The stories of young African writers must be heard

 Mirabelle with students during the Sunrise School Tour in Calabar. (Courtesy of Sunrise Youth Intervention Organization)

Mirabelle with students during the Sunrise School Tour in Calabar. (Courtesy of Sunrise Youth Intervention Organization)

My journey creating a digital platform for their voices.

Growing up, I noticed the power of writers in Nigeria — to influence, to entertain, to educate. I wanted to give young writers that same platform. So in 2016, I started BlankPaperz to amplify the voices of students across Africa. By publishing their stories online, we hope to build a community of young African writers who use their words to address social issues around them.

Since its inception, over 120 writers from 12 countries have contributed to BlankPaperz. We received close to 400 online submissions and 80,000 website views. The pieces we publish cover a range of topics — public health, education, sexual assault, mental health and poverty. BlankPaperz is now expanding to hold writing workshops and other events for both teens and members of the public in Calabar.

 Mirabelle arriving in New York as a Global Teen Leader. (Courtesy of We Are Family Foundation)

Mirabelle arriving in New York as a Global Teen Leader. (Courtesy of We Are Family Foundation)

The exciting part about being the editor of BlankPaperz is that I get to meet a lot of amazing young people who are working on diverse social projects. But being the editor comes with its challenges.

When I organized my first “Bloggers & Writers Meet” event in 2017, I wasn’t sure if anyone would attend it. A friend of mine was particularly discouraging — but I didn’t let his negativity and my fear cripple me. On the day of the event, the venue was filled and some people had to sit outside. It was a huge success. And the same friend who was unsupportive later asked me to help him organize his own event!

It also isn’t always easy finding a balance between school, BlankPaperz, personal life and other activities. Sometimes I ask myself: “Dear Mirabelle, if you want to someday be the next African to get the Nobel Prize in Literature, why then are you not always writing? Why are you too busy encouraging others to write and seeking more ways to amplify voices and stories that must be heard?” Well that’s tricky, but what I do know is that I am sincerely grateful for every single person who has mentored and guided in my writing. That inspires me to encourage and support as many other young writers as I can.

So to you out there wanting to cause positive change, remember to surround yourself with good people who believe in you. And remember that your voice matters. Maybe you don’t think you’re strong enough. Maybe you don’t think your story is important. But you are strong enough and your story is important. You never know how far the wind will take your message, who will hear it and what change it will bring.


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mirabelle Morah is the founder and editor of Blankpaperz. She is one of We Are Family Foundation’s 2018 Global Teen Leaders and an Obama Young African Leader with YALI West Africa.