Seventeen-year-old Eva Lewis is like many teenagers.
She spends time with her friends, participates in extracurricular activities and is working to submit her college applications.
But Lewis also has time for something else — something extraordinary: a movement in Chicago that landed her front and center at the United Nations.
“This is not an opportunity that a lot of us get, and so it’s very humbling,” she told theGrio.com in an interview. “Black girls have a lot to overcome: racism first, then sexism.”
Last week, Lewis flew to New York City to speak at the United Nations on the “plight of black girls” in a powerful, six-minute-long speech.
“We as black girls face danger, but our racial systemic oppression is invalidated,” she said, speaking before the U.N. “Black girls are in a tough position because we are, as Zora Neale Hurston said, the mule of the world, at the bottom of every hierarchy, where we are forgotten.”
Lewis, along with four other black girls ages 16 and 17, founded the group Black Lives Matter Youth. This past summer, using the hashtag #blmchiyouth, they organized a sit-in at Chicago’s Millennium Park, where more than 2,000 people walked through Chicago’s busiest streets as a way to speak out against racial injustice.
“The oppression and death of black people has become so much a part of the fabric of America that it has become normalized, a pattern with which we are all familiar,” Lewis said. “However, the specific oppression black girls face is an under stitch, carefully hidden in the seams.”
Lewis’ activism started at a young age. After Florida teenager Trayon Martin was killed in 2012, she attended a protest rally with her mother and realized she wanted to do more. But it would be the fatal shooting of 7-year-old Aiyana Jones, who was killed during a police raid in Detroit, Michigan, that would inspire her to speak on behalf of black girls everywhere.
“Black girls are sold into slavery, rarely reported in the media, because when a black girl disappears, no one is looking,” Lewis said. “We should know the names of all 276 Nigerian girls that went missing. The fact that there is a need for a campaign to say the names of black women, that’s ridiculous.”