Get to Know AExME Council Member Edith Cruz

 

Immigrant Rights Activist

@thatweirdchild__

 

At age 6, AExME Council member Edith Cruz immigrated with her family from Aguascalientes, Mexico to Lexington, KY. Now a 19-year-old student at Bluegrass Community & Technical College, Edith is using her voice to advocate for immigrant rights and education equity for all.

 

How is “equity” different than “equality”? Edith explains that it’s all about getting students what they need as individuals, rather than imposing a one-size-fits-all solution.

 

“My parents made so many sacrifices to get us to the United States to have a better future, so that really inspires me every day,”

says Edith.

“I remember the hours my parents spent working from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. in order to have even food for us on the table. And just imagining the hard work they put in inspires me to keep going, and to give back to them by working hard.”

A brave and generous writer, photographer, speaker, organizer, and music fan (The 1975, Shawn Mendes, and Mexican band Zoé are some of her faves), Edith’s hard work takes the form of storytelling. Both her feature radio show, Sobre La Mesa, and episodes she contributed to her high school’s podcast, Lighting the Torch, have given refugees and immigrants like herself opportunities to tell their own stories.

 

“I don’t want to be the voice of everyone. I want everyone to be the voice of themselves,”

says Edith, who channels her voice into changing the world.

 

Looking for even more inspiration? Look no further than this excerpt from Edith’s favorite poem, “In Lak’Ech,” by Chicano playwright Luís Valdez:

 

Tú eres mi otro yo.

You are my other me.

 

Si te hago daño a ti,

If I do harm to you,

 

Me hago daño a mi mismo.

I do harm to myself.

 

Si te amo y respeto,

If I love and respect you,

 

Me amo y respeto yo.

I love and respect myself.

 

Meet all the members of the AExME Council here.

 

 

Get to Know AExME Council Member Samuel Getachew

 

Award-Winning Poet

@samuelgd 

 

Poetry should be heard, not just read, and to hear 16-year-old AExME Council member Samuel Getachew perform his poetry is to believe in the power of words. “The role of the artist is to make the revolution irresistible,” says the Oakland, Ca,. resident, who we dare you to try to resist, quoting the artist Toni Cade Bambara.

 

The Ethiopian-American high school student’s poetry about gun violence, the immigrant experience, and racial injustice have garnered over half a million views online and landed his strong, vulnerable words in news outlets including NPR and the New York Times. In addition to co-founding his high school’s student activism club and serving as features editor of his school paper, Samuel is the 2018 Oakland Vice Poet Laureate and the Youth Speaks Teen Poetry Slam Grand Slam Champion… for 2017 and 2018!

@samuelgd 

You’d think speaking at events with Zendaya (nbd) and members of Congress and the Senate (uh, kinda a big deal) would be life achievements unlocked for Samuel. But he swears his proudest moment came at a recent open mic night when he realized his poetry is inspiring other people to find and use their own voices. A girl who’d never before read her work in public shared that seeing Samuel perform his poetry inspired her to share her writing.

“In that moment I realized I’m not just saying words to open space. When I perform there are people watching and it actually is changing people’s lives.”

 

Samuel looks up to Barack Obama and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, he says, but his biggest role model is none other than the Queen herself, Beyoncé:

“The way that she creates for herself without really worrying about what repercussions are going to come of it or what people think, that inspires me a lot.”

 

Meet all the members of the AExME Council here.

 

 

Get to Know AExME Council Member Saaneah Jamison

 

R&B Artist & Body Positive Activist

@saaneah

 

If you don’t already recognize AExME Council member Saaneah from the summer AExME cast, you’re gonna recognize her soon. The rising R&B artist and body-positive activist is taking over big-time, using music and movement to transform hearts and minds.

 

She’s appeared on American Idol, opened for Ledisi, and created a series of mega-popular classes—called “Curvy Confidence”—that blend dance, fitness, and self-love.

 

“It’s about body gratitude, showing love for the body that you have because no one else has it… That’s how you bloom where you are,”

says the Tennessee State University grad who’s worked in her hometown of Nashville as an educator, including with students with disabilities.

