Today’s youth have been described as apathetic and less politically active, but these young (and some of the are really young) minority activists prove this statement wrong. They are spreading awareness, educating the world, helping homeless, and even giving pep talks. Meet eight unafraid minority changemakers campaigning for social change.


1. Marvelyn Brown

marvelyn brown

Marvelyn Brown is an African-American author, AIDS activist and founder of Marvelous Connections, an HIV/AIDS organization. When she was 19 she contracted HIV. A former top track and basketball athlete, Marvelyn was a “straight, nonpromiscuous, everyday girl” from Nashville, Tennessee. At the age of nineteen she found herself in the hospital struggling with an unknown illness. At the beginning the doctors couldn’t even identify what was wrong with Marvelyn. Later she found out that she had contracted HIV after having had an unprotected sex. Being poorly educated about HIV, she didn’t know that it could be contracted through heterosexual sex.

Marvelyn did not despair and decided to travel the world to tell her story and raise awareness about HIV. At 24, when most people in the US graduate from college and start their adult lives, she published her autobiography Naked Truth: Young, Beautiful, and (HIV) Positive. She has delivered public speeches and made public appearances in the United States, Bermuda, Canada, Jamaica, Mexico, the Virgin Islands, South Africa, Tanzania, and Rwanda.


2. Malala Yousafzai

malala yousafzai

Meet Malala Yousafzai, the youngest-ever Nobel Prize laureate born in Pakistan and now based in the UK.  She is only 20 but she has been speaking out for education and women’s rights since she was 11 years old. According to her website, “welcoming a baby girl is not always cause for celebration in Pakistan”, but her father, an educator, was determined to send Malala to school so she could have “every opportunity that a boy would have”. She shared her father’s love of learning and, an avid reader, was exploring the world through books.

In her native Swat Valley in the northwest of Pakistan, Taliban had “at times banned girls from attending school”. At 12 Malala began blogging for the BBC about life under the Taliban. She had to use a pseudonym,“Gul Makai” to protect her identity. When she was 15, a Taliban gunman attempted to murder her. The bullet entered her head, went through her neck, and stopped in her shoulder, but Malala survived. She spoke at the United Nations on her 16th birthday and promised “to dedicate this day each year to shining a spotlight on the world’s most vulnerable girls.” After recovering, Malala became one of the loudest voices advocating for female education. Her book “I am Malala” is an international bestseller. At 17, she was announced a co-recipient of the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize. “Let us pick up our books and our pens,” she shares in I am Malala. “They are our most powerful weapons. One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world.”


3. Jonas Corona

Jonas Corona

You are never too old or too young to be a volunteer. When Jonas Corona was only 4 years old he began volunteering by feeding homeless on Skid Row – a historically disadvantaged area in Los Angeles that has the largest population (between 5,000 and 8,000) of homeless people in the United States. Because of his age, Jonas was only allowed to volunteer once a month.

letter of jonas corona

The letter Jonas wrote when he was 6 years old about why he started Love in the Mirror

His desire to help those in need was growing and two years later he started Love In The Mirror – his own non-profit organization that works to support homeless youth. Jonas believes that with the help of dedicated adults, kids like Jonas “can grow into great community leaders and feel good about themselves while they offer those in need necessities like clothes, toiletries, learning materials, toys and a chance to be happy so they can look in the mirror and love what they see.”

“I started helping out at 4 years old”, Jonas recalls. “I started feeding and giving them clothing. I had no idea of skid row, but I loved it. I wanted to go as much as I could. People there made it fun for me, having me hand out hot chocolate and fruit punch.” To date, the foundation started by a six year old helped 45,000 people.


4. RaSia Khepra

RaSia Khepra

In 2012 RaSia Khepra lost a close friend – Hadiya Pendleton, only 15, was fatally shot by a gunman on Chicago’s South Side. “I don’t think having somebody that close to you can ever leave your mind if they’ve been taken in such a way,” Khepra told the Huffington Post. “I do, definitely, think about her every day because I’m used to seeing her every day. … It hurts less as time goes on, it definitely kind of influences how I carry myself now.”

Growing up in Chicago, Khepra wasn’t unfamiliar with the sounds of gunfire – in 2012, when his close friend died, more than 500 people were shot. According to the data released by Chicago Police Department, “the city saw a surge in gun violence in 2016: 762 murders, 3,550 shooting incidents, and 4,331 shooting victims.”

Khepra also knew other people who were shot in his home town, but it was the death of Hadiya Pendleton that made him create Project Orange Tree, an anti-violence initiative that “focuses on educating youth about violence and its roots (structural violence).” The awareness campaign is closely affiliated with Magnifying Urban Realities & Affecting Lives – M.U.R.A.L. This is a grassroots-driven organization that works to “inspire Chicago youth by providing transformative resources and platforms that are in short supply or unavailable.” A bullets can hit anyone, regardless of the person’s race, age, or sexual orientation. That’s why on April 1st The Project Orange Tree team wears orange – to show “that we are human and wish not be gunned down”. 


