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Tiffany Loftin: Raising her voice to make sure young black people's lives matter

“It is exhausting, but I do this work because I believe in it and because it affected me first. This is real life.”
Illustration of Tiffany Loftin.
Adriana Bellet / for NBC News

"She Thrives: Black Women Making History Today" puts the spotlight on 10 amazing individuals whose achievements transcend generations, occupations and regions. These women — all leaders in their communities — are truly elevating the conversation around black identity, politics and culture. Meet all of our "She Thrives" honorees here.


Tiffany Loftin


Director, NAACP Youth & College Division




Los Angeles. Lives in Washington, D.C.

Words you live by

“All you have to do in life is learn and have fun.” — Cookie Loftin, her mother

Your hero

Fannie Lou Hamer

How she thrives

Tiffany Loftin, director of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People's youth and college division, brought more than 1,000 students to participate in the March for Our Lives in Washington, D.C., in March 2018.

She made a passionate call for an inclusive movement as she stood amid the sea of marchers who were demanding gun control reform after the mass shooting at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, a month earlier.

“What they will not do is ignore black voices,” Loftin demanded in a viral clip recorded by The Crisis, the NAACP’s publication. “We’re talking about legislative issues and solutions for gun violence. It has to include the intersections of black violence.”

But speaking out is nothing new for Loftin. She’s been raising her voice since her undergraduate days at the University of California, Santa Cruz, where she was appointed the president of the United States Student Association and worked on securing financial aid for students of color. During her third year of college, someone carved nooses into the desks on campus. This prompted her to spearhead a campaign for a housing facility for black students, and for black students to have more say in hiring administration leaders who cared about their lives. She also served on former President Barack Obama’s White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans in Higher Education.

The viral clip was unexpected, but at an NAACP town hall meeting one month into her new role, Loftin knew she was doing meaningful work. Students spoke out about their personal frustrations with gun violence.

“I got recordings of a student saying, ‘I lost my mother and cousin this year alone from gun violence,’” she told NBCBLK. “It was a reminder to me that my voice and my leadership are essential to carrying the work forward in this association on behalf of students who may not have had that support before.”

Loftin continued building momentum in 2018 by pushing the NAACP’s engagement on issues affecting all black lives. “Our platform has to include the whole diaspora and the intersectionality of black folks,” she said.

For example, she made sure that a push for Cyntoia Brown’s clemency was a priority for the organization this year. Loftin trained student organizers on issues of sex trafficking and mass incarceration, and mobilized people to make phone calls and send emails to former Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam’s office. She also pushed for more empowering training for volunteers who were mobilizing voters in Georgia ahead of the 2018 midterm elections.

In 2019, Loftin wants to build more political power for people of color and connect social justice novices with established leaders.

“I get up every day excited to do this work,” she said. “It is exhausting, but I do this work because I believe in it and because it affected me first. This is real life.”

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