The Future of Black History: Youth Leaders

Nat'l Urban League
10 min readFeb 22, 2022

This Black History Month, we’re spotlighting and celebrating the next generation of leaders! We launched a call for submissions for local young leaders on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day 2022 and received entrees from coast to coast and everywhere in between.

Here are the teens, twentysomethings, and beyond doing extraordinary work in their immediate communities. Get to know their work and stories! #BlackToTheFuture

Asiyah McQueen | 19 years old | St. Louis, Missouri

Passionate about: racial injustice, police brutality, cultural awareness

Asiyah stands up for what’s right, voices injustices, and advocates for African American communities. She’s currently a member of the Black Student Alliance at Saint Louis University and the Audre Lorde Scholars program, an organization for women of color. Asiyah started running the diversity program in high school after her own encounter with a hate crime. She started her own clothing line at age 17 to create cultural awareness and Black empowerment. Asiyah is an amazing young woman who continues to uplift others around her!

Keep up with Asiyah: @im.asiyah on Instagram

Ciara Coleman | 32 years old | New Orleans, Louisiana

Passionate about: promoting philanthropic support toward Black led organizations and non-profits that provide services for women, girls, and families

Ciara organized a Black women’s giving circle called Geaux Girl Giving, whose members champion and award Black led organizations and non-profits. Geaux Girl Giving has awarded micro-grants to 6 non-profits in the New Orleans community, collected over $6k in contributions, and helped identify 14 new Black philanthropists. Ciara was also instrumental in developing the 2020 and 2021 giving campaign for her alma mater Alabama A&M University, where she helped organize a targeted campaign to increase charitable giving towards scholarships to the students that attend the HBCU. In her day job, Ciara works for the Kellogg Foundation where she oversees grant distributions in her region. Her life is dedicated to providing resources to underrepresented communities to help them develop and thrive.

Keep up with Ciara: @the_purposefulproject on Instagram

Craig Mirambell | 8 years old | New Orleans, Louisiana

Passionate about: respectfully challenging people’s beliefs in a way that allows inclusivity

Craig attends an affluent school in New Orleans, where he doesn’t fit the typical mold. He has severe dyslexia with a working memory within the range of autism. His school graciously asked him to consider attending a school that could better fulfill his “shortcomings.” The school let him to finish the school year and allowed for an additional year before requiring him to leave the school. Craig heard their concerns then explained to his mother that he would be committed to changing his school’s belief systems through dignity and hard work. Craig has spent the past year treating his dyslexia as a gift and has changed how his school views dyslexics. He has expanded the idea of a “shortcoming” to mean something that’s nothing more than a gift that hasn’t been recognized yet.

Daylana Saunders | 25 years old | Fort Wayne, Indiana

Passionate about: Black Lives Matter, racial injustice, and economic equity

Daylana co-founded ChangeMakers Fort Wayne to bring together community members and social and racial justice activists for the purpose of amplifying the voices and concerns of the Black community in Fort Wayne and work toward systemic changes. ChangeMakers has become the voice of freedom, justice, and equity in the area and Daylana continues to use her voice for good.

Keep up with Daylana: @ChangeMakersFW on Facebook

Elisha Abney | 22 years old | Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Passionate about: racial justice, criminal justice reform, mass incarceration

Immediately after George Floyd was murdered, Elisha created the HERO Collective with her peers. The Collective is a call to action program that has served close to 50 youth via Zoom during the pandemic and includes two programs: Black Youth 4 Justice and Young Entrepreneurs Club. Elisha started HERO when she was just a college senior at Widener University and working full time. She has since graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Legal Studies and works as a paralegal with a criminal defense attorney. Elisha has overcome extreme hardships and experienced workplace harassment and discrimination while she was a student. Instead of giving up, she also created a makeup line called Elite by Lish and started a community outreach program called Street Outreach to provide free healthy meals to families in need during the pandemic. Elisha is currently studying to take the LSAT and enroll in law school. Learn more about the HERO Youth org.

Keep up with Elisha: @the.herocollective on Instagram

Faitth Brooks | 31 years old | Hyattsville, Maryland

Passionate about: racial injustice and educating people on the impacts of systemic racism on our society today

Faitth has been working with youth in some capacity for over 10 years in Dallas, Houston, and Atlanta and is passionate about educating and empowering students. She is energized and encouraged by the passion students have for activism and has worked to find engaging ways to connect with students looking to learn more about activism and how to participate within their community. She isnew to the DMV area and looking forward to broadening her work with students in the area.

Keep up with Faithh: @Faitthb on Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, and Twitter

Isaiah Santiago | 17 years old | Rochester, New York

Passionate about: gun violence

Isaiah started the campaign “We Got This” with the main goal to give youth a chance to focus on their personal talents and passions. He took a stand against youth gun violence and created an avenue tp get kids off the streets and into skill-centered activities in an effort to reduce youth violence.

Keep up with Isaiah:

Hassan As-Sidiq | 24 years old | Twin Cities, Minnesota

Passionate about: community development, youth development, civic empowerment, and liberation

As the founder and visionary of the Black Army Brigade, Hassan has cultivated positive working relationships with community and institutional partners while forging pathways toward self sufficiency not just for himself but for his peers as well. He is part of the Urban League Twin Cities Young Professionals and served as Advocacy & Civic Engagement Chair. Committed to developing quality leadership experiences, he was selected in 2020 for both the Community Equity Program offered through Wilder Foundation and the Congressional Advocacy Program offered through National Urban League Washington Bureau. Both of these fellowships offer the opportunity to better understand governmental structure, legislative processes, and ways to be a fierce advocate for system accountability.

