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Chicago Teen To Address United Nations About Plight Of Black Girls

 Payton College Prep student Eva Lewis helped organized a silent protest in July at Millennium Park.
Payton College Prep student Eva Lewis helped organized a silent protest in July at Millennium Park.
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kalina Gac

SOUTH SHORE — Eva Lewis delivered a compelling message about empowering black girls at Millennium Park during a July rally, and now she will tell it to the world. The 17-year-old South Shore resident will appear at the United Nations International Day of the Girl event Tuesday in New York.

Eva, who attends Walter Payton College Prep, is reading a poem and speaking at the big event.

“I'm really excited,” she said.

Last summer, Eva joined three other black teen girls in organizing a silent protest against police brutality, and highlighted another movement that started with a hashtag: #blackgirlmagic. They formed an organization called Black Lives Matter Youth.

The marginalization of women, especially black women, is an issue close to her heart. There hasn’t been a shift in the conversation to truly address the inequalities that black women and girls experience, Eva said.

Issues like hypersexualization, human trafficking, sexual assault and domestic violence disproportionately affect black women, she said.

The only ones discussing those issues are black women, she said, but they often are removed from political movements.

Eva gave the example of 7-year-old Aiyana Stanley-Jones, who was shot by a police officer while sleeping in her home in Detroit.

“People don’t talk about her. They talk about all of the men” who’ve been killed by police, she said.

“The only people who talk about black women, girls, femmes and queers are black women, girls, femmes and queers,” Eva said. “No one else is talking about it, and that is what needs to change.”

Feminists who say they fight for general women’s rights, are leaving out black women, she said.

“If your feminism isn’t intersectional, then it doesn’t apply to black girls at all,” Eva said. “People aren’t taking into consideration that black girls have much more to overcome than just gender inequality.”

Black girls around the world are placed at the bottom of the social ladder, Eva said.

She quotes American writer Zora Neale Hurston in her work.

“She said black girls are the mule of the world and we’re at the bottom of every hierarchy,” Eva said.  

When she grabs the microphone at the international event Tuesday, she will address what she considers a “genocide” of black girls.

“I don’t just talk about what black girls go through here, but about what we go through everywhere,” Eva said, mentioning the more than 200 Nigerian girls who were kidnapped in 2014 by the Nigerian terrorist group Boko Haram.

Activism and strong community involvement have been the norm for her since she started high school. She started her own nonprofit, The I Project, more than a year ago.

The fact that she comes from a low socioeconomic status makes her presence that more powerful, she said.

“I’m from South Shore,” Eva said. “I’m a black girl. The narrative that has been put in front of me has been ridiculous.”

Speaking at the U.N. is a privilege  and validates her power as a black woman, she said

“I feel like my physical self being at the U.N. and speaking in front of all these people is a visual representation of what I’m talking about. If you don’t listen to my words in my speech, you can still see me and get the gist of my message.”

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