteristically direct. “Be bold in your demands.”

Amanda Nguyen

Amanda Nguyen.

Amanda Nguyen at a 2017 Funny or Die event. Credit: Tasos Katopodis / Getty Images for Funny or Die

Twentysomething Amanda Nguyen was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2018, and she’s not slowing down anytime soon.

With the help of her organization, Rise, she crafted the Sexual Assault Survivors’ Rights Act, a bill designed to codify the rights of survivors navigating the criminal justice system after an assault. Both houses of Congress passed it unanimously in 2016, leading Nguyen to turn her focus to how state legislatures could support survivors.

Cristina Jiménez

Cristina Jiménez attends the Time 100 gala in April 2018

Cristina Jiménez attends the Time 100 gala in April 2018. Credit: lev radin / Shutterstock.com

At a time when conversation about immigrants’ rights seems particularly fraught and images of children fleeing tear gas at the border have become the unfortunate emblems of a painful divide, Cristina Jiménez stands out among the fray as a voice of empathy and reason.

The United We Dream co-founder was crucial to both the institution of DACA and the movement earlier this year to defend it.

Prison Reform Advocates

A prisoner in an orange jumpsuit stands in front of a jail cell.

This year saw one of the largest prison strikes in U.S. history, in which prisoners across 17 states banded together to demand immediate and lasting changes to their conditions and those of the generations to follow.

A Plus spoke to two currently incarcerated men identified as organizers by Jailhouse Lawyers Speak, which represents activists in prisons across the United States. 

The Silver Screen Savers

Ryan Coogler and Ava DuVernay

Directors Ava DuVernay and Ryan Coogler arrive at the premiere of Disney’s “A Wrinkle In Time.” Credit: Axelle / Bauer-Griffin / FilmMagic

Hashtags and rallies such as #OscarsSoWhite broke ground in the mid-twenty-teens, bringing the topic of unequal representation in media center stage. In 2018, filmmakers built from that ground on up.

From Ryan Coogler’s visionary Afrofuturism to John M. Chu’s bar-setting (and theater-filling) tribute to a beloved book, there has been perhaps no better year for representation on the silver screen — and it’s because these luminaries saved all 365 days.

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