In 2012, Trayvon Martin was murdered, and my generation experienced a traumatic shock. The black-and-white photos in our history books of Civil Rights icons Malcolm X, Rosa Parks, and Martin Luther King Jr., along with photos of black people hanging from trees, weren’t just history — they represented our reality, too. Realizing that the injustice my ancestors fought against hadn’t been eradicated was discouraging. Simultaneously, it ignited a fire of anger and strength. My peers and I were upset that we would have to fight the same fight, but also ambitious enough to step up to the challenge.
This same fire has been fueled even more as we have watched many videos of black people lying in the streets, many put there by the hands of those who had sworn to protect and serve. Through the Black Lives Matter movement, my peers and I have been inspired to speak against these repeated acts of blatant oppression.
I attended my first protest in 2013, right before my freshman year of high school. My mother and I participated in a march down Chicago’s congested Michigan Avenue after the murder of Trayvon Martin in order to demand justice.
Since then, I’ve evolved into a poet, artist of other mediums, and outspoken activist. In August 2015, I started The I Project, an initiative to humanize youth affected by intersectionality through activist-inspired art. The I Project allows art to unite youth, and allows marginalized groups, not others, to pen their own narratives. Earlier this year, I represented the Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana at the United Nations’ 60th Commission on the Status of Women in New York City. There, I gave a speech about my project and activism to a vast audience, which included prime ministers and politicians from around the world.
It was that experience that taught me the meaning of what it means to be an activist and advocate, and led me to join three other incredible black teen girls to lead more than 1,000 people from Chicago’s Millennium Park through Michigan Avenue, shutting down both directions of traffic, this past weekend.
To read Eva’s entire essay, visit TeenVogue.com.