Meet the Inspiring Teen Whose Black Lives Matter Protest Brought In Thousands of People

Meet the Inspiring Teen Whose Black Lives Matter Protest Brought In Thousands of People

  • By

    &

by

Billy Nilles

|

Sat., Jun. 13, 2020 12:00 AM

  • Share

  • Tweet

  • Email



move

Now PlayingUp NextTeen Activist Organizes Peaceful BLM Protest Amidst Adversity

Mikiiya Foster wasn’t quite prepared for what was waiting for her when she arrived at the corner of Sycamore and Cochran on Saturday, June 6.

It had only been eight days since the 18-year-old recent high school graduate first had the idea to organize a Black Lives Matter protest in her hometown of Simi Valley, Calif., a suburb outside of Los Angeles. Chatter around town—which was home to the infamous Rodney King trial and remains traditionally known for its conservative politics—and on social media hadn’t been especially favorable towards the idea of the march. Businesses has boarded up in fear of the destruction that had occurred some 40 miles away in L.A. The chances were high that turnout might be low.

“I had made a comment saying like, you know, ‘Even if there’s only three people, I’ll still be there,'” Foster told E! News exclusively of her mindset leading up to the event.

And yet, when she arrived at the intersection that stands almost smack-dab in the center of town, a different story entirely was waiting to be told.

Photos

Inspiring Moments from Black Lives Matter Protests

A crowd had begun to swell, filling the street they’d soon be marching down. Final estimates of the size totaled over 2,000. “I couldn’t believe it,” she admitted. “I mean, in the beginning of the protest, I honestly couldn’t see how far back it went because I was up near Chase Bank, so I could only see that small corner. That itself I was just like, ‘Oh my God. What is happening? Did I do this? How did I?'”

How did an 18-year-old with no prior experience in community organizing—whose prom and graduation were canceled amid COVID-19—inspire with such force a community that’s left her feeling, as she said, “like an outsider.”

It all started, she told E!, with an off-handed comment on FaceTime.

Michael Coons/Acorn Newspapers

“I was honestly just on FaceTime with one of my friends, Alyssa Brown, and I was like ‘You know what, we should do a protest in Simi,'” Foster said. “And she was like, ‘Why are you still talking to me? Go plan it.'”

She’d only ever been to one protest in her life up until that point—for the environment—but she knew she wanted to take action at home just as people were doing all over the country. “What happened to George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor has been happening to black people for forever,” Foster explained. “I don’t think it was necessarily like this new thing happened. It was more so just this built up fact of this happening over and over again, and me always feeling like I couldn’t do anything. Like I was too young.”

Read

Keke Palmer Explains Why Participating in Recent Protest Had a “Different Energy”

It was only after she attended a protest in L.A.’s Pan Pacific Park that she became resolute in her plan to take action. 

“That definitely did help with that feeling of empowerment,” Foster said. “Just feeling that unity, that we all have that one common goal and we’re all here to support one another, was very helpful [in] keeping myself motivated, even when I was being threatened or there were certain people saying that I shouldn’t do it.”

It certainly didn’t hurt that she’s been drawing on Grown-ish actress and activist Yara Shahidi as her “number one inspiration.” As Foster explained of her affection for Shahidi, “Yara has always been very outspoken and never shies away from the camera when people start asking ‘difficult questions.’ She uses her platform to bring light to the injustices Black people go through and empowers the Black community and younger generation to become more involved. She even founded her own summit to bring together young activists in the community and vocalize the importance of voting.”

After casually shooting off a tweet—”‘Protest in Simi? I’m in'” or something like that,” she recalled—prompted more reaction than she was expecting, she, Brown, and a few other friends got to work on the simple logistics of when and where and mocked up a flier. Once the visual began circulating, she was contacted by Ruth Luevanos, a member of the Simi Valley City Council.

