My name is Assan Niang, but I go by my middle name which is Malick (pronounced as ‘Ma-leek’), or simply by Leek. I was born in Atlanta, Georgia and currently am based in Savannah, Georgia. I like to listen to music, and I draw and I write also. A political inspiration I have is a judge from here in Savannah, Georgia because despite her position, she still remains well connected within the local community. I go to and perform in different shows, and I notice that whenever I see her around the crowd of people, I try my hardest to outdo myself. A piece of writing and art that truly enlightened me would be Redemption Song by Bob Marley. The song itself is simple, but it’s able to wrap all forms of redemption into one song. Most of all, its simplicity motivates me more than anything.
Macaiah Harrison is an African American student/athlete from Knoxville, TN. She is a youth director for Highlander Children’s Justice Camp and has worked with Cattywampus Puppet Council based in Knoxville. She enjoys musical theatre, art, and creative writing. Her political inspiration is her mom because she has always worked with organizations involved in political/social justice and has always encouraged her to volunteer with her and to get involved. One piece of art that has challenged her politically is the song “Mystery of Iniquity” by Lauryn Hill because it talks about topics from religion and race to court systems all in the span of five minutes. It inspired her to see one person with the controversial knowledge they have, have the courage to share it with the entire world unapologetically.
Lizbeth Burgos de Pena
Hello there! My name is Lizbeth Burgos De Pena. I am based in Raleigh, NC where I am a youth council member in the non-profit organization called El Pueblo. I have been a part of their pueblo power leadership youth group for a year before I joined their youth council, where I have learned about diverse social justice issues and organize to meet the vision of change. Many of the things I have been involved in include participating in organizing and facilitating workshops for pueblo power, organizing and participating in intergenerational events such as La Fiesta, and actions such as the HkonJ March. Digital media, Art and Design, and photography are things I like to do on a daily basis and use in my leadership role at El Pueblo. The person who influenced me to care more about what goes on in our communities was my mom, which pushed me to look more into politics. My mom has always told me that many people don’t have the opportunities that I have, which motivated me to take advantage of the opportunities that come my way to use my voice on things that I believe in. One day, we watched a movie in one of our Pueblo Power meetings called “Walkout” where hispanic students were being mistreated and they decided to protest. In the film you will see how the media switched the script for the students and their allies to look like they were the ones in the wrong. This educated me that many things are manipulated through the media so certain people can benefit it off of, while others suffer.
Hi my name is Rush, pronouns she, her, hers. I hail from THEE 912, C-Pote, Savannah, Georgia where I was born and raised and spend most of my days. I organize around affordable mental health access for youth, the school to prison pipeline in Savannah-Chatham County, and youth-related issues in my area (including at the state level). I love poetry, spoken word and writing my feelings. I’m always watching shows and movies on Netflix or Hulu and I’m sucker for a good teen rom-com. I sing, dance, and like to experience joy in the little things. My political aspirations are Ava DuVernay, Angela Davis, and Tarji P. Henson all are for being strong independent, vulnerable, real black women who say things with their chest and use creative arts and spoken word to empower people. Porsha O’s spoken word piece “Capitalism,” introduced to me by Highlander’s own Kayla Royley, is a piece that critically changed the way I viewed capitalism, communism and other economic systems. The piece’s vulgarity exactly mimics the way that capitalism works and I highly recommend it for those who enjoy a good slam piece.
