We’re here to celebrate the kind, brave, and powerful ways Black youth trailblazers are using their platforms every single day to make a difference in the world. Aged 10 to 21, all of these activists – whose advocacy issues range from sustainability, racial justice, STEM, literacy, LGBTQ+, and representation – are proof that you’re never too young to create change and build a kinder, braver world.
Check out their thoughts on kindness, youth perspective, and the advice they’d give to young people who also want to make a change in the world:
Aaron has graced the cover of Paper Magazine, was named the face of Moschino’s Fall 2020 campaign, and been featured in editorials for Vogue around the world – and she’s only 19 years old. Born with cerebral palsy, this Antiguan-American trans artist started modeling four years ago, and she’s taken the fashion industry by storm ever since.
As the supermodel continues to be a strong advocate for disability representation and more diversity in fashion, she also encourages people to embrace the art of kindness. When asked about what she would say to youth who are struggling to find the confidence to be themselves, she said, “We so often extend kindness as humans and forget to give that kindness to ourselves. Know that you and your passions have power – no matter what that may look like.”
At only 17, Anya organized her town of West Orange, New Jersey’s largest civil rights protest last year when she advocated for Black Lives Matter. Recognizing the power of youth activism, she created a nonprofit called The Next Gen Come Up, which encourages civic engagement and community service through media and creativity. As the organization’s Founder and CEO, Anya knows how to lead and even helped to organize her town’s first-ever Juneteenth Celebration.
“My journey as a changemaker began with philanthropy and community service. Learning the importance of empathy and giving back so early helped me gain the confidence I needed to become an activist and made me realize the importance of recognizing others’ humanity,” she said. “So, whether it’s organizing a coat/ food drive for a local shelter in your area, hosting a bake sale for an underfunded club at school, or donating books and toys to children’s hospitals in your town, there are countless ways to start giving back to your community that will help jumpstart your journey as a changemaker.”
Havana is only 10 years old – but her impact is anything but tiny. The young activist (and future astronaut) was the sole protestor of her school’s walkout against gun violence in 2018 and is a strong advocate for increasing literary rates around the world, aiming to place a book in every girl’s hand.
In fact, she’s the founder and Executive Director of the nonprofit Girls Have Rights, which works to provide equal access to education and human rights for girls all around the world. You can join Havana in her mission by donating to her Book Club Wishlist or making a contribution to her nonprofit.
As an Afro-Cuban queer, trans woman, Sage grew up bravely sharing her experiences to advocate for policy that protects transgender youth. As a preteen, she met with the Secretary of Education to discuss protecting transgender youth in schools, and as a high school journalist, she wrote in various publications about centering marginalized voices. Among her many accolades, she currently sits on the advisory board for Gucci’s Chime for Change campaign and The National Black Justice Coalition’s Trans Advisory Board and served as the coalitions Monica Roberts Fellow.
As a creator, storyteller, and artist, she is also the Founder and Creative Director of The TEAM Mag, a digital zine and creative studio for young LGBTQ+, Black and Brown artists that the mainstream media too often ignores or misrepresents.
As she continues to advocate for a world in which all are heard, valued, and respected, she’s encouraged by the fact that she’s not doing this work alone – she has the entire Gen Z to lead with. “We have the power to change the world,” she said. “Because of our increased amount of intersectionality, there is an inherited tie, an understanding between people in our generation . . . We will continue fighting until we are all liberated.”
For Taylor – who aims to be the first Black astronaut on Mars – representation is everything. When the movie Hidden Figures was released, she raised thousands of dollars to ensure that young Black girls were able to see the film. Since then, this Florida-based high school student has fundraised and advocated for more girls of color to be represented in STEM fields. Taylor also works toward a more inclusive and diverse world through her philanthropy. Her most recent project centers around donating “The Black Friend” book by Frederick T. Joseph to as many schools, libraries, and youth as possible. She uses the book to encourage people to start a dialogue and combat racism.
Taylor also recognizes the power of her generation’s voice – when asked what advice she would give to youth who want to make a difference in the world but don’t know where to start, she said: “I would tell kids to never let fear deter you from doing good work. Your voice – no matter how big or small, how loud or quiet – matters. If you always make it about the “who” and not the “what” then your legacy to bring about change will do just that. Just make sure you do it your own way! And whether you raise $22,000 for 1,200 diverse books or $22 for 2, your service to lend a hand and help others matters. It all matters, and it is all as equally important. Ad Astra!”