Courtesy Leslie Foster

Foster said Luevanos wanted to show her support, telling the organizer she thought Foster was “doing a great thing.” It was through the council member, she added, that Foster “was able to meet a bunch of different other community leaders and community organizers that eventually did help me make Saturday happen.”

Not everyone was as supportive as Luevanos, however. After emailing the entire City Council, as well as the town’s mayor, chief of police, and school board, to “give these public officials a chance to be involved in the community and, you know, let our voices truly be heard to people that oftentimes are the ones making decisions on specific things going on in the city,” Mayor Pro Tem Mike Judge made public her letter and his response to it without receiving Foster’s consent.

In his response, as reported by local paper Ventura County Star, Judge wrote that he was “hard pressed to find one example of a truly peaceful protest,” and that “almost all of the protest to date, have turned to violence and destruction.” He then asked her to “reconsider this protest march, and call it off.”

Read

Why Regina King Is Balancing “Optimism” and “Pain” Amid Global Protests

As Foster explained, “Under his original post…a lot of the comments were honestly in support of me and saying like how inappropriate that was of him. Her social media, however, was a different story. “There [was] a lot of people saying, ‘We’re not going to let you in Simi Valley’ and one person even said, ‘You’re going to find out what an AR-15 looks like close up…I had been getting a little bit of that before he had posted it, but obviously since everyone knew that it was me now, and my name is so unique, I think that did give my social media a lot more traction and attention to some interesting people to say the least.”

Judge and the City of Simi Valley have yet to return E! News’ request for comment, however the Ventura County Star reported on June 4 that Judge said he posted the exchange “for transparency.” The report continued, “He also said that since she used his city email address, the email was a public record and that her name was already out on social media as one of the protest organizers.”

Courtesy Leslie Foster

Despite the threats going so far as to include a claim that someone had “found my address, my phone number and pictures of my family,” Foster remained committed to the cause. After talking it over with her mom, Leslie Foster, she was reminded of her family’s history in the fight for civil rights. “Her parents…were part of CORE [Congress of Racial Equality] back in the ’60s,” she shared, referencing her maternal grandparents. “My grandpa marched with Martin Luther King Jr. and…they had heard worse than I had and they kept going and kept going. So that really helped me keep that motivation.”

“The people that are saying all of these things are just proving to me that this does need to happen because there’s a lot of people in Simi who feel how I do and who did feel isolated in elementary and middle and high school,” Foster continued, “and who are really going to have a positive impact from the sort of unity that would come out of Saturday.”

Photos

Celebrities Attending Protests Over George Floyd’s Death

Despite the fears, threats and boarded-up businesses, which Foster admitted probably had “an impact on people who are already kind of scared to come,” she and her group of volunteer-based “peacemakers” did just that: hosted a march and subsequent rally, with a program of speakers, that resulted in zero incidents of violence and ended right on time.

Reception to the event has been overwhelmingly warm, Foster told E!. “There have been a lot of new people who will just DM me or message me or something, and it’s really so nice,” she explained. “I have such a hard time accepting it because they’ll say, ‘Thank you for putting this on. Our city needed it, it really helped empower the city.’ And I’m like, ‘Yeah, I know, but also, you don’t have to thank me.’ Most of the time I’ll just reply with, ‘Oh, thank you. That’s so sweet.’ But yeah, I’ve just received so much support.”

On top of the support, people have also begun asking what’s next. Her response? “I’m like, ‘Yes I’m thinking. I got you. We still have to be careful because of COVID-19, but we’re going to do something because this movement is far from done.”

As she ponders her next steps and prepares to attend UCLA in the fall, where she’ll study business economics and political science with a minor in global studies, Foster said, “I have always known that I will be involved in activism somehow, but am still learning exactly which way that will take form.”

For now, she hopes to encourage other people her age out there in small towns similar to Simi Valley who might be interested in following in her footsteps.

“I would say do it,” Foster said with a laugh. “Definitely know what you’re walking into because it’s a lot of work and I definitely wasn’t prepared. But as long as you have that strong support system—nine times out of 10, you’re not going to be the only person in that community who wants to do this and who wants something to change…Just do it.”

