NowThis NEXT 2021: Chelsea Miller, the Voice That Will Not Be Silenced
Miller is best known for co-founding Freedom March NYC which is one of the largest youth-led civil rights organizations in New York. Miller leads the organization alongside Nialah Edari and Nia White.
If you’ve heard about or attended any of the racial justice protests occuring during the summer of 2020 in New York City, chances are, 23-year-old Chelsea Miller was one of the lead organizing forces behind the movement.
Miller is best known for co-founding Freedom March NYC which is one of the largest youth-led civil rights organizations in New York. Miller leads the organization alongside Nialah Edari and Nia White. A New York native herself, Miller says she was compelled to spring to action after experiencing the lack of organization and vision behind some of the protests she had been attending. More importantly, Miller recognized that the gap in strategy at these protests reflected the failure to reimagine what our country’s racist systems (i.e. policing) could look like, and reflected the unsuccessful nature of past attempts for policy change (such as reallocating resources from the NYPD into education).
To Miller, “It seemed like we had the world’s attention, but no one knew what to say.”
Miller formed Freedom March NYC alongside her Columbia University classmate, Nialah Edari. The march was created to address the feelings of fear and voicelessness that her community was feeling, in the wake of public Black trauma and death in May 2020; notably, in response to the police killing of George Floyd. At the same time, Miller saw a lack of accountability in the leadership of elected officials. She noticed her community being silenced, while the narrative was shifting to property damage, instead of Black lives - and in doing so, discrediting her community’s pain. Miller aimed to fill the void of leadership and organization of these voices, to protest with purpose and direction.
The memory of Miller’s ancestors is a common thread in her organizational work. She considers how civil rights activists from the summer of 1964 mobilized and also faced police brutality. She contemplates what must be done now to really tackle the injustices and white supremacy that has continued for over 400 years, through today. By understanding and reflecting upon history, she hopes to be better prepared to address the challenges that her community is still facing today, in fighting the same fight as her ancestors. Miller feels like she is both carrying the torch from her ancestors, while bearing the responsibility to make society a better place for future generations, “so that they do not have to say any more names.”
This sense of responsibility has fueled Miller to lead enormous protests throughout her city. She leads chants that demand that the rights and freedoms of Black individuals be respected. At these protests, Miller conveys to attendees that the voices of the Black community will be heard by voting. Because of this, Miller focuses on voter registration and voter mobilization (at the local, state and national level) to the polls at marches and protests. Miller encourages others to understand that they matter- and that their pain, their struggles, their grief, their rage, their ideas all matter. She hopes to inspire others to vote with this in mind.
Before Freedom March NYC, Miller was one of the Obama White House’s youngest interns in 2016, working on domestic policy issues like criminal justice reform and urban economic opportunities. This experience prepared her to become a youth organizer, as it provided a means to learn about how to build intersectional movements, the many different forms that activism can take, and how powerful social media can be in organizing and amplifying a movement.
This has framed her perspective on activism, that “it's about how you contribute and where your skills and talents can be used.”
Miller previously had started her own nonprofit, Women Everywhere Believe, which is a leadership pipeline established to create more opportunities for women and girls of color. These opportunities come in the form of leadership-training curriculums, which are presented in schools across the nation. Miller hopes that by empowering other women of color, future generations will not be intimidated by the systems that seek to silence them. In all of her work, Miller is training a future generation of leaders to find their purpose and their voice.
NowThis is honored to partner with Vital Voices to make this incredible celebration happen. To learn more about Vital Voices, the impact they are having on women leaders now, and how YOU can get involved, visit vitalvoices.org or @vitalvoices on social.