You need to have patience. I am not the most patient person. I am the type of person who likes to see results right away. However, you need to be ready to receive those results, and if you receive them too soon, you may not be ready to handle the challenges and the responsibilities that come with it. Also, the people you will need to help you navigate those challenges may not be ready to help you yet. In other words, they need to be ready for you as well as you needing to be ready for them. Therefore, if your desired results happen too soon, there is a higher likelihood of things falling apart instead of things coming together.
As part of my series about young people who are making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kira Ayla.
Kira Ayla is the Co-Founder of It’s OVER. End Discrimination NOW., a powerful social equality movement dedicated to fostering an inclusive and respectful world where everyone can flourish, regardless of background. Through this movement, Ayla endeavors to end discrimination and inequality, recognizing them as abuse that strips individuals of their power and self-identity.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit about how you grew up?
Thank you for having me!
Growing up, I was always a happy child who loved to be social and be around family and friends all the time. I loved celebrating holidays and taking part in all the traditions they had to offer. I was fearless and determined and would often speak up when I believed things were wrong. I was always deeply disturbed by discrimination, inequality, racism, and favoritism. Since a young age, I was unfortunately exposed to unhealthy, toxic environments where discrimination and inequality were very much tolerated. The words, the derogatory terms, the jokes, the microaggressions, and the phrases that were often said by those people were awful and upsetting to hear. When I gained the courage to speak up to those people in my close circles, I was literally raged at. After that traumatic incident, other traumas soon followed. I felt angry inside, my self-esteem eroded, and I felt voiceless. I attended school emotionally broken, which made me targeted by bullies as a result. Discrimination also flourished in my school environment as well. The discriminatory remarks and jokes I often heard from the people in my close environments I heard in the classrooms almost every day.
Like some of the people in my close circles who were silent, my fellow classmates who witnessed these behaviors were also silent and did not speak up. Perhaps they were disturbed by it like myself but were too afraid of the consequences of speaking out. I felt as though discrimination and inequality were all around me, and sadly, in one way or another, it was. I found solace in the violin, as that instrument was a way to cope with the heartache and pain of it all. It helped me find a voice when I felt as though I did not have one. I fell in love with that instrument and had big dreams with it. One of those dreams was to attend the Juilliard School Of Music and pursue playing the instrument for a living. I had begun playing the instrument extremely late, and therefore, I had to make up for years of lost time.
Like most serious musicians, I practiced hours a day and would often end my practice sessions after midnight. As I was working hard on the instrument, I was constantly belittled and scrutinized by the people in my environment and was made to feel like I was never good enough. But during those discouraging times, I believed in myself, pushed through, and got accepted to study with a top teacher from The Juilliard School. The plan was to work with her privately for a year and then study with her at the conservatory soon thereafter. Unfortunately, the effects of the trauma I had been through and was still going through at the time were catching up with me. The physical and emotional pain I battled in the silence became too much to bear, and my dreams of attending school would no longer be a reality. I lost almost everything and went from being fearless to fearful and from happy to heartbroken. In that brokenness, however, my dream of making a movement for equality and speaking out for what is wrong and unjust in the world only became stronger. It was because of discrimination and inequality that stopped my musical dreams, but my dream of making a movement to combat these injustices never died. Instead, it never became more alive.
You are currently leading an organization that aims to make a social impact. Can you tell us a bit about what you and your organization are trying to change in our world today?
There are so many voices that have the potential to change the world. Unfortunately, many of those voices are being silenced every day in every way. We need to change that in our world today. Every human being on this planet deserves to be happy, achieve their life’s purpose, and be given equal opportunities in doing so. It’s also important that in order to help the world, we must first resolve the injustices of discrimination and inequality that continue to spread throughout our own country. Our nation is extremely divided, and I believe one of the reasons why our country is so divided is because of these unjust practices infiltrating our everyday lives. Through this movement, some of our goals are to help unite our nation and restore our human rights. Through achieving greater equality, we can perhaps be on the right path toward accomplishing those goals. Our country can also set a positive example for other countries around the world to follow, creating a ripple effect of hope around the globe. Unsilencing the voices that have been unjustly silenced in our own nation and helping those who feel unseen be seen could be the path towards achieving unity in our world.
No person should ever have to wake up in the morning feeling broken and depressed or should have to wake up feeling as though there is no hope for their life. No human being should have to wake up in the morning with tears in their eyes and wonder how they are going to make it through the day and/or worry about the discrimination they and/or their loved ones may face today. No person should feel as though they are inferior to others or should ever be made to feel as though they should not exist in the world simply because of who they are and who they love. No person deserves to live that way. Hope is what all human beings deserve to have in life, and hope motivates people to keep going, keep fighting, and go for their dreams no matter what.
