These Gen Z activists are taking on the world one community at a time. Jakhil Jackson, Ja’Mal Green, Nicholas Lowinger, Jack Witherspoon and Abrar Omeish are tackling specific issues like poverty, education and gun violence by giving voice to America’s — too often silenced — youth.
Jahkil Jackson is the 12-year-old founder of Project I Am which distributes “blessing bags,” that contain essential items for the homeless. The project also aims to raise awareness about the housing crisis in Chicago.
“We have created over 40,000 blessing bags over the past four years,” Jackson told In The Know. “I do believe in the power of young people because that’s what I preach to adults all the time that they have to start listening to us young people. I feel like I want my legacy to be just somebody who is kind and hardworking and inspirational to the youth. That’s the kind of mark I want to leave on the world.”
Ja’Mal Green is a 25-year-old community organizer and entrepreneur. Green is the youngest person to ever run for mayor in Chicago. His focus is on gun violence and like John Lewis, he intends to make good trouble.
“There are people that don’t have a place to go, they go to the streets,” Green said. “We want to make sure that we open up our doors and provide opportunities for them to come in and get any services they need and be a real resource for that community. I want to keep fighting. I want to keep hope alive.”
“I didn’t need to go halfway across the world to see poverty, I could see it right in my own backyard,” Lowinger told In The Know.
Gotta Have Sole focuses on children in shelters and foster care. Lowinger hopes that eventually there won’t be a single kid in the system without kicks from Gotta Have Sole.
“I really do believe that as young people we can make an enormous difference,” Lowinger said. “All we have to do is take action.”
Jack Witherspoon is a 19-year-old chef and cancer survivor. When he was two years old he was diagnosed with leukemia. He couldn’t attend school or play sports, so cooking became Witherspoon’s passion very early on.
When he was in fifth grade and on the cusp of getting his first cookbook Twist It Up published, his cancer relapsed. Now his brand of scone-like cookies, Chef Jackson’s Skonies, is raising money to help other kids with cancer.
“Throughout my journey, all the stuff that I’ve done, the charity events, my cookbook, part of the proceeds went to my endowment for pediatric leukemia research and Chef Jackson’s Skonies is no different. It still has that charitable thread,” Witherspoon said.
Abrar Omeish is the first Libyan-American elected official in the U.S., one of the first Muslim women elected in Virginia and the youngest ever in her role. The 26-year-old activist is taking on education in the public school system as the Fairfax County School Board Member-At-Large.
“I think back at those kids that were left behind when I was in school and how many other hundreds and thousands of them there are,” Omeish said. “I’m now in a position to influence and hope to be able to see change. I’m fighting for kids. I’m fighting for opportunities and I’m making sure we’re living in a community that’s a place anyone can succeed.”
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