Young people across the country are improving media representation for people of color, promoting literacy education, speaking out against bullying, and much more. In honor of Black History Month, we compiled a list of seven African-American young leaders who are raising their voices, advocating for their causes, and fighting for a better future.
1. Mari Copeny, 10
In 2016, eight-year old Mari Copeny (known as “Little Miss Flint”) wrote to President Obama requesting a meeting in Washington, D.C. to discuss the water crisis in her home town of Flint, Michigan. Instead, Obama went to her, visiting Flint and drawing national attention to the public health emergency.
Ultimately, she hopes that her activism will inspire others. As she told Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls, “When people see me, a 10-year-old helping others, they sometimes want to be able to help others too.”
2. Nyeeam Hudson, 12
At 12 years old, Nyeeam Hudson has already travelled the world delivering motivational speeches to other kids, offering support to victims of bullying, building up confidence, and teaching self-love.
On Instagram (where he goes by the name King Nahh), Hudson delivers brief, uplifting messages to his more than 200,000 followers. Last year, he published the book “We Are All Kings: A Motivational Guide for Young Men” with the goal “to motivate and inspire all young men across the world and let them know that anything is possible if they just believe in themselves.”
3. Marley Dias, 13
When Marley Dias was 11, she couldn’t keep her nose out of a book—but she was sick of reading story after story about white boys. In an interview with NPR, Dias explained how that frustration inspired her to start the #1000BlackGirlBooks campaign, aimed at finding 1,000 books with black girls as protagonists. The campaign collects and donates books and works with educators to discover and promote more diversity in reading.
To date, Dias has collected over 9,000 books. She told Forbes, “I’m working to create a space where it feels easy to include and imagine black girls and make black girls like me the main characters of our lives.”
4. Grace Dolan-Sandrino, 17
In eighth grade, Grace Dolan-Sandrino walked into school dressed to express the way she felt on the inside: as a girl. “Everyone was looking,” she wrote in The Washington Post. “They were laughing, making jokes, and pointing—but I kept walking. I was living my truth, and I was happy.”
In partnership with the Young Women’s Leadership Network, she launched a mentoring initiative called Yara’s Club. The organization connects young women, invites participants to talk about topics that matter to them, and encourages social activism. She has also worked with Michelle Obama on the Let Girls Learn initiative.
6. Tony Weaver, 23
Founder and CEO of Weird Enough Productions, Tony Weaver works to correct the misrepresentation of young men of color in media. A Forbes 30 Under 30 winner, Weaver’s short films and web comics have been making waves in media. By offering positive representations of black men, Weaver aims to combat all the issues that negative public perception can lead to: economic disadvantage, police aggression, longer jail sentences, and a distorted sense of black achievement.
Caption: The first video in a six-part series by Weird Enough Productions called “Shades and Hues: The 21st Century Black Experience”
Young people around the country are working to build, heal, and empower their communities. Let’s support those efforts. Please join us in uplifting their work by sharing their story on social media and using hashtag #Recommit2Kids.
The 5 Promises represent conditions children need to achieve adult success. The collective work of the Alliance involves keeping these promises to America’s youth. This article relates to the promises highlighted below:
These six platform areas are based on the collective experience and expertise of individuals at organizations engaged with young people across the country, the experience of young people themselves, and our own research. The platform areas are a statement of best practice – they are what has been demonstrated to work to improve graduation outcomes for young people.:
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Join two School District of University leaders – Gary Spiller, executive director of the Office of Student Support and Innovative Services, and Nancy Cambria, director of communications – as they discuss the district’s use of social-emotional practices, prioritization of youth voice, and its emphasis on supporting the health and well-being of all children.