2020 - MICHIGAN
Aniyah Stokes is a senior at Harrison/Farmington High School in Farmington, Michigan. Aniyah is the president of the National Honor Society, a functioning head of Farmington's District Diversity Committee, and has served on various committees providing a voice for her peers during the closure of her high school and transition into another school in the district. For more than two years, Aniyah has invested in planning "Diversity Day," a conference facilitating challenging and stimulating conversations regarding social identities and injustices with high schoolers throughout Metro Detroit. In a predominantly white community, this conference provides a safe space for students to candidly discuss any negative experiences they have endured due to their racial identities and to learn from each other's experiences. The activities throughout the conference help students educate one another about their perspectives, show students that they can relate with peers they previously identified as their outgroup, and prepare students for better interactions between different races in their everyday lives. She began as a facilitator for breakout dialogues during the conference, but as the only remaining member of the Planning Committee from the previous year, her role has expanded to include leading the entire Diversity Committee (50-65 students), training new facilitators and committee heads to plan future conferences, and planning/operating the conference (impacting approximately 200 students annually). In addition, Aniyah utilized her position as a choreographer in her dance company to combine her enthusiasm for social justice and the dance arts to communicate controversial issues impacting her community. Because acknowledging racial inequities can cause discomfort, many people neglect genuine conversations about them; Aniyah uses art to influence individuals when such necessary conversation ceases. By creating dances entitled "Learning to Let Go," illustrating that regardless of one's race everyone experiences grief, and "Standing on the Horizon," illustrating the journey of African American success in America in order to challenge society's indifference to oppression, she evoked the empathy necessary to start difficult conversations. In addition to dialogues about these concepts within her company (19 dancers), "Learning to Let Go" was performed for over 800 people at several community events.