1 in 2000: Amirah Pitts, “a Miniature Michelle Obama”

by Sanjana Deshpande & Bella Ishanyan, Features Reporters
photo illustration by Kaila Hanna

For freshman Amirah Pitts, having challenging conversations and fighting for what she believes has always been important parts of her life. Since she was young, Pitts has used her voice and resources to increase awareness by posting on social media.

“My grandmother and father have always spoken to me about things like this since I was young, so it’s always something I’ve known about. It wasn’t something I started actively speaking about until I got older, when I thought it was right for me to start,” Pitts said. “Things that definitely sparked it more for me [included] what happened to George Floyd. That was something that really clicked in my mind, that I had to start standing up for what I believe in.”

Sophomore Kaira Ogbeifun, a close friend, said that Pitts has always been driven to push for change.

“She’s compassionate [and] empathetic, and people around her want to be like her,” Ogbeifun said. “I could tell by her personality when we first met that she would have a lot of passion for things she found important.”

Pitts said that she’s particularly passionate about transgender rights.

“I know a lot of trans people. It’s really upsetting to me to see them living in an unsafe world and to see people that disagree with their existence,” she said. “I didn’t get into trans rights activism until I saw the statistics about — especially [for] trans-Black women — HIV and the number of trans women that were killed in 2020.”

For Pitts, the Black Lives Matter movement holds personal significance.

“I am Black myself, and experiencing a lot of the things that it talks about has definitely led me to think about what’s important,” she said. “To me, this was kind of an awakening — not necessarily like I just realized it was happening because I’ve been seeing it — [to] the fact that in the United States, Black lives are viewed as disposable.”

Pitts’s older sister, Ashly Calafell, said that her sister’s determination to fight for equality has inspired her to learn more about important issues.

“Her being an activist has increased her thirst for knowledge, and knowledge is power. Her drive increased, and this girl’s motivation has no limit. … I couldn’t come into contact with a person like Amirah and not question my own values and thought process on the topics she speaks about,” Calafell said. “She’s this teenage girl, but her persistence and demeanor come across as a miniature Michelle Obama.”

Ogbeifun said that Pitts’ activism shines through in her relationships.

“Her involvement in activism helps her advocate for her friends and family members that may be going through difficult times and might need help,” she said.

Pitts said she hopes that having fought for social justice since a young age will maximize the impact she can make.

 “We have a lot of time to be able to learn stuff. The more that people live with it, the more change will happen when we get older because we’ll be more educated on these things than before,” she said. 

Pitts said she has found there are many ways to support marginalized communities.

“I definitely feel when it comes to helping causes in general, a lot of people think the only thing they can do is donate money, which is not the case,” she said. “Donating money to charities and organizations helps a lot, but so does spreading awareness — not even just by posting on social media. Talking to other people about it could really be helpful when it comes to being passionate about it and helping these minority groups.”

Pitts said she encourages young people to take a leap and advocate for their beliefs.

“Stand up for yourself, and decide what you think is important. Don’t be scared to speak out yourself. Be confident in speaking up and speaking out about the things that you find important because it can make all the difference, whether you realize it or not.”