The Homegirl Project chatted with nationally-acclaimed activist and Teen Vogue 21 Under 21 honoree Deja Foxx about her advice for young activists.
story by Lu Lu
LL: What is the motivation for your passion for social activism?
DF: My activism comes from a deeply personal place and the issues and communities a I fight for are primarily those that are directly tied to my life. I believe that the people most affected should always be at the front of their own movements. I also feel my most fulfilled when engaging in activism because it has a two part goal: one, whatever policy or tangible change you are pushing for and two, inspiring and empowering leaders alongside you. In this way, I feel like you can never lose when you're fighting for the right cause because even if a campaign or project doesn't work out the way you hoped it would you can still see the wins in the people you've helped realize their power.
LL: What are the main issues on your agenda to address? And how will you address them? What are your future plans?
DF: My focus has been on reproductive justice these past years, though I've always worked at it's intersections and I've also organized around March For Our Lives and to end family separation and child detention. But, with regards to reproductive justice I have worked on both a policy and clinical side. I lobbied politicians alongside Planned Parenthood on Capitol Hill for birth control access, phone banked and canvassed for progressive candidates, and fought for comprehensive sex education in my school district. The work doesn't just stop there though. I also have been a part of constructing the new curriculum for my school district, helped to build a youth leadership team that runs free teen clinics every week, and taught sex education. My future plans are uncertain since moving to NYC for school, but I know wherever I go I'll always be an organizer. Long term, I plan to run for office and one day be President of the United States.
LL: What are some challenges you’ve faced and how did you overcome them?
DF: I struggled with poverty, substance abuse in my household, and homelessness and housing insecurity throughout high school and just as I was beginning to engage with activism. These struggles were fuel for my work. They gave me unique insights into the ways the issues I was fighting for interacted with all of the pieces of my complex identity that make me, me. I also found power in telling my story, even the hard parts, because storytelling is one of the most powerful agents of change. Using my story and experiences to fight for reform and inspire others helped me to accept my struggles and embrace the ways they've molded me into the amazing woman I am today.
LL: You have inspired many other young people in this country to take a stand and make a change. To this new generation of activists, what are some words of encouragement, advice, and life experiences that you have to share?
Cecile Richards always tells me and other young women to start before they're ready and I think as a woman of color I often feel pressure to always be perfect and never fail, but this is the perfect reminder to follow your passion and be fearless.
Another piece of advice is to cultivate a strong relationship with yourself. I do this through yoga and journaling, but it can look like anything. Just remember that to be the best, most effective leader you have to take care of yourself.
Lastly, I always give this piece of advice because there were so many times where I needed to hear it: You are deserving. You are deserving of all of the success you've had in your past, and all that yet to come. And don't let anyone tell you otherwise.