Over the past year, many amazing national and local activists, thinkers, and leaders have shared their knowledge, strength, and experiences. We have been introduced to new leaders, learned from experienced social justice leaders, and laid to rest leaders and community members who left us charged to do more and to keep working towards a better, more equitable today and tomorrow.
This year, to honor the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy, West Wind is highlighting a few youth activists, entrepreneurs, and scholars who have committed themselves to equity-focused causes within their communities. We have so much to learn from these young activists and the strategies they are using to create positive change.
In 2015, Marley Dias knew she had to find a way to mend her frustration that there aren’t enough books with Black girls. She created a viral Internet campaign, #1000BlackGirlBooks, in an effort to donate 1,000 books with Black girl main characters to other Black girls. She more than surpassed her goal, and in 2018, published a book titled Marley Dias Gets It Done: And So Can You! to inspire more young activists.
Mari Copney was only eight years old when she began her activism for cleaner water in Flint, Michigan. She began by sending a letter to then president Barack Obama, who responded to her by flying to Flint and bringing attention to the crisis. Now, at thirteen, Mari is still advocating for clean and safe water access around the country. She continues to support her own community by raising funds for children in Flint to have school supplies and backpacks, and one day, she hopes to run for president.
LGBTQ+ activist Sameer Jha founded The Empathy Alliance after experiencing bullying in school for being “too feminine.” Jha focuses on “educating the educators” on how to best support LGBTQ+ students’ needs through workshops, op-eds, and keynotes. Jha is currently working on a book to help teachers create more inclusive learning environments.
After visiting an African American children’s bookstore, 10 year-old Sidney Keys III decided he wanted more boys to see Black boys represented in literature. He created Books n Bros, a book club for young boys of all races and backgrounds focused on African American literature. Now, around 100 boys meet to discuss their book of the month. Keys hopes he’ll one day be able to expand his program to schools, too.
These young activists have found innovative ways often driven by personal experience, to bring powerful change in their communities and to help change the lives of their peers in so many ways. We are happy to share the projects of these inspiring young people who are no-doubt going to continue making a positive impact on society. From the entire West Wind team, we hope you have a reflective day celebrating the Birthday of Martin Luther King Jr.
King, M.L., Jr. (April 18, 1959). Address at the Youth March for Integrated Schools on 18 April 1959. Stanford University: The Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute (King Papers). Retrieved January 17, 2021, from https://kinginstitute.stanford.edu/king-papers/documents/address-youth-march-integrated-schools-18-april-1959.
Passports. (Jan. 12, 2016). Martin Luther King, Jr. Quotes to Inspire Your Youth. Retrieved January 13, 2021, from https://passportcamps.org/mlk-quotes-to-inspire-youth-ministry/.
WBLS 107.5 NYC. (Feb. 4, 2019). Game Changers: Marley Dias and the #1000BlackGirlBooks. License: CC BY 3.0. Retrieved January 17, 2021, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=64990545.
Souza, P. (May 4, 2016). Barack Obama hugs Mari Copeny. (Public Domain). Retrieved January 17, 2021, from https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=48563009.
Cool Bros Read. (n.d.) Sidney Keys III. Cool Bros Read: Our Story. Retrieved January 13, 2021, from https://www.booksnbros.com/our-story.
The Empathy Alliance. (2016). Sameer Jha. The Empathy Alliance: About Us. Retrieved January 13, 2021, from https://www.theempathyalliance.org/about-us.