March 31, 2016

To Be Young, Gifted, and Woke

by Tiffani Greenaway of

Oh what a lovely, precious, dream.

In a popular 1958 song, Nina Simone's powerful lyrics helped to demonstrate the pride in being a young person of color. Today, young social activists are taking a stand, using their platforms to speak up and educate their peers.


N.A.A.C.P. Image Award winner Yara Shahidi, who stars as Zoey Johnson on the ABC show Black-ish, uses her celebrity status for social good. “I’m filming nine and a half hours a day five days a week, but whenever I have a free moment, I’m talking to the U.N. or working on how to get Yara’s Club (her mentoring program) launched,” she told the New York Times. "Giving back is not just something you do as an adult."

The 15 year-old Teen Choice Award nominee maintains a 4.6 GPA, and is enrolled in AP Calculus and honors chemistry. She appeared in a public service announcement for earlier this year, encouraging young women to pursue careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math).

Hunger Games star Amandla Sternberg is also speaking up for social change. The 17 year old's video "Don't Cash Crop On My Cornrows," a commentary on cultural misappropriation, went viral. "As Azealia Banks observed in her tweets, white musicians who partook in hip hop culture and adopted 'Blackness,' Iggy Azalea in particular, failed to speak on the racism that comes along with Black identity," Stenberg said. "What would America be like if we loved Black people as much as we love Black culture?"

The actress and activist, who is this year's Black Girls Rock "Young, Gifted and Black" celebrant, is set to star in The Hate U Give, the movie adaptation of the young adult novel by Angela Thomas inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement and the death of Oscar Grant, an unarmed young man shot by police at Oakland, California's Fruitvale Station in 2009.

This generation is growing up conscious and active, unafraid to organize and speak out.

President Obama spoke of young leaders, saying, “What I am most encouraged by is the degree of focus and seriousness and constructiveness that exists not only with existing civil rights organizations, but this new generation. They are some serious young people. I told them that they are much better organizers than I was when I was their age, and I am confident that they are going to take America to new heights.”


Tiffani Greenaway is the wife and mom behind MyMommyVents, a New York city parenting blog. Her tips have been seen on Yahoo Parenting, Mommy Noire, and Fit Pregnancy. Find more of Tiffani's work at

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