Community Building for the Great Good

An Interview with Deja Foxx & GenZ Girl Gang, United States

Deja Foxx is a reproductive rights activist, political strategist, first Influencer and Surrogate Strategist on U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris’ presidential campaign

The GenZ Girl Gang is an inclusive community of womxn and femmes lifting each other up.

GEN-ZiNE: Hello, GenZ Girl Gang! Tell me who you are as a collective for all of the newcomers. 

Deja Foxx: My name is Deja Foxx. I’m 21 years old and I’m a student at Columbia University. I founded GenZ Girl Gang (GGG), a community building tool for young women and nonbinary individuals. 

GGG was born out of my freshman year dorm room out of the idea that social media can be used as a community building tool. Young women and nonbinary folks are building power in our personal networks and shifting culture towards collaboration and not competition.

I got my start in community organizing around sex education in my school district at 15 years old. So at my core, I’ve always been a community organizer. I ended up moving across the country to New York City and had to redefine what community meant for me. In truth, the people who were living around me didn’t share my life experiences. I only started finding what felt like community, online while connecting with other young womxn.

Jade Walker: I’m Jade Walker, I’m 21 years old, and I’m the Influencer Brand and Partnership Executive at GGG.

I grew up on Long Island in a predominantly white suburb. It was really hard grappling with the harsh realities of not having food at home and being low income, but going to school with super wealthy people. While I just wanted to be a young, fun teenager, I didn’t have that privilege. And then my life kind of changed, as did my idea of safety. I’m currently in the community where I was when my oldest brother was murdered due to gun violence. The following year, we were evicted and ended up moving to South Carolina. I felt like I had nobody. 

I fell into a depression, and my sister told me that I should start writing. That’s when I started my blog. I was able to really find myself and find my voice, and I wanted to create a space for others to feel supported and like they did not have to compromise for their comfortability. When I started college freshman year in New York City, I met into Deja, unbeknownst to me at the time, in a bathroom. When she asked me to be a part of GGG, I felt like it was the perfect opportunity to combine this newfound identity of me and my voice into something that I really cared about. GGG has really helped shape me and shape the trajectory of where I want to go, who I want to be, and who I want to help. 

Aubreyne Brizette: My name is Aubreyne Brizette. I’m 21 years old and am based out of both New Jersey and New York. I’m Director of Events and Operations here at GGG. I grew up in a very tight-knit Filipino community. Most of my town and my high school were Filipino; even people who weren’t Filipino understood when you spoke Tagalog. 

I went to school in New York at a Predominantly White Institute. Some people thought I was an international student, and I felt really disconnected and was looking for community.

Throughout my freshman year, I also became digital hype girls with Deja. When she asked me to join GGG, I immediately knew that it was what I was looking for. I never really had this: a group of women and nonbinary people my age that supported me and met me where I was at. 

Stefanie Drinkwater: My name is Stephanie, I’m 25 years old, and I’m the Creative Director of GGG. 

I connected with Deja the summer after I graduated college. I don’t think anyone can really anticipate what graduating college will feel like — for me it was pretty lonely and isolating. I moved home and just felt like I was really lacking a sense of community. I saw on social media that GGG was building out an ambassador program, so I joined that first and later to help with social media. From my first call with Deja, I felt like I belonged there and felt a part of a team. GGG is really a place that I’ve grown personally and professionally.

Phoebe Omonira: Hey y’all, my name is Phoebe and I’m 18 years old. I’m the Director of Community and Nonprofit Partnerships at GGG.

In high school, community service was really important to me. I genuinely loved meeting new people and hearing their stories. I wanted to be able to not only connect with people and get to know them, but help them connect with their own community and people who truly understand them. 

Growing up Nigerian American, I was always surrounded by a supportive village of people. I wanted that for my friends and my family members. I found out about GGG on Instagram. They posted on their story that they needed someone to write an article about mental health. That was a journey I had just come out of and was sharing with my community, so I told GGG I would do it.

Greisy Hernandez: My name is Greisy, I’m 20 years old, and I’m the Impact Director at GGG. Deja shared her vision for GGG with me, and I was immediately excited by the idea. We started brainstorming about what digital communities are and what ours could look like. 

