You don’t have to have lived a long life to make an impact! Some of the most passionate, powerful change makers these days are young people. That’s why activist Anya Dillard (@iamajdillard) founded The Next Gen Come Up, a non-profit that encourages young people to get involved with community service, activism, and art, because Anya believes that young people have the power to change the world.
Anya was inspired to get involved with social justice activism as a junior high school student attending a program for gifted STEM students. When Anya realized she was one of the few Black girls in the room, she knew it was time for a change. “Once I started paying closer attention to those things, I realized just how big of a role race played in not just my life, but the lives of people who look like me all over the world,” Anya tells In The Know. “That’s when I really started trying to figure out how I could best allocate my talent, my voice, and my resources to getting people my age inspired to talk about these kinds of things.”
Anya’s parents enrolled her in an entrepreneurial program for young Black women called Black Girls Leadership Academy. At Black Girls Leadership, Anya met role models and realized that she had the power to make real change. “Before that, I never really thought of being an entrepreneur in any sense,” she explains. “But being around so many people who had done it, I saw it. I saw young girls with their names on things, that were making real differences and that were getting other young people involved.”
Anya’s first major action as an activist occurred after the death of George Floyd. Anya organized a community event and was shocked at how many people wanted to get involved. “We were trying to host an event within like a 6 day span, but the outpouring of support that we got from the community was insane,” she recalls. “The crowd that ultimately ended up showing up was comprised of over 3,000 people, which is something that we never conceptualized was even possible.”
Since then, Anya and her peers have organized a Juneteenth celebration in their community and formed the West Orange Youth Caucus. “It was important for us to continue and keep that momentum,” she explains. “It was important that we had these powerful and empowering representations of African American culture in our everyday lives.”
Anya hopes that, through her non-profit work and activism, she can empower other young Black women to get involved and feel empowered. She explains, “Ultimately my goal is to continue encouraging young Black girls to feel that they have the right to advocate for themselves, to stand up for themselves, to voice their opinions, and to take over spaces, to enter rooms and to not feel ashamed.”
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