Young Activists to Look Out For: Part 2!
If Part 1 wasn’t enough to quench your political thirst, don’t fret! There are so many powerful young people making changes in the world that it would be nearly impossible to list them all in general, let alone in one article. In the last article (which you can read here if you missed it!), I featured activists that tackled issues like trans awareness, child marriage, gun violence and more were given the center-stage. At such a young age, it’s already hard to be taken seriously, but being a woman unfortunately adds that extra icing of “you’re just sensitive” to the oppression cake. They didn’t let this stop them though- through social media, poetry, performance, speeches, rallies, and practically every other conduit of ideas, they are still changing the world every single day.
Adding to the list, these activists are changing the world too, but for very different issues with vastly different methods. Ending period poverty, changing the stigmas around disability, providing a space for Autistic POC, and more, the individuals below embody Make Muse’s mission of smashing societal standards and will inspire you to use your voice, too.
Dacy is a disability activist on social media. With over 24,000 followers on her Instagram, @wheelchair_rapunzel, she diaries her experiences as a person with Spinal Muscular Atrophy. However, as she makes clear, her life is not defined by her disability. She speaks candidly about the ups and downs of having a disability, and also encourages self-love in disabled individuals. She wants to end ableism and stop the “inspiration porn” that is constantly attributed to disability (i.e. “you’re so brave for existing”), and she works towards these goals through the chronicling of her life and opinion posts. She talks about feminine hygiene, the censure of disabled bodies, mental health, and more in relation to disability. As the owner of WheelchairRapunzel & Co., an online shop that sells products with empowering messages like “Disabled Boss Babe,” “Disabled Bodies are Fire,” and “‘You’re so inspirational. Thank you, next.”, Alex Dacy is a great example of the balance of recognizing someone’s differences, but not being defined by that difference.
Malavika Kannan is an 18-year-old writer, activist, and organization leader. She created the Homegirl Project in May 2018 which aims to empower womxn of color through the mediums of “storytelling, mentorship, & political advocacy training,” as written on the Instagram’s bio. The Homegirl Project brings WOC together as a community through the ages-old practice of storytelling, creating representation and mentorship for years to come. Her activism does not stop here, though, as she has used her writing skills to pen pieces on issues like intersectional feminism, race, and politics for big-name publications like the Washington Post, Teen Vogue, and VICE, to name a few. Through her work, she has received all kinds of accolades, like being a National YoungArts Winner, a 2018 Vital Voices HerLead Fellow, and a 2019 Cameron Impact Scholar (though, this list is definitely not exhaustive). The Homegirl Project is taking off, and in the meantime Kannan continues her activism, like serving on the National Women’s March youth team and organizing events for March For Our Lives. On top of all of this (which, again, is definitely not everything she does), she is writing a book called The Bookweaver's Daughter, a fantasy novel set in India that will be out in 2020.
A wellness and compassion activist at the young age of 18, Thomas has already made great waves in the fitness and mental health communities. She inspires activity in her over 60,000 Instagram followers without encouraging unhealthy diets or workouts motivated by body standards. She also helps young people be healthier through her nonprofit organization, HAPPY (Healthy Active Positive Purposeful Youth). Through the “3 Keys to HAPPY,” or working on mental, physical, and soul development, the youth-led organization provides fun experiences for children in grades 3-6 while promoting a healthy lifestyle. Thomas is also an international wellness speaker, and the youngest person in the United States to be a certified Health and Wellness Coach. On her Instagram, she spreads messages of positivity, playlists, and healthy diet option suggestions. In addition to all the other cool stuff she does, she even runs a podcast called “Girl Empowered,” where she hosts open and honest discussions with “(She)roes” such as Skai Jackson and Chelsea Clinton to inspire girls to create the life they want.
As it states in the first three words of her Instagram bio, Hannah Michelle (@hannahbelle.michelle) is an illustrator, feminist, and performer. Her most well-known project is called, “Cats Calling Back,” where she illustrates submitted stories of catcalling and street harassment. Based on the submitter’s experience, she creates a drawing that encapsulates the situation and how the person felt when they were being catcalled, touched, subjected to or any other form of non-consensual interaction. Besides her art, she speaks out on her Instagram about objectification, the gender binary, and the need to care about politics. By using expressive art and sharing testimonies in the captions, Michelle is able to convey a more abstract, detached concept for some and make it much more personal for those who haven’t experienced it. If you’d like to support Hannah Michelle’s work, she has some inspiring and cute prints that are for sale here, and she is also open to be commissioned!
Nadya Okamoto is only f 21 years old, but she was a prominent activist way before that! At only 16 years old, she formed the organization PERIOD. She and her family were homeless for some time after her mother lost her job at a nonprofit organization. They were forced to move from around 20 minutes from Okamoto’s school to two hours away. When Okamoto commuted to school, she would ask homeless women at different bus stops what the biggest challenge of being homeless was. The majority said dealing with their period, as they had to make do with cardboard and other trash, and this is what sparked Okamoto to call homeless shelters and advocate for women who did not have menstrual products. She wants to end the idea that menstrual hygiene is a privilege, because it is a right to have access to period products. On PERIOD.’s Instagram, there are posts about events surrounding period education, art that empowers women and other people with periods, and stories of individuals that were adversely affected by not having adequate access to period products. Through her success with this organization, Okamoto also wrote a book entitled Period Power: A Manifesto for the Menstrual Movement in which she explains the stigmas around periods and how they lead to unfair discrimination through taxes and the prioritizing of male biology. Okamoto also speaks at events to raise awareness about the issues she is trying to solve. If you want to follow her on her personal Instagram check her out here!
Lydia X. Z. Brown
Lydia X. Z. Brown is an autistic, nonbinary person of color who advocates for autistic POC. In their own words, they are an “educator, activist/organizer, speaker/trainer, policy advocate, and writer focused on violence against multiply-marginalized disabled people.” Basically, they’re like a…. septuple threat?! With an undergraduate degree from Georgetown and a Law Degree in Public Interest Law from Northeastern University, they advocate for people through policy changes/hearings, workshops, essays, and art. They’re currently acting as a Justice Catalyst Fellow at the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law to fight for the educational rights of children with different types of psychological disabilities. Along with all of the formal policy changes they have made, they edited/envisioned the first ever anthology of writing from autistic people of color called All the Weight of Our Dreams. Brown wants to dismantle the stigmas that allow autistic people of color to be negatively racialized. They have tons of accolades (way too many to fit here) and have been recognized by many journals and even the White House for their work on basically every medium. Follow them on Twitter for updates!
You’re not alone: Finding Your Voice
While a lot of the activists from both Part 1 and Part 2 of this little series have talked about feminism, the more specific causes they’ve all focused on are extremely diverse. There are so many ways to get involved, and even if you feel like your passion is not completely represented by an activist, go out there and fight for your group yourself! No matter how niche it may seem, there are definitely people like you out there, and it would make a lot of people inspired to see someone similar representing them. It’s just as important to support people who aren’t like you, and finding an extremely diverse group of activists to follow is just the way to dip your toes into the water. Your voice is valid and important, whether it’s at the front of a movement as its leader, or as the swelling chorus in the back. Do whatever you can to not be silenced, and show your support for others doing the same.