I wanted to contribute to something that transformed lived experiences in online discourse that was meaningful and created growth. GGG is an ecosystem of care.

GEN-ZiNE: Thank you all for sharing, I feel the passion that pours out of all of you for each other and for the mission. In a world that often feels self-serving, let’s chat about the dire need for transparency among opportunities. Why is it so radical, and so needed, especially today? 

Jade Walker:  GGG is all about creating and sharing opportunities. We want to challenge the idea that you have to get your foot in the door and then close that door afterwards or else your work won’t matter as much. I think it’s such a colonized mindset, in the sense that there’s not enough space for everyone. But what we have learned as people from marginalized communities is that we were stronger when we worked together. I think that is such a foundation of sisterhood that gets overlooked all the time: when one of us wins, we all win. 

Aubreyne Brizette: GGG is about redefining sisterhood, specifically and intentionally to include all women, femmes and nonbinary people. The diaspora is so large, but the things we struggle and believe in are the same. We wanted to create a culture that is inclusive of everyone, because we’re an organization ready to meet you where you’re at.

Deja Foxx: GGG is positioned generationally, so it’s really important to acknowledge that there are a lot of individuals who have come before us who fought for a seat at the table. With that comes a sense of competition, and that was because of limited opportunity for women and nonbinary individuals to get ahead. Gen Z is turning that idea on its head by creating our own spaces, our own digital communities, our own businesses, our own economies. We’re making enough room for everyone at the table. We’re redefining sisterhood and also redefining success.

GEN-ZiNE: Well said. I’ve found myself in two entrepreneurial communities: one centered around white men, and then another one powered by women of color. I feel like it’s two completely different worlds. Is there a world where the two come together? Do we want them to come together? 

Phoebe Omonira: When it comes to women, femmes and nonbinary folks having seats at the table, I just hope that we make sure that our narratives are presented responsibly and are never shared inauthentically. This “seat at the table” isn’t one size fits all. There’s so much power in lived experience. 

Jade Walker: I think we have to start a new table, one that is always changing and growing to encompass cultural evolution. We have to always be ready to change, ready to accept, and ready to love. In order to become a place where everybody truly wins, we have to be able to have a table that is malleable to new, diverse people; and not just diversity in terms of gender, race, ethnicity, etc., but diversity of thought processes.

GEN-ZiNE: I want to talk about growing a digital community. Tell me how digital strategy and the virtual world has played a part in growing and nurturing the GGG community and others. How has the digital world been able to create new communities with tangible impact?

Stefanie Drinkwater: Something that’s really special about the GGG community is that it really feels like our followers are our community members and not just people who follow us online. During the pandemic, we tried to create a lot of opportunities for connection by hosting online events and creating posts for people to interact in the comments or things like that. We have a Geneva home where community members can talk in group chats, too.

GEN-ZiNE: This zine is redefining what public service means for our generation, both in the private and public sector. Why does empowering women and nonbinary folks help the greater collective? 

Phoebe Omonira: Gen Z has really redefined public service, and technology and social media has a lot to do with it. More than ever, we see people taking to digital organizing.

I see public service as multifaceted. I see it as physically going out into the community, digitally organizing with friends, family, people that you know, or in an online community.

Stefanie Drinkwater: You never know how far an impact is gonna reach through digital organizing. We could empower one person online, and they can start their own organization because of a connection we gave them. And then that idea can grow into something even bigger and can impact so many more people. 

Deja Foxx: GGG aims to empower the people — the women, the femmes, the nonbinary folks who are doing that work on the ground, and nourish them by connecting them with people who support them in their professional and personal lives. 

GEN-ZiNE: What does your utopia look like?

Deja Foxx: My utopia really is what we’ve created here at Gen Z girl gang. I want everyone to exist in communities of care where they know that they can pass the baton off. The thing that we can really do every day is help people find their girl gang, their group of friends who are going to be there for them, and that make life a little easier and make them feel inspired and confident. I really do find my utopia every day in this group.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

This is a collaboration between GEN-ZiNE and Driving Change. 

Driving Change

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