Nupol Kiazolu Became a Voice in Her Community While Being Homeless #RepresentTheMovement

by Gina Williams

February 24, 2021

During Black History Month, TV One presents a series, Black History Month: Represent the Movement, that celebrates young activists who are changing the world.

At 12 years old, Nupol Kiazolu led her first protest in the aftermath of Trayvon Martin’s murder. Kiazolu wore a black hoodie to school with the words “Do I look suspicious?” 

“Me being a young Black person in America and seeing that happen to Trayvon, and also having five younger brothers, that could have been any one of us,” she said in an interview with Teen Vogue. “If I lost someone in that horrific way, I would want someone to stand up for my family member.”

Nupol risked being suspended by wearing the hoodie. Still, thanks to some research on the first amendment and an ally in her only Black teacher, her principal ultimately permitted her protest. Her bold move inspired other kids in her class to start wearing similar hoodies in solidarity with her and the protest. 

“I was doing what I would have wanted someone else to do if it happened to me,” she continued. “It ignited a fire in my heart that I had never felt before.”

In an interview with Pen.org, Nupol noted that she discovered her calling as an activist through that experience. The moment sparked the activist in her. 

“And at the moment, I knew being an activist was my calling, and I haven’t stopped since,” she said.

Nupol became a leading voice in her community, all while living with her family in a homeless shelter. 

“My mom always raised me to give back, even when we were struggling,” Nupol told Teen Vogue. “No one had a clue. [I’d like to change] the narrative about what homelessness looks like. It was me! And I’m this leader that a lot of people look up to.”

LOS ANGELES, CA – DECEMBER 01: Nupol Kiazolu attends The Teen Vogue Summit 2018 at 72andSunny on December 1, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Rachel Murray/Getty Images for Teen Vogue)

Now, in her 20s, Nupol is an activist, pageant queen — crowned Miss Liberia USA 2019-20 — and leader in her Brooklyn community. She is also the president of the Youth Coalition of Black Lives Matter Greater New York.

“There’s a change in numbers. There’s a change in people that show up. So, I just really want people — young people all around the world — to know that your voice is powerful, your voice holds weight, and your voice can change the world.”

Nupol shows no signs of slowing down. She plans to be president in 2036 and change how we think about racism along the way.

Nupol is currently a student at Hampton University in pre-law studies. There, she’s continuing to work on her national Vote 2000 campaign, an effort to get young people of color registered to vote. As a leading voice among Generation Z, Nupol focuses on civil rights, domestic and sexual violence, and homelessness. She has been recognized by outlets like Teen Vogue, DoSomething.org, Cosmopolitan, and CNN. She was also the first HBCU student to be part of Teen Vogue’s 21 Under 21.

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