Meet the Creator
Anya (a.k.a. AJ) Dillard is a 17-year-old youth activist, womanist, performing artist, philanthropist, aspiring filmmaker, and future mass communications major. She is also the Founder and editor of The Next Gen Come Up.
Since she was young, Anya was known for her generosity and compassion. At just 5 years old, she started an annual Holiday gift-giving charity at Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center in Brooklyn, New York. Gaining thousands of dollars in sponsorships annually, Anya was able to provide clothes, toys, and necessities to the children living at Kingsbrook’s long-term care unit. Over the past 10 years, running this charity has been just one of many amazing things Anya has pursued.
Growing up in a family of black artists and entrepreneurs, Anya became extremely interested in the arts, while simultaneously studying STEM careers and environmental science. Being so multifaceted inspired her to find an avenue in which all of her passions could thrive, and that avenue was activism. Upon entering high school, she participated in protests demanding justice for the victims of the Parkland, FL shooting and performed at many annual Pride Expos advocating for the #blacklivesmatter movement and honoring Black History Month. She also became a spokesperson for period poverty awareness in her school and co-organized one of the largest #BlackLivesMatter protests in the history of West Orange, New Jersey - one that summoned a crowd of over 3000 people!
On top of her work as an activist, Anya is the 2nd black female Student Council President at her High School, an advanced honors student, and 3rd-year alumni of the BLACK GIRLS ROCK (BLACK GIRLS LEAD) Association created by Beverly Bond in partnership with BET. Over the years, she has won countless Presidential awards for her outstanding academic achievements and graduated from the Envision STEM Scholars Program in 2016 as well as the Honors Institute for Humanities at her High School in 2019. Anya has also been interviewed by Seventeen magazine, The Homegirl Project, Girls Who Code, HerVoiceMatters.com, The Represent Movement, Half The Story, and was even invited to the 2017 Presidential Inauguration (she proudly declined).
Her goal with creating The Next Gen Come Up was to not only spread awareness but to create a community of like minded teen leaders who want to empower each other, inspire the world, and spark real change in their communities. With so many things in the works, Anya is always engaged and advancing, but she is always one to stress that her favorite thing is seeing other women of color disrupt the narrative, create inclusive avenues, and become leaders in their communities as well.