Leading without an Age Limit

Featured, Lessons from Leaders

​​Aniya Butler is a 16 year-old student activist with Youth vs. Apocalypse. She is the Hip Hop & Climate Justice Coordinator and also has leadership roles in the Lead Circle, No One Is Disposable team, and Organizational Management Team member. The organization provides opportunities for students of all ages to step up and make a difference in their community.

What inspired you to get involved with your organization, Youth vs. Apocalypse (YVA)?

Before joining YVA, I was aware of climate change, but never felt like the climate justice movement was something I needed or was allowed to be a part of. Climate change was portrayed as something that was only affecting the birds and bees, and not my people. I wanted my voice to advocate towards a movement that is fighting for the health and survival of my community. When I joined YVA, I learned about intersectionality and that climate change is a direct result of the same systems of oppression that fuel the exact social injustices I am fighting against. Knowing that climate justice is about collective liberation and truly rebuilding a world where these systems are dismantled completely, and that YVA is a space where youth are truly able to lead the movement, is what inspired me to get involved.

YVA has over 60 students leading school teams and ongoing campaigns across the Bay Area. What empowered you to take on leadership roles with the organization?

Seeing other youth step out of their comfort zone to step into different leadership roles and having a great support system empowered me to take on leadership roles at YVA. Also, as I learned more about climate change and its connection to other movements I am passionate about, it made me more eager to do more for my community. 

How has YVA’s unique youth leadership model led to success in the organization’s work?

YVA’s unique youth leadership model has led to success in the organization’s work by helping youth feel more comfortable and confident stepping into leadership roles. Sometimes youth, especially low income BIPOC* youth, are told to limit their voices and treated as if their voices don’t matter. YVA aims to always allow youth to truly step into whatever form of leadership they feel comfortable with. There is no “right” way to be an activist. This movement is about survival and we want youth to feel comfortable bringing their perspective and ideas when stepping into leadership positions. 

When did you first consider yourself a leader?

I first considered myself a leader when I stepped into the role of the Hip Hop & Climate Justice Coordinator at YVA. The Hip Hop & Climate Justice initiative is truly a reflection of the root of my work, using art to imagine and advocate for a world where every living being is allowed to thrive. Once I was able to be an official leader of this initiative, I felt like a true leader at YVA and in the climate justice movement. 

What motivates you to continue to do the work while balancing school, other activities?

Knowing that I am not alone pushes me to continue to do this work. Every day my peers continue to do this work, and to contribute so much of their energy to this movement, it motivates me. I want to respect the work of others by also contributing my energy and time to the movement because that is part of what the movement is about— a collective effort to fight for justice. 

Learn more about Youth vs. Apocalypse by reading about their ORG in Action here or visiting their .ORG

*BIPOC stands for Black, Indigenous, and people of color

Youth vs. Apocalypse is a diverse group of young climate justice activists working to lift the voices of youth, particularly working class and youth of color, in the fight for an equitable and sustainable world.