Trending
Stories

Recoup a Bit of That Prom Season Magic With These Throwbacks of Stars at the Big Dance

Recoup a Bit of That Prom Season Magic With These Throwbacks of Stars at the Big Dance

  • By

    &

by

Sarah Grossbart

|

Sat., Jun. 13, 2020 12:00 AM

  • Share

  • Tweet

  • Email



If the world of pop culture and everyone who loves and follows it (that’d be you, E! News reader) were a high school, celebrities would undoubtedly be the cool kids.

Just think how breathlessly we consume the minutiae of their daily lives. We cheer for the class couples (hi, Chrissy Teigen and John Legend!), speculate over who is most likely to succeed (at the Oscars, on the Met Gala red carpet, throughout television’s fall schedule) and campaign for who we’d like to see as president. (So, Oprah Winfrey, that’s a firm no?) 

And we’re forever declaring someone queen. See: Zendaya, Ariana Grande, and, as always, Beyoncé

Photos

Best Prom Movies

So no shock here that in real life, future celebs were already being crowned in high school with everyone from Meryl Streep to Halle Berry honored by their classmates from New Jersey and Ohio. (Also, Will Ferrell just straight up snagged his date’s tiara, which we’re absolutely here for.) 

And while pretty much no high schooler is able to go to prom this year, unless it’s the virtual kind or a backyard date put together by the sweetest babysitting charge you ever did see and there are many heavy, entirely imperative conversations happening, we can all still enjoy a bit of levity with these throwbacks of your favorite stars at the big dance. Because while some promgoers were every bit as impossibly chic as you’d imagine (though, to be fair, Yara Shahidi was a high school senior in Ungaro all of three years ago) others fell victim to the same trends we all tried. (Remember two-piece formalwear?) 

Also, if you need more convincing, we’ll leave you with two words: ’80s hair. 

Instagram

John Stamos

Have mercy! “#TBT #Prom #Hair,” he wrote on Instagram.

Allure

Taraji P. Henson

The Empire actress was homecoming queen when she attended Oxon Hill High School in Maryland. She graduated in 1988. She told Allure in a June on-camera interview, “I really didn’t think I was gonna win. That’s a very surprised look. I used to rock honey blond in high school. I was blonde before Beyoncé.”

Twitter

Lance Bass & Danielle Fishel

Can you believe the ‘N Sync singer went to prom with the Boy Meets World beauty?!

Instagram

Jaden Smith

Looks like Smith is in high demand for this season’s prom nights. The Hunger Games actress Amandla Stenberg took her pal to high school’s most anticipated evening. 

Courtesy Giuliana Rancic

Giuliana Rancic

It looks like the E! News cohost always had a flair for fashion.

Seth Poppel/Yearbook Library

Britney Spears

Looks like the singer has always been a daddy’s girl! The pop star poses with her father for her freshman formal dance. 

Seth Poppel/Yearbook Library

George Clooney

The good-looking star flashes his handsome mug at junior prom. 

Seth Poppel/Yearbook Library

Reese Witherspoon

The Oscar winner was a stunner way before she was Legally Blonde! The Southern beauty rocks dark red lips in this shot from senior year. 

Seth Poppel/Yearbook Library

Carrie Underwood

The country crooner was always destined to be a star, even in her senior prom pic. 

Instagram

Jaden Smith

The ultimate superhero prom king! The 16-year-old makes a bold fashion statement dressed in the same Batman costume he wore to Kim Kardashian and Kanye West’s wedding. 

Seth Poppel/Yearbook Library

Dianna Agron

Looks like the Glee star didn’t use her own high school persona to channel mean girl Quinn Fabray. The TV star flashes an adorable smile after being crowned junior homecoming princess. 

Seth Poppel/Yearbook Library

Amanda Seyfried

The blond beauty looks adorable as she poses with her pals in her junior homecoming pic. 

