25 young people making noise for social progress

17 of 26

Asean Johnson

In 2013, the Chicago Public Schools announced that they were closing up to 54 schools in mostly African-American and Latinx neighborhoods. But then 9-year-old Asean Johnson wouldn’t stand for that.

The Marcus Garvey Elementary school student took his city on and gave a number of powerful, impassioned speeches on why education should be a right for all children. He fought for his and his friends’ right to go to their school, called out politicians including mayor Rahm Emanuel, and slammed the Chicago Board of Education after they made their unanimous decision on budget cuts and teacher layoffs.

“You should be investing in these schools, not closing them. You should be supporting these schools, not closing them. We shall not be moved today. We’re going to city hall … We are not going down without a fight,” Johnson said, adding, “It is 90 percent of school closings [that affect] African Americans. This is racism right here.”

And Johnson didn’t stop there. He continued to fight for equal education and was even the youngest person to give a speech at the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. In fact, Johnson even got some endorsements for his potential Chicago mayoral run in 2025.

For now, Johnson is still just a student, but we’ve already seen what he’s capable of, and I can’t wait to see what his future holds.

“One way students can get more involved in their schools is by attending school and board meetings,” Johnson previously told Ebony. “Students see what is going on in the school but are afraid to speak out. It is our education and we have to get involved. If their school doesn’t have the resources that they need, they should go to CPS and request them. Ask their parents to attend meetings and get them involved. If they want to fight for resources, they can let the community know and the community will help them fight. Every child deserves the right to a quality education.”