Interview: An NYC Teen Activist in Her Own Words

Updated: Jul 13, 2018

The Homegirl Project interviewed Maya Brady-Ngugi on her journey advocating for people of color, despite her youth. For our full story on Maya, click here.

By Hesper Khong

Can you share your story of joining NYC Says Enough?

When I first joined NYC Says Enough, I was gathering with kids I had never met before who were all passionate about ending gun violence. I was really excited that we could create a community of random people who were all trying to achieve the same goal. When I participate in activism, I feel as if I am tapping into my inner strength and fulfilling my purpose, so I am never afraid of the consequences of what I do. I always just fight for what I believe is right.

Who inspires you in life?

The people who inspire me in life are Harriet Tubman and Elaine Brown. Harriet Tubman inspires me because of the immense amount of bravery that she showed to escape from a living hell and then go back to hell to free others. Elaine Brown inspires me as one of the only woman who was in the higher-up leadership of the Black Panthers. The Black Panthers helped people while also fighting for revolutionary change, which inspires every aspect of my activism today. Elaine Brown’s commitment to serve the people, her love, and her strength have molded me into the activist that I am.

What is one issue that you want to change about the world?

If I could change one issue around the world, I would give everyone access to a quality education. Education opens our minds beyond our own experiences. With more education, we would have more creation, more empathy, and more problems solved.

What advice would you give young activists of color?

Remember that activism is action, and without action our words mean nothing. Remember what inspired you to get into activism, [as] your motivation will always keep you grounded and passionate. So many people of color in general feel the need to silence and restrain themselves, [and] it’s okay to be afraid, but never let your fears overpower you to the point where you don’t do the right thing. You have to speak and live your truth and never let anything stop you from that.

How does your heritage impact your viewpoints on the world?

My cultures revolve so much around humanism, love and celebration, gratitude, storytelling, and community. They value the ideals that I fight for everyday. I can envision a world of peace through witnessing and learning about what my cultures value. It just falls on our generation to finally create it. As for politics, I can see [a] better reality, so I continue to fight for it and make sure to take advantage of all the rights that my ancestors have fought so hard to get for my generation.

How do you cope with the ever-changing world of activism?

Remember that the leadership of movements of today can look very different than the movements that have come before us. They can be collaborative. We no longer need a single leader. We don’t need activist to fit into respectability politics, we need activists who are real and who don’t fall into traditional molds. Learn! Learn! Learn! Listen! Listen! Listen! There is never a point where you know too much. Learn about about history, activism, politics, leadership, and anything you think will help your activism. Learn from successful movements of the past, but critique and learn from that movement’s mistakes. You have so much you can learn from others!

The key theme of The Homegirl Project is "female empowerment." How does this issue impact your own life?

As a woman, I feel it’s extremely important that women create a loving and safe community, and that we focus on uplifting each other. I got a lot of my inspiration for my activism and taking leadership position from feminism and from confident women. I feel it’s so important that we can see women uplifting each other, women who are in leadership positions, women who are brave, outspoken, creative, and powerful.

You’ve been very outspoken about black history and representing people of color. Why is that?

Speaking out for people of color is very much a instinct of mine. I have been given so much from community, so much knowledge, wisdom, love, inspiration, and protection. I want my community to be safe and full of love and pride. So when it is time to celebrate black history or I feel like PoC are being attacked, it feels super natural to fight and uplift a community that has given me so much.

What are your thoughts on how creation and activism could intersect to create change?

Creation has played a huge part in creating effective movements of the past, and art has such a huge role in our life right now. Artist generally have a responsibility to share their truth, and if fighting for social justice is a part of their truth, they should speak to it.