OPINION
02/28/2018 11:11 am ET

Black Kids Will Save The World

Taylor Richardson is doing her part to give other girls, especially those of color, a sense of empowerment.
Latonja Richardson
Taylor Richardson is doing her part to give other girls, especially those of color, a sense of empowerment.

“A Wrinkle In Time” is a book (and now a major motion picture) about a fictional teenage girl who saves her father (and mankind) from evil forces in the universe. Taylor Richardson is a real-life 14-year-old girl in Jacksonville, Florida, who’s trying to make sure other teens see this story and get the power to save the world in their own way.

“I wanted all girls, especially girls of color, to know they can be whatever they want to be when they grow up and also can struggle and have flaws and still be successful in life,” she said in an interview.

To date, Taylor has raised over $25,000 dollars to take young girls to see the film. This isn’t her first time providing such an opportunity for girls; in 2017 she raised enough money to take 1,000 girls to see “Hidden Figures” for free. She knows and wants other teens to know that if they believe in themselves and see themselves succeeding, they can change the world.

Taylor is one of the many bright young stars in the black community dedicating their time to activism and causes they believe will help create change, while navigating the hardships of youth.

Actress Yara Shahidi seeks to encourage political activism among young people.
Mike Pont via Getty Images
Actress Yara Shahidi seeks to encourage political activism among young people.

Actress Yara Shahidi is another example of a young agent of change. While many know her from her role as Zoey Johnson on the hit shows “Black-ish” and “Grown-ish,” Yara also balances her time as a freshman at Harvard and an activist.  For her 18th birthday this month, she decided to spend it launching her Eighteenx18 campaign, a storytelling platform encouraging young people to be active in politics and vote in midterm elections. 

“It’s just such a scary time, especially coming from the dream that was the Obama administration,” Yara said about the current political landscape. 

Many young people like Yara are channeling their energy into action. Marsai Martin, 13, another “Black-ish” star, has become executive producer of her own series. Marley Dias, 13, has been spotlighted for her collectiion of books about black girls and now is creating her black girl book club. Moziah Bridges, 15, continues to make waves in the business and fashion world with his company Mo’s Bows.

These young leaders are not only changing the false narratives about black youth, they are writing their own futures.

Our youth are also dealing with many of the same issues we fought and continue to fight, as well as some new ones. They see people who look like themselves being murdered by police on a regular basis. They’re watching our own community leaders and celebrities supporting young white activists and leaders in ways they often don’t receiveBlack girls are suspended from school at high rates in every state. Our young people carry a great deal of the weight of the world on their own shoulders.

But there is hope, a metaphorical light at the end of a tunnel that often seems endless. Our black youth are defending and supporting one another ― and subsequently defending and supporting the generations that came before them. That makes it easy for us to lean-in on them when they display natural greatness and fortitude. But that is exactly why it is our job as adults to protect them, even if sometimes it means protecting them from their own propensity to work more than play, to resist more than relax, to become rather than just be. We need to let kids just be … kids.

While we must remain focused on cultivating the futures of our young leaders and inherently the future of our community, we must also take a page out of their book and balance our aspirations and expectations. As adults, we should praise and place a spotlight on our exceptional young people, but we must also find ways to give them the space and agency to still actually be young.

What sets these young stars apart is that they not only want to save the world, they go out and do it on a daily basis, without help and without permission. We need to make sure they are also fully experiencing and enjoying the world they are saving.  While we are in awe and learning from the magnificent young black leaders, we can’t forget to teach them and give them the opportunity to grow.

We must remember to give them somewhere to land as we also continue to lift them up.

Frederick Joseph is a marketing professional, philanthropist and media representation advocate. He is founder of the creative agency We Have Stories and creator of the #BlackPantherChallenge.

This post is part of our #BlackGlory series, celebrating the beauty of blackness throughout the month of February. For more Black History Month content, click here.

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