@saaneah

Saaneah lives by the mantra that it’s an “artist’s duty to reflect the times” (words by the great Nina Simone), and her art reflects both the times and her unique take on them: everything Saaneah does it about eliminating self-hate, building self-confidence, and helping people find their voice.

 

“Spend some time alone,”

Saaneah advises anyone looking to find their voice.

“Listen inside of your soul and find the things that you may need to heal. Find the things that get you out of your comfort zone so that you can get to a place where you function in your freedom.”

Meet all the members of the AExME Council here.

 

 

Get to Know AExME Council Member Tim Johnson Jr.

 

Actor & Musician

@cityboyjr  

 

AExME Council member Tim Johnson Jr. is making his joyful mark on entertainment and the world.

 

“I like going with the flow, wherever it goes,”

says the Philly native who got his start playing Young Simba in the Las Vegas production of The Lion King. Since that life-changing opportunity he nailed at age 10 (when you know, you know), Tim has appeared in major network dramas including FBI, as well as Pacific Rim: Uprising and the Hulu show Future Man with Josh Hutcherson. #TeamPeeta 4ever

@cityboyjr  

“Soul is everything to me,”

says Tim, who recently sang the soul classic “Let’s Stay Together” on the show The Four, earing praise from judges Meghan Trainor, DJ Khaled, and Diddy. “The sun is in the building, shining,” Khaled raved after Tim hit all the high notes, and made it look easy, all with his infectious smile, of course.

 

Tim lives by the words “walk by faith and not by sight”—from 2 Corinthians 5:6-7—seeing life as a journey where you’ve got to trust yourself and live every moment to its fullest.

 

“I feel like we are products of love.”

 

Meet all the members of the AExME Council here.

 

 

Get to Know AExME Council Member Joseph Touma

 

Bridge the Divide Co-Founder

@josephmtouma

 

There are more things that unite than divide us, believes AExME Council member Joseph Touma, who co-founded the organization Bridge the Divide to do just that—bring us together across political and cultural boundaries.

 

Joseph envisions a future where we’re unified, not in terms of believing the same things, but in the way we listen respectfully and prioritize empathy above all else.

 

Created after an eye-opening experience at summer camp in 2016—students from over 90 countries coming together, despite their differences—Bridge the Divide has grown to chapters in 30 countries, and continues to be run FOR young people BY young people.

 

“America is made up of a diverse group of people. We need to acknowledge that and embrace that,”

says Joseph, a West Virginia native who’s active in student government and the Young Republications at Duke University, where he’s studying politics and business—a passion for the Shark Tank fan.

@josephmtouma

Joseph lives by the motto that “a ship in port is safe, but that’s not why we build ships.”

 

“Putting ourselves out of our comfort zone is so important. That’s really when you grow.”

 

Meet all the members of the AExME Council here.

 

 

Get to Know AExME Council Member Peyton Klein

Global Minds Initiative Founder

@peytonklein

 

Inspired by the power of intercultural friendships, AExME Council member Peyton Klein created the Global Minds Initiative, which has grown since its 2016 launch in Pittsburgh, Pa., to a national and international movement.

 

It began one morning at school, when Peyton realized she knew the names of every student in her class except for the girl in the hijab. Feeling ashamed she hadn’t been practicing the inclusion she’d been preaching, Peyton introduced herself. The rest is history. Khwala and Peyton became great friends—including Peyton learning about Khwala’s refugee experience—and Peyton was inspired to found the Global Minds Initiative, a for-youth, by-youth organization that bridges immigrants, refugees, and U.S.-born students through after-school programming.

 

 “Diversity is a fact; inclusivity is a choice,”

says the current high school junior who is passionate about immigrant rights and educational equity.

@peytonklein

Peyton’s work has been featured on the Today Show, Fox News, Teen Vogue, and the New York Times, and the Global Minds movement now reaches over 1,500 students in 23 schools across the U.S. and Canada.

 

“The most powerful weapon we have against hate isn’t violence,”

Peyton says.

“It’s love. It’s kindness. If we can create love and hope within our communities, that can solve so many of our issues.”

Meet all the members of the AExME Council here.