When Malia Baker, 13, was younger, she was targeted for being Black. "I decided I no longer wanted to stay silent," she told Seventeen. So, the actress decided to write her story down, in order to share it in a book. Then, something unprecedented happened, and Malia got the attention of hundreds of thousands and a platform she never imagined thanks to her starring role in Netflix's The Baby-Sitters Club. Now, Malia uses her voice to speak out about the issues she cares about, including women's equality, gender-based violence, racism, and climate change. While she admits activism can sometimes be draining, she knows how important it is to keep going and continue the fight for what's right. "Even if I have only a little hand in making this world a little bit better, then I’m going to try my best to do so."
What issues are you passionate about?
Yes, there is definitely more than one issue I care deeply about, and for so many reasons. There is not one place in the world where women are equal in all aspects of life, and that sentiment in itself should tell you so much about our world and why there is a need for change. In particular, I think of the young girls around the world who are faced with horrific cultural norms, like genital mutilation or child marriage. I use my voice for the girls who are stripped of the opportunity to speak out for themselves. I have the privilege of being able to safely use my voice to speak out and thus I feel it is my obligation to do so.
I want to see a day where gender-based violence is no longer something girls and women have to fear. As a young woman, I feel I am educated differently than my male peers and the onus is still on us to keep ourselves safe rather than including boys and men in the conversation to evoke real change. I don't want my younger sister to be afraid to walk down a street by herself at any point in her life, so I fight for this change.
I feel it is so important to support all of my sisters in this world, no matter our differences. We already have so many adversities to battle, why should we fight against one another on top of that? The division between women goes back so far, and is still paramount today. Trans women, Black women, women of color, and especially, Indigenous women, continue to be impacted disproportionately. Although we all have our own experiences as a result of who we uniquely are, it is imperative that we continue the fight for equality as co-conspirators in this revolution.
Colorism and racism is an issue I’m also trying to dismantle. As a young Black girl in a mainly white suburban town, I have had my fair share of experiences with this topic. I want to use my voice on this issue, not just for my younger self, but for BIPOC youths who are going through the same struggles. I feel that these issues are automatically my responsibility to speak on because I have lived through them, and these are my brothers and sisters crying in the streets. To give them justice, I shall say their names while gaining a stronger platform.
An extension of the subject of racism is our environment and how systemic racism has played a role in addressing climate change. I feel just as passionate towards the fight for climate change because of its direct impact on all of us now and in the near future. I’m terrified for our future and for future generations because most of the people who are in charge today are putting economics ahead of the real changes that need to be made.
I truly believe our voices matter. When we are heard is when the real change begins to happen. I am so thankful for those that have walked before me, leading the way for change and I plan on continuing to walk in these steps.
What work have you done in the fight for change?
I actively speak about the issues I care for across my social platforms. I show up in real, everyday, life by speaking up, sending emails, signing petitions, doing my research and sharing my story. I feel like today, with how fast technology moves, I can raise awareness on these issues so much faster, which I love. What I don’t love is how fast false information can spread as well. Before posting anything, I do my research and try to include all of the resources in my post so it's easier for people to do their own research too. I have been given the opportunity to speak at organizations like GirlUp, Zahara’s Dream, and the Boys and Girls Club of Metro Atlanta. These opportunities are so amazing and important because they provide me with the opportunity to spread the word on various platforms to get it out even more. I recently spoke at a rally which my mom and some other local women helped organize for Black Lives Matter. I gave a speech as a Black youth and discussed my experiences with racism, I stood in front of hundreds of people. That was the first time I spoke in public with my very personal story and it definitely won't be the last.
What is a major goal of yours when it comes to your activism?
A major goal of mine when it comes to activism is to inspire others to use their voices and create change. I could say, "I want to solve inequality," but I think that’s a little broad and quite a big goal. For now, my goal is to make others want to get up every morning and have the motivation to use their voice for someone else. I look at my inspirations like Greta Thunberg or Malala Yousafzai and how motivational they are to me. So if I can make someone feel the same way about me, that's pretty awesome.
What has been your biggest victory so far?
My biggest victory so far has been maintaining the motivation to keep fighting. I think activists don't give themselves enough credit for how draining it can be, and how they keep going. I feel grateful for everyone who has supported me so far, and to have people by my side cheering me on and fighting with me is a victory within itself.
Answers have been edited and shortened for clarity.
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