She’s taken the fight global!
Anya Dillard describes herself as a proud disrupter, the 19-year-old remembers participating in activism efforts as early as 5 years old. She credits her parents with raising her and her brother with a sense of pride and worthiness, a feeling she intends to protect despite the forces in the world that try to tell her differently.
“My brother and I grew up in a family full of Black creatives and entrepreneurs, and our parents always taught us to feel empowered and proud of our identities. It wasn’t until I got older that I realized there were many devices embedded in our society for the sole purpose of counteracting that pride,” Anya told Because Of Them We Can.
Despite the near-decade age difference between Anya and her younger brother, she’s taken on the charge of protecting his sense of pride too, extending that duty to Black and brown youth across the globe. Anya is now the founder of The Next Gen Come Up - a nonprofit she launched in 2018 aimed at “mobilizing young radicals and creatives.” In 2020, the teen organized a group of 3000 for the largest civil rights demonstration in the history of her hometown. That same year, she helped plan the town’s first public Juneteenth celebration. Anya has helped organize across the globe, raising awareness for issues surrounding everything from climate change to reproductive justice, partnering with organizers in the Middle East and Columbia.
More recently, she worked with the family of Emmett Till to organize a protest in New York’s Times Square demanding that Carolyn Bryant, the last living accomplice in Till’s gruesome murder, be arrested and charged. Anya’s determination, even in the face of danger, has proved invaluable in social justice circles, sparking a string of educational endeavors in various countries including India, Ghana, Jamaica, and the UK. A current Honors College scholar at Rutgers University Newark, she’s been lauded for her work, featured on platforms like Teen Vogue, CNN, and REVOLT TV. For Anya, her generation will be the ones to spark the next wave of lasting change for marginalized communities.
“As a proud member of Generation Z, I can confidently say that normalizing radical mobilization, demanding that our institutions uphold culturally inclusive values, and encouraging unapologetic self-expression are significant parts of our culture. What makes Gen Zers, so dope is that we have mastered the ability to lead with love. We have taken up the mantle of so many historical revolutionaries, become the pioneers of so many new-age social movements, and influenced the world to truly value allyship and intersectionality. And in almost every professional environment I’ve been in, the young people I’ve collaborated with are the same young people evolving into future elected officials and CEOs, building the next generation of media platforms, and influencing the next wave of social innovations. We – the youth – are the future, and that fact alone is awe-inspiring to me,” said Anya.
The teen isn’t slowing down any time soon, committed to making her vision of a world where all communities can experience true freedom, a reality.
“My vision for the future has always been one full of vibrance and possibilities… I envision a future where people of all genders, colors, and creeds can feel empowered in their identities; where Black boys and girls everywhere can walk into any room and feel seen and accepted for being their beautifully bold, authentic selves. I look forward to a future where Black liberation has actually been achieved, but I am also constantly aware that there is a lot of work left to be done for such a future to be actualized,” she explained.
To support Anya’s mission and keep up with her work, visit www.thenextgencu.com.
Congratulations Anya on becoming one of BOTWC’s 2023 Young Frontrunners. Because of you, we can! To view all the amazing 2023 Young Frontrunners, visit botwc.com/youngfrontrunners.
Cover photo: 2023 ‘Young Frontrunner’ honoree Anya Dillard is mobilizing the next generation of leaders/Photo Courtesy of Anya Dillard/BecauseOfThemWeCan