Yewande Austin – Part 1

yewandeAs long as I can remember I wanted to change the world. I think that’s difficult for most people to believe but it’s true. I was born to be an activist. While most girls aspired to be like Whitney or Mariah (who I also admired), I wanted to free people just like Harriet Tubman did. Josephine Baker’s story led me to fantasize about traveling the world and spreading love through my music (and maybe adopting a “rainbow tribe” of my own orphaned children one day). The story of Nat Turner taught me that I didn’t have to accept the rules that had been “assigned” to me because I was a Black girl living in America. I was absolutely consumed by the stories of Frederick Douglass, Paul Robeson, Susan B. Anthony, Sojourner Truth, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr – each heroes that had overcome seemingly insurmountable odds and committed their lives to fighting for justice and freedom. Their missions ignited my spirit and I wanted to be just like them. But like most people that dream about changing the world (and have no foggy idea of where to begin), I remained stealthily quiet about my dream.

For the longest time, I didn’t have a plan per se. I just did what came quite naturally to me ‐ standing up against the school bully, befriending so‐called “outcasts” (after all, I felt just like them), protecting little kids on the playground. Eventually I guess my mother figured out that I had a heart for service, so she took me to the South African Embassy to march against Apartheid when I was about 10 or 11 years old. I was scared to death – after all, most of the historic marches that I’d read about ended in blood baths – but I survived unscathed and with a new understanding of what it meant to be an activist. As a teenager she encouraged me to feed the homeless – that experience would one day lead me to work with children in a homeless shelter. Those were life‐affirming moments for me! What once seemed like an unattainable dream was now within reach. But back then I knew that no one could “teach” me how to change the world. I began to see that “change” actually started with very small moments that, with strategic planning and dedication, could grow into a movement. (end of pt 1) ‐ come back soon for part 2

Yewande Austin