Deja Foxx was unpacking in her dorm to start her sophomore year at Columbia University when Meena Harris told her she was working on her Aunt Kamala’s presidential campaign. “I just started repacking,” said Foxx, laughing. “I wasn’t going to sit in a classroom and talk about Plato and Aristotle when I had skills that could make a difference.”
Kamala Harris’ youngest campaign staffer Foxx, at 19, was already a seasoned activist, driven by her own experience of homelessness and her struggle to access birth control growing up in Tucson, Ariz. . By the time she graduated from high school, she had helped start an adolescent-led program that provides reproductive health resources to young people, led a successful movement for comprehensive sex education classes at her school, and went viral to confront then-Sen. Jeff Flake in an Arizona town hall. “I wonder, as Planned parenthood patient and someone who relies on the title X, that you are clearly do not,“she said to Flake,” why is that your right to withdraw my right to choose Planned Parenthood and to choose contraception without co-payment. His last words were drowned out by the jubilant crowd.
On the Harris campaign, her role as an influencer and surrogate strategist didn’t even exist before she arrived. “I have to intervene as an expert because nobody gets a doctorate. in TikToks and influencer strategy, ”she says. Foxx is part of a new generation of activists able to harness the power of social media, blending their personal and professional personalities to advance the causes they care about. Foxx posts on everything from sponsored vibrator giveaways to videos encouraging women to run for office.
“I am a very complete person, completely myself, genuine,” she said. “And I think that’s what people resonate with now. … Don’t try to pretend. Don’t try to stand up, because everyone has had a phone since the age of 11. … Our entire lives have been documented.
Foxx says the social platforms and female mentors she connects with have helped her secure the campaign job. “I don’t come from a family where relationships are something we have,” she says. “My mom barely graduated from high school and rebounded between jobs. I really had to do the groundwork to make something like this happen for myself. In large part, I can thank social media for this.
Foxx learned to take care of herself early on. She left home at 15 because of her single mother’s addiction and financial issues, instead living with the family of friends. “I’ve learned that when people don’t treat you well or when a situation is dangerous, I have the power to set boundaries and walk away,” she says. That same year, Foxx borrowed her boyfriend’s car and drove 45 minutes to Planned Parenthood to get birth control pills. “I didn’t have insurance, I didn’t have money. And people in this situation, people like me, deserve to have choices. For Foxx, access to contraceptives gave him a sense of empowerment for his entire future and opened up new possibilities, including becoming the first person in his family to go to college.
She has created her own support network, notably with GenZ Girl Gang, an online organization promoting the fraternity she founded when she was homesick in Columbia (where she shot straight in the final semester of A). It’s part of a long term goal to build social media connections in a real community online and offline. “I am thinking about how we can translate this idea of solidarity, this idea that” when I do better, you do better “, in a digital space, because more and more this is where we spend our time”, she says.
Foxx believes that in today’s online world everyone is an influencer, whether you have a follower or a million. “We have both the responsibility and the power to influence the people in our personal networks with whom we engage online,” she says. When it comes to social media strategy, it means meeting young people where they already are. After Kamala Harris ended her presidential bid, Foxx turned her talents to a campaign to get the vote called Ignite the Vote. She says her team broke the mold by searching for established people on social media – like mental health TikToker Amy Lee and civil rights organizer chelsea miller – rather than movie stars who might appeal to the general public (older) more. “A lot of these campaigns were like, ‘Let’s ask these top celebrities to talk about why voting is cool,’ and we were like, ‘No, let’s bring people who have built communities, established relationships in. line for actual resources they need to go and vote, ”she said.
Foxx is integrating into the work on GenZ Girl Gang around her distance learning schedule, while hoping she will be back on the Columbia campus this fall. She does not hide her ultimate goal: the presidency, even including it in her electronic signature, “Activist, Organizer, Badass, Future President”. “I remember wanting to be president in third year, for example,” she says. “It wasn’t until I got to college that I felt comfortable being really proud and loud about it.”
His interests – and ambitions – have extended to reproductive rights, but fighting for a pro-choice world is still at the heart of his activism. “The world I work towards is defined and characterized by choice,” she said. “And I’m not just talking about the choice of if and when to have children, but the choice of raising these children in communities free from gun violence, police brutality or family separation. The choice to be able to access healthy food… I want communities to have all the resources they need to reach their full potential.