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ChangeMakers: Fighting for Social Justice on Her ‘City Bloc’

Makayla Gilliam-Price is a student activist who has participated in several actions in the last year including the student led shutdown of City Hall. Andre Chung / for NBC News

Baltimore: ChangeMakers will introduce you to some of the individuals who are engaging youth, seeking to improve their neighborhoods block by block, and demanding that their voices be heard in corridors of power. Each one is different but determined in their own unique way to change the paradigm in the city, pushing to help rebuild it one day, one person at a time.


ChangeMaker: Makayla Gilliam-Price

Hashtag: #younggiftedandblack #citybloc

When Makayla Gilliam-Price strode across the stage recently to receive her high school diploma, it was another milestone in what’s been a whirlwind few years of passion and purpose.

The 18-year-old Baltimore activist has used her voice and leadership skills to illuminate social justice issues both at school and within the broader community.

From organizing a student walk-out in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, to co-founding a student action organization called “City Bloc,” Gilliam-Price is deeply committed to affecting positive change.

And while she was civically engaged prior to the 2015 police custody death of Freddie Gray, that pivotal event amplified her efforts.

“What has been instilled in me as a necessary value from my familial legacy and mentors is the need to fight for power,” she says. “There’s a distinct difference between power and privilege. I’m talking about the power to create our own institutions, protect our own, and live freely.”

Image: Change Makers
Makayla Gilliam-Price Andre Chung / for NBC News

Last October in Baltimore, Gilliam-Price was among several dozen protestors who occupied city hall during confirmation hearings of then-acting (now current) police commissioner, Kevin Davis. The demonstrators, whose demands included presenting a social justice agenda, waged a 10-hour sit-in that lasted until about 3 a.m. After several warnings from police, she and 15 others were arrested.

“I was taken to a holding cell. it was terrifying and emotional,” says Gilliam-Price, who was 17 at the time. “A lot of anxious thoughts were going through my mind. but courage isn’t the absence of fear,” she adds, citing a Nelson Mandela quote. “My mom and so many people were supportive.”

RELATED: ChangeMakers: Meet Tessa Aston-Hill

Having been accepted into several colleges and received scholarship offers, the budding photojournalist (who hopes to someday own an independent media company) plans to take a gap year. Already, there have been speaking engagements, including TED Talks.

“My activism will continue in Baltimore and nationally,” says Gilliam-Price. “It’s about going into our communities and seeking the wisdom that is already there.”

Makayla Gilliam-Price is a student activist who has participated in several actions in the last year including the student led shutdown of City Hall. André Chung / for NBC News

Our Baltimore: Change Makers series will introduce you to some of the stand-out individuals who are part of a burgeoning movement. Each is determined to help the city rebuild, block by block, person by person, one day at a time. As you read their profiles we hope that you will be inspired to join the conversation and let us know, who are your neighborhood #ChangeMakers? #BaltimoreChangeMakers

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