As a high school student, Andraya was one of the fastest teens in Connecticut. Yet, she received endless bullying and criticism just for being her true authentic self. As a Black trans woman, she courageously advocated to be represented in sports on the track field and spoke up against groups who attempted to prevent transgender girls like her from competing in girl’s sports. Andraya persistently pushed past the noise, and now, as a college student, she continues to advocate for the trans community as a whole.
“It is crucial for me to advocate for the transgender community, especially within athletics, because of the constant discrimination that we face on an everyday basis,” Andraya says. “Many transgender individuals don’t ever speak up about the hate that they face every day, which can lead to them being silenced and allow the oppressor to get away with their heinous acts. By me speaking up against the bigotry that my community goes through, I feel that I am inspiring those who may be in the same position as I was once. I know that there are other transgender boys and girls who may not have the voice to defend themselves, and I hope to be that voice for them until they find their own.”
When she was only 8 years old, Maya started her own eco-friendly fashion business called Maya’s Ideas with the mission to create a greener, more environmentally-friendly world. Now at the age of 21, Maya advocates for more diversity in sustainability and works to ensure marginalized perspectives are included and uplifted in each and every conversation. In addition to being an animator, artist, and entrepreneur, she also runs her own nonprofit Maya’s Ideas 4 the Planet in which she engages in several humanitarian and philanthropic projects to create a more sustainable world.
And Maya’s confident her generation is the one that’ll create the biggest changes. “We’re definitely shaking things up,” she said. “We’re the most ethnically and culturally diverse generation in history. We’re also incredibly educated on a number of topics – whether that be race, gender, sexuality – we’re breaking binaries and challenging the status quo in a lot of those areas. We’re setting the tone in the world we want to live in and the world we want to build, and that’s something I’m really excited about.”
Mari earned her nickname “Little Miss Flint” after she fiercely advocated for clean water in her hometown in 2014. In total, Mari donated over 1 million bottles of water to Flint residents and has continued to be a strong advocate for clean water ever since.
Last year, the 13-year-old even teamed up with Hydroviv to create a sustainable water filter that tackles water quality issues. She’s now distributing this filter to cities across the country to help communities and families in need. You can follow Mari on Instagram, Twitter, visit her website, or donate to her Clean Water Fund here.
“I have always had an entrepreneurial spirit in me,” Kamaria says. As the 11-year-old CEO and Founder of Brown Girls’ Stationery – a company that focuses on the importance of representation by supplying school supplies, accessories, and party supplies for girls of color – Kamaria had the determination and passion to start a business at a very young age.
“It started when I was 4 years old and wanted to make money at my grandma’s yard sale. She taught me how to make lemonade, and I set up my first lemonade stand. When I was 6, I started a rubber band jewelry business at school to make extra money for snacks. I sold my jewelry for only 25 cents. Although those businesses did not last long, I took what I learned and applied it to my business now.”
“I started Brown Girls’ Stationery because I wanted party supplies that looked like me. My mom created a character that looked exactly like me with my brown skin and super curly afro, and once she put it on social media, all of her friends were excited about it. So, my mom came up with a deal that she would teach me how to make money rather than spending money. My mom gave me $100 to start my business and it sprouted from there. I never knew how many other kids were inspired by my entrepreneurial journey until now. I want other kids to know that starting a business can be hard but there is never an idea that is too big to handle, so always try to do your best!”
Jay’Aina “Jay Jay” Patton
Nationally, the average cost of a 15-minute call from jail is $5.74, making money a huge barrier for incarcerated parents to connect to their children and family members on the outside. This is a problem Jay Jay aims to tackle with her Photo Patch App, an app that she coded herself at only 12-years-old. The app allows for families to send messages to their incarcerated parents and works to eliminate the financial and systemic barriers involved in the prison system. As she continues to work on the app, she also teaches coding with her dad via the Photo Patch Foundation. Her advice to young people who want to make a difference in the world is to “believe in yourself.”
“If you believe and tell yourself you can make a change, then you will because you’ll find whatever is necessary to contribute – considering you believe you can do it. Start to tell yourself every day ‘I can make a difference in this world,’ and when you go out, you’ll see that the things you do daily are actually causing a change or you will see the opportunities to do so where you didn’t before because you believed.”
To learn more about Jay Jay’s app and to learn how to code from her, visit https://photopatch.org/coding-classes/
We hope these youth inspire you to engage in kindness and make a difference in your community. If you know a changemaker that should be highlighted on Channel Kindness, tell us about them here!