Seth Poppel/Yearbook Library

Elizabeth Banks

The Hunger Games star is barely recognizable in this shot from her senior-year dance, where she was crowned queen. 

Seth Poppel/Yearbook Library

Fergie

Looks like this mama-to-be was just as Fergalicious in her high school days! The singer was all smiles in her senior prom court pic. 

Seth Poppel/Yearbook Library

Paul Rudd

Apparently, the funnyman has been stealing hearts since his high school days. The This Is 40 star proudly poses in a pic for the senior homecoming court. Love the mullet, man. 

Seth Poppel/Yearbook Library

Sandra Bullock

The Oscar-winning actress looks elated as she dances with her senior year homecoming date. 

Seth Poppel/Yearbook Library

Renée Zellweger

The Bridget Jones star rocks her best ’80’s bangs at her senior Christmas dance. 

Seth Poppel/Yearbook Library

Halle Berry

All hail Halle! The actress was crowned prom queen back in her high school days. 

Seth Poppel/Yearbook Library

Kellie Pickler

Apparently, the country crooner had killer abs (and wasn’t afraid to flaunt ’em!) at her junior prom. We’re jealous. 

Seth Poppel/Yearbook Library

Kim Kardashian

The E! star is gorgeous in her senior prom pic. 

Seth Poppel/Yearbook Library

Kristin Chenoweth

The singer was cute as a button—and brunette!—in her 8th grade dance photo. 

Seth Poppel/Yearbook Library

Lance Bass

The high school sophmore sports suit for the formal dance. 

Seth Poppel/Yearbook Library

Lindsay Lohan

The 26-year-old actress—who is currently serving 90 days in locked down rehab—looks innocent as ever in her freshman homecoming photo. 

Seth Poppel/Yearbook Library

Brooklyn Decker

We bet the brunette beauty had no idea she’d grow up to be a Sports Illustrated stunner when she posed for this junior homecoming pic. 

Seth Poppel/Yearbook Library

Ryan Seacrest

How handsome! The American Idol host flashes his now-famous smile during his senior homecoming night.  

Seth Poppel/Yearbook Library

Snooki

The pint-size reality star was all smiles on her senior prom night in Marlboro, N.Y., back in 2006. 

Seth Poppel/Yearbook Library

Debra Messing

The Smash star shows off her ’80s hairstyle in her senior homecoming shot. 

Seth Poppel/Yearbook Library

Lizzy Caplan

The Mean Girls star wasn’t afraid to push the boundaries in her senior homecoming pic. Janis Ian would be proud! 

Seth Poppel/Yearbook Library

Faith Hill

Where’s Tim McGraw?! The singer was all smiles on senior homecoming night, long before she met her hubby of 16 years. 

Seth Poppel/Yearbook Library

Meryl Streep

Before she took home any Oscars, the Academy Award-winning actress was voted senior homecoming queen. 

Seth Poppel/Yearbook Library

Montell Williams

The talk-show host shows off some serious swag on his senior prom night. 

Seth Poppel/Yearbook Library

Meg Ryan

Before she was adorably exchanging emails with Tom Hanks on the silver screen, the actress was voted prom queen. 

Seth Poppel/Yearbook Library

Will Ferrell

Of course, the funnyman rocked a crown for his prom pic (as if we’d expect anything less!). 

Seth Poppel/Yearbook Library

Randy Jackson

Before his days as a judge on American Idol, the singer was busy showing off his best tough guy ‘tude in his senior prom pic. 

Seth Poppel/Yearbook Library

Stacy Keibler

George Clooney’s gal’s style may have changed, but the 5-foot 11-inch stunner still towers over her pals in her semi formal shot. 

Seth Poppel/Yearbook Library

Magic Johnson

Johnson hasn’t just been king of the basketball court, he was also crowed homecoming prince!

NEXT GALLERY: Celebrity Yearbook Photos!

Trending
Stories