Melissa Denizard, a native of Haiti, is a 21-year old activist, organizer, and documentarian. Since high school, Melissa has been committed to social justice, particularly pro-Black liberation. She uses several mediums, including public speaking, film, digital media, graphic design, and the written word, to help innovate Gen Z’s approach to political theory and discourse, specifically in regards to how they address issues relating to race, gender, and social class within the United States’ political framework.
Along with providing a grounding for her political ideology and praxis, Black Feminism serves as a guiding light for Melissa’s perpetual self-reflection. Melissa has continuously and brilliantly utilized her identity as the beacon for her social justice work.
In high school, Melissa founded and organized StrongER Students, a student advocacy group that advocated for a just education system in New York State's predominantly low-income and immigrant Black and Latino East Ramapo Central School District. The student-led rally led to a meeting with top New York State Senators; this meeting spearheaded the restoration of a New York State funded three-year arts and music programs and full day kindergarten in the East Ramapo Central School District. StrongER Students also pushed the Superintendent of Schools to begin meeting regularly with the district's students -- an initiative that acknowledged students as key stakeholders in the school district's decision making process. Over a span of six years, Melissa has gained experience with leading and organizing local social justice organizations and movements.
Through her work with social justice and documentary filmmaking, Melissa used her own funds to visit Puerto Rico to learn more about Hurricane Maria's effects on the island. While in Puerto Rico, she captured footage for Los Olvidados, a documentary she created about Puerto Rico's financial crisis, the effects of Hurricane Maria on the island, and whether Puerto Rico should pursue independence or statehood from the United States. Subsequently, Melissa hosted and organized a film screening followed by a student panel that encouraged community building and provided a platform for the audience to learn more about social justice issues in Puerto Rico. Shortly after, in October 2018, Melissa created a proposal that secured $1,000 in grant funding through Babson College’s Glavin Global Fellows Program to conduct research and ultimately create a docuseries on the Flint Water Crisis. The key purpose of this docuseries, How to Celebrate Thanksgiving Without Clean Water, is to look at how and why Flint, Michigan, an American city with a primarily poor and Black population was thrust into this environmental, economic, and human rights disaster.
As an alumna of the Young People For Fellowship, Melissa had the opportunity to expand upon her technological social venture Voice, which is an online platform that aims to make digital organizing more equitable, efficient, and sufficient for contemporary grassroots activists.
In 2018, Melissa’s YouTube video, "Unbraid with Me: Is Hair Political?" was featured on Brut Media and Refinery29. Later that year, her blog post, "Don't Tell Me to Smile: A Commentary on Harassment in the Service Industry" – a testimony of her time working at a fast food restaurant in Nanuet, NY -- was adapted into a TEDx talk for TEDxTarrytown.