Inspiring a new wave of activism

Controversial topics such as LGBTQ+ rights, racial injustice and suicide are often brushed under the rug, but Diamond Bar High School junior Olivia James is already in action to spread awareness and make changes.

In order to address these social justice issues, James joined Melanted Youth— a community and social media platform that provides teenagers and young adults the opportunity to speak out on world issues and make changes. The organization was created last year by James’ middle school peers, Chloe Serrano and Ahsha Jones with a motto of “mobilizing young voices.” 

James was inspired to join Melanated Youth after she saw that they were making this coalition out of a genuine desire to help others in their community and not for a resume booster or clout. As a matter of fact, all of those in Melanated Youth have the same goal of fighting for justice and to support each other.

“I feel like this[“mobilizing youth voices”] perfectly encapsulates Melanated Youth because we take world issues and put them on platforms for people our age and we gear our events towards youth so this generation can grow up educated and open minded,” junior Olivia James said.

James is the San Bernardino County Regional Director of Melanated Youth, and also a part of their fundraising team. As the director, she is the main liaison between her community and the rest of the coalition, where she is responsible for anything from organizing mutual aid events to communicating with the community.

 In mutual aid events, Melanated Youth purchases essentials such as food and first-aid, while also accepting food and hygiene products from community donations to the homeless.

“The most difficult project I’ve worked on is the mutual aid,” James said. “It’s hard to find money, sponsors, and safe areas to hold it.” 

Some of the main social justice issues that Melanated Youth have worked on are the Black Lives Matters protests last summer and pride month in June. Recently, they’ve been addressing the crisis in Afghanistan, where they’re currently working on infographics and reposting information about Afghanistan to their Instagram, @melanatedyouth.

So far, Melanated Youth has organized two mutual aids, a protest for racial justice and numerous webinars discussing worldly issues. After attending these different events, James’ favorite event that she attended was the AAPI solidarity protest since she had the opportunity to give a public speech about breaking down the definition of solidarity. 

“It was a very unifying and empowering experience,” James said.

 James’ goal for Melanated Youth is to expand the organization through social media and word of mouth to get more volunteers. She also wants to host more protests and mutual aid events to draw more attention to the coalition. In order to gain more publicity, Melanated Youth recently launched a website. 

“I see the world through a different lens now because of Melanated youth,” James said, “I always consider the other side of everything and I feel myself being more inclusive when I go about my daily life.”