When President Donald J. Trump attempted his first Muslim ban, Najja Walker-X fought back with creativity. He began protesting by sitting during the National Anthem and after meeting with his team and coaches, he designed a T-shirt that reads, “I am a Muslim, I am a refugee, I am an immigrant, I am an American, I am an Ace” as a show of resistance to oppression.

He began selling the shirts and earned over $1,000 in the first week, which he donated to the American Civil Liberties Union.

“I was sitting down for the anthem, and a couple of my teammates joined me. The whole time I was sitting for the anthem, my mom said I had a send a message that sitting would actually make a change. The unity of the whole team wearing them [the shirts] and coming out at once just blew up. Fans started wearing them to a game,” Najja said. “The message that I was trying to spread is, ‘Just stop the hate.’ I just think anybody that wears or is in support of this shirt is just saying, ‘Immigrants are people, too. Refugees are people, too.’ Just put yourself in their shoes and think how they would feel at this certain time of living in America and would you want someone standing up for you.”

These young people are making a big difference, and they bring with them a robust vision for the future of church-state separation advocacy.

Najja’s brave stand made him one of two of Americans United’s 2017 Youth Activist Award winners, joining activist Amanda Scott.

Najja's not alone. Many young people share his spirit of activism. Their willingness to stand up against discrimination highlights how the future of religious freedom is in good hands.

It’s also why we collect stories from youth activists annually. These young people are making a big difference, and they bring with them a robust vision for the future of church-state separation advocacy.

Americans United recognizes young people under the age of 25 who have advocated for religious freedom and church-state separation in their community.

We’re looking for your stories about a time when you – or someone you know – stood up for the separation of church and state and religious freedom. Perhaps someone was using religion as an excuse to discriminate against you or someone else because of gender, race, sexual orientation or more. Or maybe your public school was promoting religion or requiring students to take part in religious activities. We want to hear how you or a friend stood up for religious freedom, the right to believe – or not – so long as it doesn’t harm others.

Americans United is a multi-faith organization comprised of people who profess faith as well as those who do not. Young people from all backgrounds are encouraged to share stories with us. If you’re not under 25 years old, you can still participate by sharing this post with a young person you know – or tell is that person’s story.