Educate, Empower and Encourage Children to Change the World.
Educate, Empower and Encourage Children to Change the World.
I HAVE A VOICE NOW! is a national movement to educate, empower and encourage children to utilize their own voice for equity and equality in society.
In 1958, 13 children walked into segregated Katz Drug Store in Oklahoma City and asked for a hamburger and a Coke. They were turned away but the children were relentless. For three days, they came in and made the same request. Finally, they were served. This civil rights milestone occurred two years prior to the college students who sat at the lunch counter in Greensboro, NC. However, the situation in Oklahoma City event received very little media coverage.
For the next seven years, Ayanna Najuma – a member of the original 13 at Katz – and other children in Oklahoma City continued to quietly and systematically knock down the doors of segregation. But nothing appeared in the history books. After the 50 th anniversary of the Oklahoma City Sit-In Movement, Julia Clifford, a daughter of one of the Katz protesters, decided to change that. In 2015, the film Children of the Civil Rights was produced. Najuma was invited to travel the country with Clifford and share her experiences in the Civil Rights Movement.
They traveled the country sharing this amazing story with children in school systems from the East to the West coast, had conversations with museum audiences and empowered university students, administrators and staff. Because Najuma was 7 years old when she sat at the lunch counter at Katz Drug Store, she understood what it took to make change in the world. She knew it took desire, passion, courage and determination to do the hard work.
One day, on a stage in New York, it became clear to Najuma that the children she was speaking to could do the same thing that she had done for seven years in Oklahoma – let their voices be heard. So she announced that she was going to launch a movement called I HAVE A VOICE, which now has become I HAVE A VOICE NOW!
Today, children are deciding what issues in society are impacting their lives, creating their own solutions to address them and taking action to create change.
With our dedication to the mission, we have an expectation of seven distinct virtues that we must exhibit to participate in this movement.
We are children, from kindergarten to seventh grade, that live in every community in America. We live on farms and we live in cities; however, our desire to make the world a better place is all the same.
We recognize the importance of accepting our differences. Our race, gender, economic situation, physical and intellectual ability, and the way we feel about the world and others help us define equity and equality in the most perfect way. Our differences help us to grow.
We acknowledge our different talents and understand that each of us can make a positive contribution to the planet. We empower each other by the language we use, the way we treat each other, and through our talent in music, art, sports, theater, science, writing and cooking we work together to be the best we can be.
We are not defined by what we wear and where we live. We have an opportunity to create a healthy environment and eliminate the things in the world that separate us as a society. We value the lives of those in our community and we value each other. We work hard to respect and empower each other. Our zip codes are different, but our concerns about society are all the same. We are here to create a world filled with harmony and equality.
We are change agents, we are the young minds that observe, listen and are ready to create solutions to address world issues.
We can’t afford to wait until we get to high school. There is too much work to be done and we have the courage to do it.
We are worthy! We value each other! We honor each other’s journey because we learn and grow from each other’s experiences.
Civil Rights Activist
Founder of I HAVE A VOICE NOW!
A native of Oklahoma, Ms. Najuma’s days as an advocate began at the age of seven. She was one of the original sit-inners at Katz Drug Store in Oklahoma City. This sit-in was held several years before the sit-ins in North Carolina. She has continued to fight for equity and equality for many issues that impact one’s ability to empower themselves and add value to society.
Ayanna traveled the country with Julia Clifford, documentary filmmaker of Children of the Civil Rights, sharing her story as a participant in the civil rights movement in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
Ayanna was featured as the cover story, Kids Fought for Change in the Weekly Reader magazine published by Scholastics in February 2017. Over five million first, second, third and fourth graders read about her commitment to make change and she has received over 25,000 letters from students from around the country that are interested in making a difference in the world. She was featured in the play, Ayanna the Brave in Storyworks and Storyworks Jr. in February 2019, which is also published by Scholastics.
Ayanna was presented The Trailblazer Award by the Oklahoma Department of Human Services, Oklahoma Department of Corrections, Oklahoma Corporation Commission and the Oklahoma Historical Society for her work in the civil rights movement. She received the Juneteenth Book Festival Heart of Courage Award in Washington, DC. The Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Committee in Midwest City, Oklahoma honored Ayanna as one of the original sit-inners in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. She was one of the recipients to receive the Woody Guthrie Center Changing World Prize presented to Mrs. Clara Luper and the original sit-inners. The League of Women Voters’ of Oklahoma and Oklahoma City selected Ayanna as one of “100 Oklahoma Women Trailblazers” in celebration of the 100th Anniversary of women in Oklahoma getting the right to vote.
Ayanna is a principal with Lincoln-McLeod, a public relations firm. She is the host of WHAT LIES BETWEEN US with Ayanna Najuma, a conversational platform on social justice and the executive director of the Dr. Ruth Joyce Colbert Barnes Foundation.
Ayanna has been featured in local and regional magazines across the country and writes for several newspapers and magazines.
She received a Bachelor of Arts degree from George Washington University in Washington, DC and a Masters degree in Urban Planning from Howard University also in Washington, DC.