Chanice Lee: A Young Revolutionary
At just 16 years old, Chanice Lee truly represents the fire of Gen Z as she harnesses the power of words to advocate for women of color. Not only is she the founder and editor-in-chief of The Melanin Diary—described on its Instagram as an “online global platform for Social Justice, History, Politics, and more, written from the Black teen's perspective"—but she’s also author of the best-selling book “Young Revolutionary: A Teen's Guide to Activism.” Read on to learn about Chanice’s approach to writing and activism and her passion for supporting Black women everywhere.
What first compelled you to be an activist?
Chanice: There’s a paragraph in my book Young Revolutionary: A Teen’s Guide To Activism that perfectly describes the answer to this question. Here it is below:
“I vividly remember it being the summer before my 8th grade year that I learned my passion. Seeing the uproar over the death of Sandra Bland was the start. I was thirteen at the time, and I didn’t know what to do, but I felt like I had to do something. So, I tweeted #JusticeForSandraBland as an act of solidarity, then signed a petition that demanded the Department of Justice investigate her death. That’s when everything changed for me.”
After that incident, I witnessed many people display and participate in a blatant attack on Black womanhood. To me, that meant I could no longer stay silent.
To you, what is activism?
Chanice: In the very beginning, activism meant me trying to figure out what I cared about, what causes I was in support of or against, and how I would make an impact. Now, activism to me simply means freedom. Freedom from the oppressive systems that plague marginalized communities. Freedom to live in a world where I don’t have to fear being harmed because of my identity as a young Black woman. Freedom for those in my community to lively freely without any restrictions.
Could you talk about your book Young Revolutionary?
I wrote and published my first book, Young Revolutionary: A Teen’s Guide To Activism, last March when I was 15. I wrote the book to give teens the confidence, tools, and resources needed to become successful activists, leaders, and change-makers. So far, it has done just that and more than I would’ve ever imagined. My book has traveled and reached young people over the world. I am definitely going to write more books, and I plan on beginning my second one this May after I graduate and begin my gap year.
What was it like writing such a long work, especially at such a young age?
Chanice: Becoming an activist as a teenager is what created Young Revolutionary. I’ve always loved to write, so writing about my personal experiences was not difficult. For as long as there are injustices in this world, there will always be more work for me to do and a large portion of that work just happens to come in the form of writing. I guess the most difficult part was keeping momentum and dedicating hours every single day for 110 days. There were no days off, and I knew that in September 2017 I wanted to have the book finished by December 2017, so that’s exactly what I did.
The rewarding part is knowing that Young Revolutionary will be the book I look back on years from now when I’m a much improved writer and I can proudly say that, although it won’t be known as my most profound work, I can always say that I did it and succeeded at 15!
Could you also discuss the Melanin Diary?
Chanice: The Melanin Diary is an online platform that I launched 2 years ago in March 2017 when I was 14. It is the #1 online global platform for social justice, history, politics, and more, written entirely from the Black teen’s perspective. The fact that all of my writers are Black youth wasn’t coming from a perspective of wanting to be divisive, but it’s because I understood the importance of giving a platform to a demographic of youth who are often unheard. I launched the blog because I saw a need for there to be a space created for innovative and intellectual Black youth to create a platform where we could discuss the issues that mattered to us the most.
To date, I have accumulated over 120K+ readers from around 30 different countries. My blog is the first big project I invested my time into, so it’ll always be my baby! The best part is knowing that my writing or the writing of others is making a positive impact. Articles haven’t been posted for the past few months simply because juggling other projects along with my last year of high school has been hectic, but I’m definitely getting back to blogging soon.
What is the Florida Changemakers Summit?
Chanice: One night, this past August, I had a dream that I planned an event called the Changemakers Summit. The dream felt so real and vivid that I just knew it was a sign. I am a very intuitive person, and I had no doubt the dream I had was telling me this summit needed to be something I did. So, the next day I immediately started contacting local teen activists, and they were all on board to help make the event happen.
The Florida Changemakers Summit is going to be a free one-day event on April 13, 2019 (my 17th birthday!) for South FL youth to learn the basics of activism, organizing, and implementing solutions for current community issues. Attendees will be educated on a wide array of topics such as the school-to-prison-pipeline, racial justice, LGBTQIA+ matters, voting in the 2020 election, and more. Now, we are a month away from the summit and I’m still shocked that this all started as a dream!
How has your own identity fueled your work for you and how did it influence what you chose to create?
Chanice: I am a young Black woman. Those are two identities that I value and cherish dearly, although they come with a history of hardships. My race and my gender both affect how I view the world and my experiences within it. They are inseparable, and I can’t pick or choose which one I’m going to be everyday because they are both apart of who I am. Because of my identity, I always aim to amplify and center the voices of Black women and girls in everything that I do, as often as possible. I understand firsthand what it feels like to be overlooked, or ignored, so I always try to combat that by using my platform to give others who look like me a voice.
How does the world affect activism for you?
Chanice: If the world was perfect, I wouldn’t have a reason to be an activist. The injustices that occur in this world are what fuel me to keep going.