Navraj Singh is a change-maker from Virginia who, since February 2018, has been working both by himself and with the young people around him to create visible change on a national level, starting with commonsense gun reform. In his community, he cofounded the Mobilizing Youth Project and has since organized a #DEFUNDHATE Rally. Although he is only in high school, Navraj interned under Abigail Spanberger and is a part of the Women’s March Youth Cohort. Besides activism, Navraj likes to eat cheese and sketch with charcoal. I had the opportunity to jump on a call and interview this remarkable teenager.
The following interview has been edited for clarity and length.
What was the first cause you advocated for?
On an organizing level and bringing people together, my first cause was gun violence. Back in February, after the Parkland massacre, I was inspired by the Parkland students because they were doing what our older generation didn’t: holding people accountable and demanding change. I organized a walkout the month after, which allowed me to speak in front of hundreds of young people and that really motivated me to keep on going.
What are issues that you’re passionate about?
Any issue that affects young people is what I am passionate about. This includes gun violence, climate change, LGBTQ+ rights, and electing law makers that represent young people. For climate change, I am very inspired by the Sunrise Movement; it’s great to see so many young people mobilizing and politicians like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. All of these issues have to do with the future, and it’s a fact that young people are the leaders of the future, but if we [the young people] don’t take control now then there will not be one.
Has your upbringing influenced your activism in any way?
Definitely, especially because of my Sikh upbringing. I have been tremendously impacted and driven by the selfless values of Sikhi, one of which is advocating for those who can’t and standing up for those people. Even the Gurus themselves challenged the status quo, even if it cost them their lives, and always fought for their values. They were trailblazers and some sacrificed everything for others. Both of my parents follow Sikhi, as do my grandparents, and so it is in my blood to be revolutionary, advocate, and be a trailblazer.
What do you like to do in your free time?
I actually consider activism one of my biggest things. Besides that, I love art. I love sketching, especially charcoal sketching. I started doing it over the summer, and I love spending hours making something, especially eyes, come to life, and I love to work on it as much as I can to make it hyper realistic. In my free time, I like to try new techniques, learn new proportions, and document it all through my Instagram. I also love seeing my growth; my art reflects more of my personal growth, and my dad always encourages me to keep on trying new things.
What is a piece of wisdom you can offer to aspiring activists?
What I would say is your voice matters more than you think it does, and your voice is louder than you think it is. You might think you’re small or insignificant when you’re really not. You have power to make real, long-lasting change.
Photo: Navraj Singh