Interview: Abdullah Akl on Standing Up for What's Right
Youth for Positive Change talked to UNICEF ambassador Abdullah Akl about his journey into activism and standing up for what's right.
How did you first get involved in activism?
From a young age, I knew I wanted to make a difference in the world. Day in, day out, I'd scroll through Instagram and share infographics and news from activists pages; however, I knew that I wanted to do more than just that. I wanted to walk into the streets and talk to people and hear about their experiences and their struggles and help advocate on their behalf. This dream of mine became a reality when I went to Kôln, Germany with UNICEF for the CFCI (Child-Friendly Cities Initiative) Global Summit. There, I spoke with mayors, youth leaders and advocates on how to create child-friendly and child-accessible cities. Getting a chance to speak to so many youth from so many different backgrounds opened my mind to all the incredible things young people were doing that weren't being talked about in the media or at home.
After coming back from Germany, I took all that I had learned at the summit and decided that I should try to apply some of it to my home of NYC. I reached out to the Brooklyn Borough President's Office to start work on making Brooklyn a child-friendly city.
Would you say your Muslim identity has informed the activism work you do?
I would say my Muslim identity has informed the activism I do. I learned from a young age that if I encountered something wrong that it was my duty to do something about it. If I couldn't do something about it directly, then it was my duty to speak out against it. And if I couldn't speak out against it, then I should banish it from within me. It is so important to stand up for justice and what's right, even if you're the only one doing it. When the oppressed have no one, they are hopeless. But when the oppressed even have one person standing with them, they feel cared about, loved and hopeful to create change.
What do you believe is the best thing that fellow young activists can do while in lockdown?
A great thing all young activists can do now is to educate themselves by staying up-to-date with current events. It is important that before we speak up about an issue, we research and learn why we are fighting for that cause. After establishing some knowledge on the topic, the sharing process can begin. A few proactive steps you can take after creating a foundation of knowledge are educating friends and family, donating to related causes and attending peaceful protests if you can! Even small actions can go a long way!
What is your favorite aspect of being a part of UNICEF?
My favorite aspect of being part of UNICEF is the rewarding feeling I get knowing that I am helping change the futures of many young people across the world.
What is one piece of motivational advice that you live by?
Never stop fighting for what your heart believes is right. If your heart is certain that what your fighting for is correct, and you have educated yourself about it, then keep fighting the fight.
BIOGRAPHY: Abdullah Akl is an activist and community leader from NYC who plans on studying political science at LIU Brooklyn this coming fall.