My grandmother became a civil rights activist as a teen, this is why we must continue her fight

Oakland Military Institute | Oakland, CA
October 30, 2020

By Nairobi Williese Barnes

As a fifteen-year-old high school student, I am a writer, daughter, sister, and granddaughter of a civil rights activist. My grandmother, Fannie Mae Barnes, left her home in Georgia in the 1960s and went to Chicago to work with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference– the civil rights group led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  My family taught me from an early age the pivotal lessons that most Black children, unfortunately, have to learn. As a Black woman in America, I will never truly be respected in public, a workplace, or even my own home. I learned that my culture can be taken from me again and again– from the very same country that took it hundreds of years ago. More recently, I’ve learned that the police may look at me and see a threat because of my beautiful Black skin and they may kill me for that very same reason.

I recently interviewed my grandmother to hear what advice she has for young activists today. My grandmother is someone I can relate to. She wanted to make a difference in her community–just as I do now. She saw what she had to do and went after it to make changes for the generation coming up after her. Without her and her fellow activist’s efforts, America would look so different from how it looks today. 

As a teenager today, I feel an immense amount of pressure. My generation didn’t build this country, as it continuously disrespects, dishonors, and disgraces us. It has led to depressing times and hopeless feelings for me, during a time when I am supposed to enjoy life the most. This has to change, for the greater good of our country and the citizens that bear this weight.

Now is the time for my generation to follow in the footsteps of people like my grandmother. We must learn to stand with each other and as a collective force. 

Voting is the first step in creating a better future for America, so please heed my grandmother’s words and vote. Vote to save lives, to influence others, and to change for the better. Please, vote!