Maria Fernanda Najera Aguilar
Hola mi nombre es María Fernanda Najera Aguilar tengo 16 años y soy mexicana. Desde pequeña siempre me ha gustado ayudar a mi comunidad, estuve en la organización “IAM” que significa infancia adolescencia misionera en donde ayudábamos a las personas necesitadas. También trabaje con mi escuela en una organización llamada “regalando sonrisas” donde recolectábamos tapas de botellas y por cada mil tapas regalábamos una quimioterapia gratis a los niños con cáncer; a los 13 empecé a participar mas en marchas y por los derechos de mi comunidad donde fuimos a enfrentar el gobernador. Actualmente soy consejo juvenil en la organización “EL PUEBLO” que es una organización sin fines de lucro en Raleigh, Carolina del Norte, que se especializa en el desarrollo de liderazgo para jóvenes y adultos entre la creciente comunidad latina del condado de Wake y también hacemos activismo participando en marchas, hablando con nuestros representantes, la fiesta del pueblo que se hace una vez al año y convivimos con más latinos entre muchas cosas mas. Estoy viviendo en Raleigh, Carolina del Norte y me encanta bailar como buena latina que soy, me gusta leer libros, me encanta escuchar música, ayudar a mi comunidad latina, pasar tiempo con mi familia y hacer Taekwondo. Uno de mis inspiraciones es Mahatma Gandhi porque fue un pacifista que lucho por la paz de su pueblo sin derramar una gota de sangre también me inspira Cesar Chávez que porque fue un líder campesino activista de los derechos civiles de los latinos y también pacifista. El organizo una de las marchas (huelga) más grandes del mundo. El se inspiraba de Martin Luther King y Gandhi. La película de Walkout me ilumino que debemos de trabajar más por nuestra comunidad y que juntos somos mas fuertes.
Krystell Sanchez Romero
My name is Krystell Sanchez Romero. I work with Deep Center Organization – based in Savannah, GA – on a Latinx youth program called Miranos and do artivism through written works. I enjoy writing and performing, listening to music, and painting. Some of my political inspirations include Frida Kahlo and Michelle Obama. Both are women who didn’t sit behind their husbands and ended up being bigger figures. They are big symbols for feminism and women empowerment. Also, I look up to poets who use their writing as a form of protest. Primarily these are Andrea Gibson, Rudy Francisco, and Javon Johnson. A piece of art that enlightened me politically is “Cuz He’s Black” by Javon Johnson. My first experience with full-out activism was the Black Lives Matter movement, following the murder of Trayvon Martin. I wasn’t heavily involved but I did begin to learn more about it. This piece, featured on Button Poetry’s YouTube channel, made me think more about the narrative of black people in the US, which led me to look more into other minorities’ lives as well. Being an immigrant child, it was hard for me to connect with people until I realized that we are all living similar stories due to the lack of education and unity we have about other groups of minorities. It became important to me to find connections within my own culture and that of black people and other people of color.
I’m Justice Abdullah and in the south I worked with my moms org the New Jim Crow Movement and Project South on things like the Marissa Alexander Case and Trayvon Martin. Also in Oakland, California I worked with The Rose foundation in their new voices program where we dealt with environmental justice issues in Oakland, like Phil Tagami a land developer who was trying to build a coal terminal at the Oakland port. I also worked with the Urban Peace Movement that helped with issues black and brown people dealt with like police brutality. I now live in Connecticut with my godmother. My political inspiration is my mom because of how she dedicated her life to social justice issues even tho we had to relocate multiple times because of it. Something that politically educated me was Martin Luther King jr’s letter from Birmingham Jail: http://web.cn.edu/kwheeler/documents/letter_birmingham_jail.pdf
My name is Nadine, and my pronouns are she/her/hers. I’m a 19 year old artist and activist from Savannah, GA. I attend Georgia State University as a Film major. My journey with activism started with a poem I wrote about mass incarceration of black people. Ever since then I’ve gotten involved with several different topics, circling equality, oppression and freedom. More personally, here is a list of things I enjoy doing: analyzing films, watching cartoons, drawing and painting, reading, listening to music, and writing. My political inspirations are Eartha Kitt, and Malcom X. I admire Kitt because she was a badass with a huge FBI file and still somehow had everyone mesmerized by her femininity, still was this soft and beautiful creature. Which was inspiring because it showed me I could still be a badass while wearing a dress. I didn’t have to choose whether I wanted to be a knowledgeable badass, or a “girl”; I could be both. Malcom X because he was unwavering in his beliefs and would do anything to represent them, but he also could admit when he was wrong and change his mind. In terms of a political piece, I also have two. The first was a documentary called 13th, it’s about the mass incarceration of black and brown people in the US. Which inspired me to write my political piece about mass incarceration. The second is another documentary called Paris is Burning, which was about the Harlem queer and drag ball scene in the 1980s. As an ally to the LGBTQ+ community this opened my eyes to a lot of things, and was heartbreaking to say the least. It inspired me to care more about problems that don’t directly affect me, because they do affect me.