article by Lu Lu
illustration by Vy Nguyen
Deja Foxx didn't plan to go viral. All she wanted to do was speak her truth.
And that's exactly what she did. In 2017, Deja Foxx--a reproductive justice activist, then in high school--launched a powerful, inspirational tirade against Arizona senator Jeff Flake at a town hall, criticizing his support for taking away Title X funding for Planned Parenthood.
"I’m a young woman, and you’re a middle-aged man,” Foxx said angrily. “I’m a person of color, and you’re white. I come from a background of poverty, and I didn’t always have parents to guide me through life. You come from privilege. So I’m wondering, as a Planned Parenthood patient and someone who relies on Title X, who you are clearly not, why it’s your right to take away my right to choose Planned Parenthood?”
Her speech was recorded on someone's camera, and it soon went viral, rocketing her to national prominence. Despite all the fanfare, however, activism like this was only a necessary part of Deja's daily existence. Growing up as a low-income woman of color in Tuscon, Deja relied heavily on Planned Parenthood to help her make decisions for her own body, allowing her to maintain control of her own life. The first time she visited Planned Parenthood was when she was 15, and it changed her life.
However, during her sophomore in high school, she noticed hat abstinence-only sex education and a lack of regulation around the subject disproportionately affected students of color, low income students, and independent students like herself. She was outraged when her teacher breezed through contraceptives, which she knew she needed.
Therefore, Deja helped found the Reproductive Health Access Project at her local community health center. The group addresses the lack of reproductive justice for vulnerable groups, such as teen moms, independent youth, and people in group homes and the foster care system.
Outside activism, Deja persevered through great personal struggle. At age 15, she stopped living full-time with her mother, who struggled with mental illness and could not always take care of her. She spent some time homeless, working hard hours at a gas station to provide for herself. Despite her incredible success, she still says that her greatest accomplishment was buying her mother a car.
As part of Teen Vogue’s 21 Under 21 Class of 2018, Deja Foxx is a rising 18-year-old intersectional activist filled with fire and passion. She has since helped organize the March For Our Lives rally, fought against family separation at the border, lobbied alongside Planned Parenthood on Capitol Hill for birth control access, and pushed for a comprehensive sex-ed curriculum in her school district. She rose out of the hardships even stronger, feeling empowered to fight for reform on issues that affect millions of people everyday. For her, engaging in activism fulfills her through fighting for what she believes in while “inspiring and empowering leaders alongside you.”
Deja has been focusing on fighting for reproductive rights for women, especially in a society where women’s rights are still not fully accepted as human rights. Too often, women’s bodies are policed by men sitting in powerful seats, and little girls are subjugated to an incomprehensive or biased education on the reproductive system, consent, and sexual assault. The lack of adequate birth control and prenatal care has led to too many lives taken away from young women, too many emotional and painful stories of loss, shame, and suffering.
As a Gen-Z activist, Deja is inspiring young people to stand up for what they believe in, no matter their age. She wants to tell every young person to “follow your passion and be fearless” and know that “you are deserving.” The country is in need of fresh and progressive voices to show that we have power, and that we can make a change. And in this world, Deja Foxx will one day be president.