Can you tell us the backstory about what inspired you to originally feel passionate about this cause?
Throughout my life, seeing and witnessing innocent people being treated cruelly, unfairly, and unequally because of who they were and who they loved broke my heart and made me lose hope. Not only have I experienced this myself throughout my life, but the effects it had on me broke my spirit. When you have been called the worst derogatory names, that is one of the most dehumanizing things you can experience. When this happened to me, I no longer felt like a human being. I felt broken, ashamed, and worthless as a result. It seemed as if those people got away with their harmful words and actions, and that made me feel so powerless. Another aspect of what caused me to be so passionate about speaking out against these injustices was that I constantly had to witness my mother being discriminated against and treated unequally as a woman in my close environment. She is an amazing cook and singer, and her dreams of fulfilling that were consistently shot down by those people in my environment. She also endured sexual harassment in her life, and sadly, I witnessed the effects it had on her psyche and her dreams. She, like me, was not taken seriously as a woman and was made to feel empty and unequal. After losing my Juilliard dream and my mother losing her dreams, my mother found the strength to remove those people from our lives. About three months after those people were gone, my mother wanted to help give a voice to those who had been silenced, as well as me. This movement was my dream, and it soon became my mother’s purpose.
Many of us have ideas, dreams, and passions, but never manifest it. They don’t get up and just do it. But you did. Was there an “Aha Moment” that made you decide that you were actually going to step up and do it? What was that final trigger?
Making this movement had been my dream for many years. However, I had to be silent about it due to undesired circumstances in my life that would have stopped this dream from being realized. I had already lost my violin dreams, and my mother lost her dreams of singing and cooking as a result of those people in our environments. After such devastating losses, my mother found the strength to remove those people from our lives. That was the final trigger in which I was able to share my dream to make this movement. One morning, about three months after those people were gone, my mother and I came together with the same goal and vision in mind: to spread a message to remind people that they have the same worth and value as any other human being on this planet. Circumstances don’t define a person and what they are capable of achieving in their lifetime. Every person was born worthy, and their voices deserve to be heard. All human beings deserve to feel happy and whole, and when their human rights are being violated in any way, shape, or form, all people should care. A person who has endured these traumas can often feel isolated, lonely, grief-stricken, and feel as though they are incapable of achieving their dreams and goals. Worst of all, it can cost a person their life. Both my mother and I were made to feel as though we were incapable and unworthy all the time. After learning this was rampant in our culture and that these injustices infiltrate our everyday lives, often resulting in lost potential, lost lives, and unrealized dreams, we got to work that morning and never looked back. The longer I suppressed my dream of making this movement, the stronger my desire became until ignoring it was no longer an option, which triggered me into action.
Many young people don’t know the steps to take to start a new organization. But you did. What are some of the things or steps you took to get your project started?
The first step my mother and I took for the movement was that we wrote down our whole vision and everything that would entail the creation of this dream to manifest. We wrote down all of our ideas, goals, objectives, aspirations, mission for the movement, etc. We then researched and wrote down hundreds of corporations, organizations, companies, people, etc., that supported our cause and were like-minded in their values. We did this simultaneously over the course of several months. Once we had everything prepared, we found some people to help us get the movement going in the right direction. We worked with those people for a year, and then we found professional people to help us launch the movement and get it off the ground. We are now in the process of setting up new social media accounts, and our movement is currently being branded as well.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?
When my mother and I began to share with others our desire to make this social justice/human rights movement, we encountered incredible support. We believe the most interesting story(s) so far was how many people were eager to openly share their stories and personal experiences with us, especially regarding the circumstances in which these topics are not always so easy to discuss. Also, experiencing discrimination and inequality is a very lonely experience, but in those moments, we no longer feel so alone.
It has been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
The funniest mistake I’d say my mother and I made when starting this movement was not hiring a professional team and thinking we could do our own branding. We thought we could prepare this movement without professionals, which we now see was somewhat ludicrous. As a result, resources were sometimes needlessly expended. However, they still helped us to prepare in some crucial ways, so perhaps there was a silver lining. To accomplish your goals, it is necessary to hire a professional team that has the necessary expertise to help you. The lesson that I learned was to follow your first instinct, as my first instinct was to do that from the very beginning.
None of us can be successful without some help along the way. Did you have mentors or cheerleaders who helped you to succeed? Can you tell us a story about their influence?
I am very fortunate and grateful to have my mother as my biggest supporter, my cheerleader, and the co-founder of this movement. She had always been there for me throughout my entire life and always believed in me no matter what, despite going through her own struggles. She was always there to talk to me and help me when things in my life were going wrong and on days when I felt hopeless. On bad days, she encourages me and motivates me. On my best days, she is there to celebrate. Due to the fact we both endured discrimination and inequality both separately and together in our lives, we relied on each other for support, encouragement, and hope.
