As you may know it’s Women’s History Month! Neighbors in Action wanted to do our own “Herstory” spotlight, so Libbie Pattison, a Project Planner, sat down with Naomie Azor, Neighbors in Action’s Peer Leader, to hear her reflections on Women’s History Month and her own personal history. Naomie spoke on cultural and political shifts that have influenced her life and commented on her experiences as a young woman in today’s society. Read on for some gems!
LP: Can you start with how old are you and where did you grow up?
NA: I’m 18 years old. I was born in New Jersey, spent some time in Haiti, but was raised in New York. I spent the first half (literal half) of my time in New York living in Brooklyn in the East Flatbush area. The second half was spent in Queens. We moved in 2011. I live in Jamaica, Queens, but went to school in Brooklyn and did most things in Brooklyn. So I’d say that I have a dual citizenship!
LP: And are you currently in school, right?
NA: Yes, I am. I am currently at the end of my sophomore year at Hunter College. I declared sociology, and am still exploring for my second major. I plan on double-majoring… right now, I’m looking at a business- or law-based major as my second.
LP: Excellent! I loved Sociology. It’s really learning a language to finally put words to a lot of dynamics in society.
NA: Definitely, I’ve already learned so much!
LP: So this may be a very broad question, but when you think of the role of women in history, what thoughts or feelings arise for you?
NA: When I think of women in history, I feel two different ways. On the one hand, I think of the extensive inequality and the extreme measures that women had to go through in order to get the rights and opportunities that I sometimes take for granted. I think of social roles of the times, and I am way more grateful for my ability to think freely and to defy what I think isn’t right. I understand that I wouldn’t be able to have such independence and strong-mindedness (also known as stubbornness) as I do now.
But I also feel empowerment because if women like me were able to make changes in their circumstances, there’s nothing holding me back today. There’s no limit to what I can achieve and there’s nothing that I can’t do if I really put my mind to it.
LP: What word, national, or citywide events have significantly influenced your life?
NA: The #MeToo movement gaining more press during the past couple years is definitely one of them. I think that it was during that time that I was gaining more literacy in all things “woke” and cultural/social issues. It was also around this time that I was taking my class in Women and Gender Studies. In this class, we were learning about the college-rape epidemic and learning about its effects and how it’s handled. So that opened my eyes to another level of injustice that I never really saw before. It really led to the path to my enlightenment, which of course I am still working on and developing. I can never stop learning more about these social issues.
If I were to name another, I’d say the whole fight that Donald Trump’s America is having with immigration is another significant event that is impacting my life and the way I think about immigration.
I was lucky enough to be born here. But I come from an immigrant family. My parents are immigrants, my siblings are immigrants. Most of them were able to gain their citizenship before it got out of hand. But the whole DACA issue, followed by wanting to build a wall on the southern border, followed by ICE separating families, and losing children and mistreating innocent people… All of this made me grateful, but also aware of the place we hold in this U.S. ‘hierarchy’. It made me realize that the “melting pot” that we’re supposed to be is just a sticker over the actual square-type restriction of the people who actually have privilege
LP: What types of things would you like to be able to have an influence on?
NA: I’d like to be able to influence the roles that teens have in politics and social issues. I feel that oftentimes, we don’t get to make our voices heard. And when we are heard, we aren’t listened to. I’d love to help girls and women worldwide. I know I can’t now, but I definitely see it in my future.
LP: That sounds like that would be a part of what motivated you to become involved in Neighbors in Action?
NA: It definitely is a major part of what motivated me to remain apart of Neighbors in Action. As a participant of Youth Organizing to Save Our Streets (YO S.O.S.), I was intrigued by how much I felt my voice was being shared and how much people wanted to hear the teen voice. Ever since then, I’ve been exposed to opportunity on opportunity to share my opinions and speak on the things that matter in society
LP: I’m really glad you leaned into that. Last two questions: What do you think is difficult/awesome about being a young woman in your world these days? And lastly, do you have any advice for other young women?
NA: One thing that I find is difficult about being a woman in my world, in this society, in this time, is the struggle to make my place felt. I feel like I have to constantly justify my value, my positions, and my qualifications to do the things that I do. It can be simple as my job title or me emphasizing the importance of my voice being heard in classes that are predominantly male. But I think through constantly having to be assertive (although assertive may stereotypically come off as aggressive), I learn to stand my ground more and demand my place.
One thing I would say is awesome about being a women in my world, is the support we give each other. I think the amount of support we show each other in the face of discrimination and oppression other is unmatched.
If I were to give other young woman any advice, I’d tell them: speak you piece/peace and speak it loudly, even if you think no one is listening. There’s always someone listening and willing to help. Stand your ground. You are who you are and there’s no changing that. You are beautiful, and everything that you are is enough, more than enough. Believe in you and fight for what you believe in.
Thank you for sharing your piece/peace with us, Naomie!