Keep up with the Black Army Brigade:

Kaelyn Bell | 13 years old | Newark, New Jersey

Passionate about: anti-bullying

Kaelyn was a victim of bullying for years. When she decided to share her experience with her mother, she vowed to: 1) ensure that the school she attended implemented an anti-bullying program and 2) that she would create a safe space for young children to share their experiences and build confidence. Today, as the National Youth Ambassador for Fifty Shades of Purple Against Bullying, Kaelyn leads a reading series with kids across the country in an effort to build community and instill confidence to thwart bullying.

Keep up with Kaelyn: @inlov3w_kaelyn on Instagram

Kenda Sutton-El | 36 years old | Richmond, Virginia

Passionate about: racial injustice and Black maternal health

Kenda raises awareness about Black maternal health in Virginia. She has been fierce and putting pressure on the state and health care systems to change racism in health care. Kenda has been going to schools to teach teenage girls and young women about safe sex practices but also lifting up the ones who became pregnant and continually educating them.

Keep up with Kenda: @iamkendasuttonel and @iamkendasuttonel on Instagram

Lester Johnson | 40 years old | Battle Creek, Michigan

Passionate about: racial equity and representation in leadership at the systems level

For the past 30 years, our community has tried to unite Black leaders through various efforts. Lester created the African American Collaborative and has facilitated the creation of a Black Agenda being used and adopted across the community, advancing Black leadership, Black advocacy, and Black voices. He also serves as Chief Diversity Officer and Director of Engagement at Southwestern Michigan Urban League.

Kayla Austin | 18 years old | Bolingbrook, Illinois

Passionate about: gun safety

Kayla is a strong advocate for gun safety and has a patent pending and a working prototype of her gun safety invention. She was recently accepted into a special Marketing class for invention at Howard University. Not only is she the National Spokesperson for the Shoot Film not Guns Initiative but she also hosts workshops, virtual sessions, and even authored a book to help others advocate for their passions. In conjunction with Rainbow PUSH EXCEL, Kayla continues to support a Chicago homeless shelter by providing coats, hats, and backpacks to boys and girls at the shelter every year. She was recently selected by AT&T as one of 25 Dream in Black Future Makers.

Keep up with Kayla: @kayrox on Instagram & @kayrox4gunsafety on Facebook

Te’Lario WAtkins II | 14 years old | Blacklick, Ohio

Passionate about: food justice, ending hunger

Te’Lario has been a food activist since he was 7 years old. He has supported and raised awareness for national hunger organizations. He founded The Garden Club Project to help feed his community healthy food and to help end hunger. Te’Lario has started 2 community gardens located in food deserts in Columbus, Ohio.

Keep up with Te’Lario: @thegardenclubproject on Instagram and Facebook

Sh’Kiya Ross | 15 years old | Sh’Kiya Ross

Passionate about: educating other youth about the importance of never forgetting the hard work and contributions of those who fought for key civil rights issues: housing, jobs, equal right, antiracism, police brutality, and quality education for the disadvantage and underserved

Sh’Kiya has worked with the Remembering Our Ancestors Synergistic Association (ROASA), Inc. since its establishment in 2008. She was born to walk into her ancestors’ shoes as a ROASA Youth Empowerment Series (RYES) member/participant. She has found her powerful civil rights voice and often educates the community with legacy videos, social media posts, and voiceover for key ROASA promotional products and services.

Keep up with Sh’Kiya: @roasa_shkiya on Instagram

Tiana Sirmans | 11 years old | New Castle, Delaware

Passionate about: voting rights

Tiana is an active member in the NAACP Youth & College Division, a VoteRiders Ambassador, and the youngest award recipient of the Delaware State Education Association Human and Civil Rights Award. She has participated in the March on Washington to represent Generation Z. She is a youth journalist who not only puts her feet to the ground, but truly uses her platform to get out important messages using her interview skills. Tiana has interviewed politicians to press them about making changes and has even interviewed Dr. Bernice A. King, Martin Luther King, III, and Yolanda Renee King. Tiana is passionate about ending police brutality and has helped share the stories of Bianca Auston (Breonna Taylor’s aunt), Jacob Blake, Sr., and George Floyd’s family. She has canvassed neighborhoods with Until Freedom and the NAACP during election season. In addition, she selflessly donates her time to contact registered voters through writing letters and phone banking for different organizations.

Keep up with Tiana: @TianaShereeOfficial on Instagram & Tiana Sirmans on YouTube

Troy Blackwell | 30 years old | Bronx, New York

Passionate about: voting rights and civic education

Troy is the founder of “Ready for Change,” a political action committee dedicated to making democracy more representative in New York State by increasing voter participation among youth, especially youth of color. Through targeted outreach, text banking, and door-knocking efforts, Ready for Change has contacted over 26,000 voters in New York City alone. Troy believes that when other young people of color have the proper tools and information, we can make more informed decisions that affect our day-to-day life. In 2021, Troy was a candidate in New York City Council’s District 15, where he campaigned to raise the market value of a New York City rental assistance program and advocated to increase funds for the state’s End the Epidemic HIV/AIDS initiative. A graduate of the City College of New York, Troy has served in numerous capacities across the political landscape, including leading communications work for racial justice organization ‘Color of Change’ and press advance for then-vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris ahead of the 2020 election. In addition to his advocacy, Troy is the Chairperson for the Big Apple Performing Arts Inc, a non-profit management company, making him one of the few Black individuals to lead an LGBTQ organization in New York City.

Keep up with Troy: @troyblackwelljr on Instagram and Twitter



Nat'l Urban League

National Urban League is the nation's largest historic civil rights & urban advocacy organization, devoted to empowering communities & changing lives since 1910