I am also very lucky to have had mentors who believed in me as well. One of my mentors has been there to help me get through the days that have felt unbearable, especially in these past couple of years, and he has helped me have hope when I needed it the most. I had started working with him right before the movement was in the process of being built. He has been on this journey with me since the very beginning, and so I am very thankful for his support as well.
Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?
When my mother and I told people about our movement, they would often respond to us with immediate acknowledgment and support. They seemed encouraged and inspired, as they were able to relate to our cause in one way or another. They told us they were proud something is being done to make the world a safer, kinder place for them and for future generations. Also, the gratitude every person expressed to us for creating such a needed forum in our society today made us, in turn, feel very encouraged and supported in our desire for this movement to be a beacon of hope. One particular person told us that our movement was an inspiration to them, and we were very touched.
Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?
Firstly, I’d encourage public figures to leverage their influence to address and acknowledge that human rights are constantly being violated on a daily basis. Most of the time, these violations are happening behind closed doors that no one knows or sees. Politicians, for example, also need to acknowledge and understand that many people have been, and are, being wounded mentally and/or physically by these unjust practices happening in our nation and around the world.
The families and friends of those who have endured these unjust practices can also be affected by what happened as well. Politicians need to address these issues far more than what they are currently doing, as it is not nearly enough. Discrimination, inequality, and racism claim the lives of innocent people. They also need to work towards finding a way to unite our nation and work towards making a country where every person is seen and heard. Secondly, our nation’s leaders need to support the passage of laws and policies that are going to restore our human rights. They need to be steadfast and determined in solving these issues before they get worse. Thirdly, we as a society/community need to start being there for one another and helping one another, not being against one another. It’s important that we are kind, empathetic, and understanding towards each other. This is also one of the steps we can take as a society/community to begin uniting our nation again.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? Please share a story or example for each.
1. You need to have patience. I am not the most patient person. I am the type of person who likes to see results right away. However, you need to be ready to receive those results, and if you receive them too soon, you may not be ready to handle the challenges and the responsibilities that come with it. Also, the people you will need to help you navigate those challenges may not be ready to help you yet. In other words, they need to be ready for you as well as you needing to be ready for them. Therefore, if your desired results happen too soon, there is a higher likelihood of things falling apart instead of things coming together.
2. Delays are not denials. Delays can be very frustrating, disappointing, and upsetting. With delays, it can be easy to think that you are being denied what you want, but sometimes, those delays can actually be the best thing that ever happened. When things get delayed, it can give you extra time to rest, reset, work on yourself, go back, and make necessary changes to improve your project(s), etc., so you are more prepared to receive your desired results. Sometimes, that extra time can make all the difference in the world, so don’t get discouraged; keep going. You are still going to get there.
3. Trust in the process, especially during those tough times and rough days. Trusting in the process, especially on bleak days and when things look like they are going backward, is extremely difficult. On days that feel unbearable or days that feel dark and hopeless, trust even when you don’t understand, keep having faith, keep going, and do not give up. Also, things may appear as though they are going backward before you receive a breakthrough.
4. Be ready for the challenges that come with your desired results. When you dream about your end goal, you may often imagine how amazing it is going to be and feel, as you should, since it’s your dream. However, with your desired results can come challenges you must be prepared to overcome in order to enjoy your realized dream. If you are struggling to overcome the challenges due to a lack of knowledge and preparation beforehand, you may not be able to enjoy the fruits of your labor as much.
5. Always trust your intuition. Your intuition never lies. If something is not feeling right, that’s because it most likely is not right. Your first instinct is generally the correct one, so don’t second-guess yourself. When you ignore or question your intuition, you could end up with the wrong people and/or encounter problems that could have been avoided in the first place.
If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?
Making a positive impact on our environment and/or our society can save lives and make the world a more hopeful place. Your work can inspire others to make a positive change in the world as well. The more people step up and are inspired to make a change, the more it will raise the vibration and potentially create a positive ripple effect around the globe. Having a more positive environment/society due to your influence can ultimately cancel out the negativity spreading in our world today. Your influence can make an impact not only on us who are here but also on future generations. These new generations deserve to enter into a world that is a much hopeful, happier, and brighter place. It all starts with one person deciding to make that change.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
I would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with Barack Obama. I believe he is an inspiration and an example of hope in our world. He is steadfast in his support for equality, and I felt very fortunate to have grown up with him as our president.
How can our readers follow you online?
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success in your great work!
Young Social Impact Heroes: Why and How Kira Ayla of It’s OVER Is Helping To Change Our World was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.