Written by Tanya Terry
In honor of International Youth Day, GapKids has introduced the new BE THE FUTURE campaign starring Flint native and 13-year-old teen activist Mari Copeny, also known as Little Miss Flint – alongside a roster of fellow youth activists creating positive societal transformations in their communities and beyond.
Copeny told the Flint Courier News although she was very aware of International Youth Day, she was shocked that people at Gap actually knew who she was and that they thought she should be one of the faces of this campaign.
Others who know of Copeny may not be as stunned.
Copeny is founder of the Flint Lives Matter movement and self-proclaimed “future president.” Copeny rose to national fame for her advocacy work as a voice for her community amid the devastating and ongoing water crisis in Flint despite at that time being only 8 years old.
“I was 8 when I started in activism, and I was sick of seeing my family getting really bad rashes from the water,” she said. “I was sick of not being able to take a bubble bath, and I felt like nobody was listening to any of the adults. So I thought they would listen to me. “
Copeny has done numerous projects that all mean a lot to her, but the one she feels like is the most important is her filter campaign because she is able to help give people clean water directly from their taps without them having to wait in long lines for hours to get a couple of cases of water or having to use bottled water at all.
“I also love that I am helping people dealing with toxic water all over the country, and not just here in Flint,” she said.
In 2044, Copeny plans to run for the Oval Office. She’ll be 36 years and is confident she will be president one day.
“I am so confident because I can look at all I have done before I turned 13. Imagine me at 18 or 21. By age 35, I will be unstoppable.”
Copeny said it is an honor to represent GapKids.
“I’ve grown up wearing Gap most of my life. It’s a classic brand that is recognized worldwide. To be able to represent them on this Be The Future campaign means a lot.”
Copeny stars alongside with other youth activists, including 18-year-old Jerome Foster II.
Foster, of Washington, DC, is an educator; founder and executive director of youth-led voting and advocacy organization, One Million Of Us and editor-in-chief of international youth-led environmental publication, The Climate Reporter
Fifteen-year-old climate activist Alexandria Villaseñor, of New York, NY, is another Be The Future Campaign star. Villaseñor is the founder of international youth climate movement, Earch Uprising, petitioner on childrenvsclimatecrisis.org and women’s empowerment activist, with speaking appearances including the UN Women’s Day.
Last but not least, 13-year-old climate activist, Levi Draheim, of Satellite Beach, FL, stars in the campaign. Draheim is the youngest plaintiff in #youthvgov, the active case started back in 2015 in which a group of 21 kids sued the United States to try to force government action on climate change. Four years later, that case – Youth v. Gov – is still tangled up in the court system…and the kids are losing their patience.
“The youth activism community is pretty close,” Copeny said. “We all are friends and know each other and support each other and lift each other up.”
Through the virtual climate rally, Copeny hopes the youth will realize that they have power now, and they don’t have to wait until they grow up to save the world.
“I also want to see adults take note that the youth are here to fight for our future,” she said.
The BE THE FUTURE campaign features an anthem film featuring the four activists and additional inspiring youth, with original music written and performed by kid rock band, The Twits. To celebrate these catalysts of change, graphic street artist Tristan Eaton also created layered portraits of the activists fighting to improve climate through their actions.
Copeny said she thinks everyone should participate in the rally.
“You do it at home, safe from being around tons of people, and you can show people all over the world what you stand for. To participate all you have to do is make a homemade sign that says #BeTheFutureThatWill then draw a blank line and fill in that line with whatever you will be. After that, post it on Instagram and be sure to tag me (@LittleMissFlint) and GapKids.”