5. Ziad Ahmed

Ziad Ahmed

Ziad Ahmed, an American-Muslim-Bangladeshi social justice activist, gained attention by writing #BlackLivesMatter one hundred times in his Stanford application essay – and got accepted. This came as a surprise, he shared with Mic: “I was actually stunned when I opened the update and saw that I was admitted. I didn’t think I would get admitted to Stanford at all, but it’s quite refreshing to see that they view my unapologetic activism as an asset rather than a liability.”

Ziad identifies as an activist, and he is unapologetic about it. His desire to fight the injustices and discrimination that he saw growing up inspired him to take action. When he was only 14, Ziad founded Redefy – an organization run by and for teenagers that seeks “to empower schools and communities with resources and information to be more inclusive.” It holds workshops for middle and lower schoolers, as well as awareness campaigns and community events. The teens behind Redify believe that ignorance is at the root of problem and through the power of education we can move toward the just and tolerant society.

ziad stanford application

After establishing Redify, Ziad’s activism really took off: according to his official website, “through Redefy, Ziad has been recognized as a 2017 Global Teen Leader, a High School Trailblazer by MTV, a Top 15 Young Prodigy Changing the World by Business Insider, a Diana Award Winner, and a recipient of the Princeton Prize in Race Relations.” Along with Redify, Ziad co-founded JÜV Consulting Inc. – a youth consulting firm. By the time he turned 18, Ziad had already given four TEDxTalks and had been invited to the White House three times.


6. Zuriel Oduwole

Zuriel Oduwole

By the time she turned 12 this amazing girl made 4 films interview 14 heads of state. Zuriel is an African American filmmaker and girl education advocate. “As a girl, I am concerned  that not every girl has a right to get an education or a chance to accomplish her dreams like me”, she says.“Not too cool”. Zuriel Oduwole is absolutely outstanding, and this is why:

—She is the youngest person in the world to be featured in Forbes Magazine at age 10 in 2013

—She is listed in New Africa Magazine as one of Africa’s 100 Most Influential People of 2013, at age 11

—Spoke at the UN on Climate Change and effects on Education in September 2016
​—Honored by US Secretary of State John Kerry for her Work on Girls Education Globally

Zuriel was born in Los Angeles, California, to a Nigerian father and a Mauritian mother. Home-schooled through an online Californian system, she is two years ahead of her peers. At the age of 14 a young filmmakers is already an 11th grader. On top of that, Zuriel is known as a founder of “Dream Up, Speak Up, Stand Up” – campaign “for the advocacy and promotion of girl-child education in Africa.” Zurie remains down-to-earth and says that she works hard to do her school project, enjoys playing basketball and soccer, as well as doing her “extracurricular activities of interviewing world leaders and making positive documentaries.”


7. Xiuhtezcatl Martinez

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez (“Shu-Tez-Caht”) is a 17 year old trilingual Indigenous activist and hip hop artist from Boulder, Colorado. He is the Youth Director of Earth Guardians, an organization of “youth activists, artists and musicians stepping up as leaders.” His mother, Tamara Roske, has been on the front line of environmental activism movement for the past 20 years. She founded Earth Guardian in Hawaii in 1992.

Since age 6, Xiuhtezcatl has spoken publicly at over 100 environmental and climate change events, including General Assembly at the United Nations in New York in 2015. Xiuhtezcatl and his younger brother are passionate musicians who write music and perform together. The UNFCC chose their song, “Speak for the Trees,” as a theme song for the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference. A driven activist and public speaker, Xiuhtezcatl is also an author of We Rise – The Earth Guardians Guide to Building a Movement that Restores the Planet. 

Having been raised in the Aztec tradition, Xiuhtezcatl says that he shares “many of the same ideas and beliefs that Indigenous people around the world do: that sense of caretaking of the planet, that everything around us is a gift, and we have to protect it. That there’s not one god, but everything around us has spirit, everything around us has an essence.”


8.  Kid President, aka Robby Novak

kid president

“Let’s treat everybody like it’s their birthday, every single day”, says Kid President, aka Robby Novak. Robby is a YouTube superstar giving inspirational pep talks. A guy giving pep talk on YouTube may not sound that special until you find out that Robby became famous in 2012 when he was only 9. His breakthrough video “A Pep Talk from Kid President to You” became viral and currently has over 40 million views on YouTube.

Kid President reminds us that we all need to be awesome and that being unking and boring is a waste of time. “Everybody can be boring”, he says in the video. “But you’re gooder than that.” But Robby isn’t just an adorable young YouTube vlogger, he is a fierce changemaker and activist.

In 2015 Kid President teamed up with ConAgra Foods to host a summer-long “Tell-A-Thon” that raises awareness about how “child hunger in America increases during the summer, when kids no longer have access to free and reduced-price school meals,” reports Mashable.

Kis President went back on his campaign in 2016 which he declared the Year of the Kid. In the inspiring video he tells us that child hunger is an unseen problem in the US. One in five kids in America, according to the video, don’t know where their next meal is coming from. ”I don’t know about you, but I’m not okay with that”, says Kid President.

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