Seventeen years old, Central senior Daja Wilson has been in the ring for many years. She swings left and swiftly dodges a low blow all before she throws a right hook that hits life square in the face.
Throughout her life she’s had to battle stereotypes, bullies, and sexism. Somehow she’s managed to defend herself while still growing into a strong-willed and intelligent person. It all started in her younger years when she was quite literally throwing punches.
“When I was younger I was a fighter,” Daja said, describing the change she underwent as a kid. “As I got older I became more reserved.”
As Daja mellowed out in middle school, she focused more on her school work and she found out she was very smart. She was taking all honors classes throughout the entirety of her education.
Though Daja’s grades didn’t falter, it took a toll on her social life, especially among her African-American peers.
She felt her intelligence separated herself from her peers and they sometimes would pick on her. Not only did she get bullied, but she felt pressure from her other African-American peers that she had to stay in her honors courses for them.
“They kept telling me that I had to prove to other races that we are smart, too. They told me that I have to represent our race because no one else would,” Daja said.
It was from this moment that she felt isolated for many years to come. She soon became one of the few African-American girls in her accelerated classes, and she felt like she was burdened by the responsibility of success in school and to beat the black stereotypes.
“I guess the idea was drilled into my head for so long that I believed them,” she said thoughtfully.
This mindset changed when Daja joined African-American club and met a friend who shared her experiences.
“Ever since she gave up [that responsibility], she seemed so happy and free,” Daja said.
Her friend convinced her to let go of a battle that she has been fighting since she was a young middle schooler.
Over the summer, Daja became an active feminist after experiencing unjust treatment for the way she dressed while attending the college prep program, Upward Bound, where Daja received money to do class work.
When she arrived to class one day, a staff member informed her that her shorts were too short and they threatened to take away their money from her until she changed.
“I have always had to change to fit someone else’s idea of what was appropriate but this was taking it too far,” Daja explained.
For her whole life Daja has had to fight for her peers, herself, and for other women. She hopes to continue this fight when she studies English and Communications in college where she will strive to be an editor for young adult books.