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Empowering youth to get involved


When I was a teen I loved being creative, but I didn’t think creativity could change the world. We were told that the arts were frivolous. I didn’t think my voice mattered and, as a result, I didn’t speak up.

Fast forward to today: We’re riding a rising wave of youth activism. In Parkland, Florida, youth leadership has thrived on strong school arts programs in theater, music, journalism and debate. Like so many others, I am inspired by these youth, and now more convinced than ever that creativity can empower positive social change.

I became passionate about teaching youth when I had my first children, twin boys, in 2010. As with other parents, the arrival of my children was a wakeup call. The best way to teach is to model, I reasoned, so to teach them well, I would have to become the person I wanted them to be. No small feat.

I had my first “aha moment” watching Deborah Anaya and her teaching staff at Calvary Nursery School on Fillmore Street. I saw them interacting with 3-year-olds in a curious, caring and respectful way. They were grounded and wise. I realized that since life is a journey of inquiry and experience, their approach is relevant far beyond preschool.

Following my own line of inquiry, I created an intentional, self-designed program of reflection and renewal. I rewired my brain, discarded old stories and created new positive thought patterns. I joined the boards of Calvary Nursery School and the Mosaic Project, an Oakland-based nonprofit that teaches 4th and 5th graders empathy, assertive communication and peaceful conflict resolution by bringing together students who are separated by neighborhood and school — for example, pairing Oakland public school students with students at the neighborhood’s Town School for Boys. I advocated for small businesses.

I decided to use my personal assets and platform to do good. At Hello!Lucky, the design studio my sister Eunice Moyle and I founded, we created a get-out-the-vote campaign for the 2016 election, featuring T-shirts and a bumper sticker. We started selling products that give back to causes we support; our enamel pins have raised more than $10,000 for Planned Parenthood and the ACLU. We also designed posters for the 2016 Women’s March on Washington that were downloaded 5,000 times and used around the world.

Photograph of authors and sisters Eunice Moyle and Sabrina Moyle by Zoe Larkin

It was at the Women’s March in 2016 that I woke up to the power of creativity in civic action. Creative posters made the Women’s March; they brought unity in diversity and amplified marchers’ messages. That’s when we began writing Be the Change: The Future is in Your Hands. Intended for girls ages 10 to 15, Be the Change is one part inspirational coach, one part organizing toolkit and one part creative craft book.

The book starts by looking at what it means to “be the change.” You can’t change anyone but yourself, Gandhi said, but you can transform yourself from within, step-by-step. Be the Change also explores what it means to be creative. Tapping into your creativity regularly helps strengthen your inner voice, which in turn strengthens your sense of purpose and helps counter the desire to seek validation in material things, status and peers. This is especially important for children growing up in a high-status neighborhood like Pacific Heights. Creativity keeps us grounded.

Be the Change offers creative civic action projects — from making protest posters and bumper stickers, creating team T-shirts and constructing lemonade stands to raise money for charity, as well as tear-out postcards and buttons that teens can start using right away.

I believe that without a strong inner life and connection to creativity — as well as the skills to respect others’ voices and resolve conflicts peacefully — it is simply impossible to engage in effective civic action and service. Being the change starts from within. It starts small. Meditating. Journaling. Reading. Doodling. Listening. But ultimately, it can create ripple effects that can positively change communities — and even the world.

MORE: Be the Change (Quarto Books, $14.95).