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whm: 17-yr-old activist winter breanne is fighting gun violence

March 12, 2019
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Where would our community be without the women? From big names that you know like Fannie Lou Hamer and Ida B Wells, to the names of women who fueled Black social movements whose names we don’t hear, women have long been the backbone of our activism.

This Women’s History Month, AFROPUNK is spotlighting women in the movement.

At just 17, Winter Breeanne has started her own non-profit to make sure positive depictions of Black folks are seen in the media, she’s spearheaded feminist movements, and organized 750,000 people to send postcards to Congress demanding action on gun violence. She’s also worked to make sure Black and brown experiences  are at the forefront of conversations on gun violence.

Winter will be attending Howard University in the fall.

What made you want to get involved in activism against gun violence?

I was raised in a family where, starting from a very young age, I was given the agency and the space to speak up and have opinions about whatever I wanted. It’s a privilege to come from a family that did that, especially coming from a Black family. A lot of my other friends would be told to “stay at the kids table” or “stay out of grown folks business.” For better or worse, I’ve always inserted myself into adult conversations and have always had an opinion. When I was 14, I started an organization called Black is Lit which was a platform to uplift the positive everyday stories of Black people in our communities. Often times we are not portrayed it a positive way. My activism was really informed by that at a young age.

I had the opportunity to go to the Congressional Black Caucus annual legislative conference in DC a few years ago. There, I met the co-chairs of the Women’s March and got a scholarship to the Women’s Convention in Detroit and I spearheaded Women’s March Youth.

My work has always been very grassroots and based in the community. I was able to spearhead the National School walkout, where 2.7 million kids walked out of school around the nation to call for action on gun violence. My job was to shift the national conversation to include all forms of gun violence and all the ways it shows up nationally. I developed a platform to include things like police violence in conversations around gun violence.

We did a cross-country road trip where we delivered 750,000 postcards to Congress calling for action on gun violence.

What is your advice for someone who wants to be involved in civic engagement?

I always say, start with your most immediate agency.  For me, it was my home. That was the place where my activism grew. I think a lot of people think that being an activist is out of reach. That’s why I call myself “just active,” not an activist, because I’m just doing a small part to change the world and doing things that are attainable to everyone. I’d say start with your family and your community and people you might have influence on and start there. Whether you have 5 followers on Instagram or 20,000 followers on Instagram, you’re reaching somebody, so speak up and make sure you’re heard.

Who inspires you?

Michelle Obama is a huge inspiration. My mentor and auntie Bozoma Saint John is iconic. I love her. And my mom, too.

What inspires me the most is the potential for the future. A lot of my work is just building on the work of people who came before me.

How do you keep yourself grounded and take care of yourself while doing such stressful work?

Sleep. Very meaningful, restful sleep. I try to be strict around my bedtimes. Taking breaks from my phone is a big one. I feel like I have more time in the day when I’m not on my phone a lot. A good mani-pedi helps, too.