During Black History Month, TV One presents a series, Black History Month: Represent the Movement, that celebrates young activists who are changing the world.
Kenidra Woods wasn’t your typical teen. At just 13 years old, she began her activism journey after Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson, Missouri. Now, at 20, she’s among those fighting for racial equity, leading protests in her hometown of St. Louis, Missouri.
Inspired by the Ferguson protests and the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, the events served as eye-opening occurrences that shaped her activism.
“I became an activist to inspire change,” she said in her feature for Black History Month: Represent the Movement.
In addition to those events, Kenidra’s family life and the hardships she faced growing up also lent themselves to shaping her activism. At the age of seven, she became the victim of sexual abuse, and she was also bullied throughout elementary and middle school.
The abuse took a heavy toll on her mental health, but Kenidra channeled this pain into her advocacy and through storytelling. She became a fearless activist on all fronts. At age 15, she published a book on her story of abuse and recovery. She made a name for herself with her short film on mental health, A Heart of Hope, and launching the CHEETAH movement, helping other victims of sexual abuse and mental instability.
“This is such a taboo subject, especially in the African American community,” she told the LA Sentinel in an interview. “Mental health is ignored in our community. It’s blocked out. We are so accustomed to being strong. That’s all we’ve known to do. It seems to be looked down upon, and I want to change that, and I’m going to change that,” said Kenidra.
She also created the Hope for Humanity Project: National Rally for Peace, a St. Louis-based event to connect and empower students of all backgrounds to “choose love over hate.”
“I’m very grateful because not many people have that voice,” Kenidra added.
The issues that have become the center of her activism are mental health advocacy, gun violence reform, police brutality, and Black Lives Matter.
Kenidra’s activism has been featured in Cosmopolitan, Teen Vogue, and more. Her movement to end bullying, gun violence, and the stigma surrounding mental health has been joined by Destiny’s Child member Michelle Williams, Meagan Good, Lauryn McClain, Christina Milian, Michelle Epps, and Andra Day.
Kenidra continues to challenge the world to be a better place through her advocacy and her mission to change the lens of mental health.