MEET: Young Black Activist Speaks on Gun Violence and Advocacy- Interview with Ayan Harris.

Updated: May 21

"I felt like I can’t change the world if I can’t change my community," Harris.

Photo by Peace

Tell us about your work as an Activist:

I started IYAN CU (Interconnected Youth Activist Network of Champaign-Urbana) because I wanted to do more to help the community. Protesting and everything is nice, but there is so much more work that needs to be done. Youth Action Network mentoring and teaching youth how to create this network of activists that continues. Once upper-classmen go off to college they can continue to mentor showing them the way to keep this going. Within the network, we have already done the community closet with HITNHomeboy and the second one is on the rise. And we have a black mental health awareness with Justin Hendrix as well. This was an excellent experience for Black youth to get together and talk about mental health issues. These are the type of little things that I want to do. The type of imprint that I want to make.

What do you think about the violence in the community?

For me, gun violence is really nerve-wracking. Can I take my siblings out for a walk? Can I walk my dog? Is it going to be safe for us? And it is so disheartening that so many people look like me, who are also killing people that look like me. And that’s a major issue when at the same time we are asking cops to stop killing us. So we are all kind of playing into the systematic oppression of us and basically harming our self even more.

Solution: What do you think could help?

Maybe we need a gun drop-off event where people can just drop off their guns, get some money, and don’t get charged. No name needed, just let them drop the gun off. So many people say I want to end it, but they don’t talk about it once it is no longer a hot topic. It is so easy to get into that street life. You want people to understand that if you look at it as “Is it worth it to take my life, to take his life?” maybe people will understand that it is not worth it. People need to realize this system is made to keep you down, not to stimulate you. But, it is going to take a lot of work.

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