Today we’d like to introduce you to Tiana Okoye.
So, before we jump into specific questions, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
Hello! My name is Tiana Okoye. I am an actor and singer who recently found joy in organizing and volunteer work. I grew up on the traditional land of the Tongva and Kizh nations now known as Rancho Cucamonga, but I currently reside on Chumash native land in West Hollywood (https://native-land.ca/)
My journey with organizing and activism began during quarantine…
After the murders of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor, I was looking for ways to invoke thoughtful and impactful discussions that lead to actionable change. Through my heartbreak and outrage, I turned to social media and felt specifically lead to creating a plan of action for my community. I knew that systemic change couldn’t happen overnight, and pointed my focus on the upcoming local elections to inspire activism through voting.
I saw a close friend of mine, Tory Trowbridge, post about her letter writing with Vote Forward and became enthusiastic about the thought of reaching out to voters across the country who might feel as if their vote doesn’t count or matter. Together, we gathered all our friends to write letters to low propensity and underrepresented voters every Thursday night. Because of the social climate and civil rights uproar, we didn’t just stop with letter writing. We used the group to discuss the deep-rooted systemic issues our democracy faced and what we could do to change it. As a group, we made calls to Daniel Cameron to demand justice for Breonna Taylor, we wrote to our senators about Elijah McClain, we advocated for progressive legislature, all while continuing to educate ourselves on the various intersectionalities of the voter issues that are important to us.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
It has been extremely difficult yet inspiring for many reasons. First and foremost, I have chosen to help lead, discuss, and educate people on issues that I, myself, am still searching to understand. However, that is the beauty of this organization. I don’t pretend to be an expert in every issue important to every American, but I strive towards that goal and I know there are many others who want to do the same. This is why we have opened up the conversation. Together we research, learn, and share what we’ve discovered not only to create more awareness and become better-informed citizens but to eventually serve as advocates for change.
Secondly, as a black woman, I found that the most difficult part of this work is realizing that white supremacy still reigns in every aspect of life despite the decades and movements towards equality. It is frustrating knowing that there are some who still don’t understand the concept and reality of the Black Lives Matter movement, or refuse to ask questions and investigate why they are uncomfortable accepting the statement. White supremacy is inherent in our foundation; It is the reason of discomfort, white fragility, and guilt around the issue. Because of that, it is going to take some serious work to dismantle, but we have to do it.
I strongly believe in order to grow and evolve as a society, we not only have to be open and receptive to not knowing all the answers but strive to work together towards a more equitable and harmonious life for EVERYONE. Of course, it will feel uncomfortable purely because we must navigate this change in a very individualistic society not used to such vulnerability and expansion in this way, but we can get there. This change takes an immense amount of empathy, perseverance, and strong will to accomplish and we must do it TOGETHER.
I understand the journey and involvement in politics can be different for each individual; some want no part in it, some are all in. However, the more we push ourselves past the social and economic circle we find comfort in, the more we can come to a deeper understanding of one another, and advocate for the ones who need it the most…the more become activists in our own way.
We’d love to hear more about your organization.
The Hive For Change is a grassroots organization inspiring action and accountability in all who are hungry to make a difference. We are ordinary people with extraordinary passion invoking change in society by providing action steps and an open dialogue for political awareness, environmental consciousness, and social advocacy.
We began by meeting every week to write letters through Vote Forward and discuss current issues. More recently, we meet every other week to research and discuss specific topics important to our community. This involves: healthcare disparities, reproductive justice, intersectional environmentalism, immigrant rights and much more. On our off weeks, we volunteer and phone bank for Knock for Democracy and other organizations to increase voter turnout as well as educate voters on local candidates.
I am most proud of the members of TH4C. Each week I learn something new and never fail to leave our zoom meetings feeling inspired. My friend Daniel has written over 1000 letters to voters over the past five months… my other friends Coby, Maggie, and co-organizer Tory have been phone banking 3x’s a week… my girl Melissa has educated us on intersectional environmentalism and divesting from fast fashion….and my other co-organizers Kelsey and Kaitlin lead our sister group of artists (Art Save The Vote) to produce creative content to get out the vote (Kaitlin even wrote a SONG that I got to sing on!).
I am overjoyed that friends have found the urgency to get involved in organizations that are doing work that is important to them. It is encouraging to see a large group of friends of friends committing to learning and advocating for positive change in our environment, racial justice, healthcare system, and encouraging people to vote through it all.
What sets TH4C apart from other organizations is the fact that we have no motive other than to discuss, advocate, and empower. That is it! We serve as a conduit to organizations who have been doing the work for decades. Together we are making waves day to day by having tough discussions with family, promoting more diversity and inclusion at our workplaces, and sharing what we learn along the way.
Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
I don’t know if I truly believe in luck, but fate has brought us together and kept us going. We needed community, and this group came just when we needed it. It makes me emotional to think that the origins of TH4C were community outreach and continue to be community outreach. I am excited to see where we go and even more excited to see what we can accomplish together.
- Website: thehiveforchange.org
- Email: email@example.com
- Instagram: @thehiveforchange
Headshot: Jacob Smith Studios @jacobsmithstudios jacobsmithstudios.com, Logo: Brandon Rosenfeld