Paxton Smith, a reproductive rights activist, might be one of the most impressive 18-year-olds out there. In July of 2021, Smith risked her high school diploma by swapping out her approved valedictorian speech for an impactful speech about abortion rights in Texas, specifically calling out the state's "heartbeat bill." The speech went viral immediately and rocketed Paxton to the forefront of the reproductive rights movement in the U.S. She is currently co-authoring a book with Gloria Allred, Wendy Davis, Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney, Judie Saunders, Sadie Hernandez called "A War on My Body" that's going to be published in 2022. She also now travels the country giving speeches on abortion activism. She's on the board of the Women's Reproductive Rights Assistance Project and on the advisory board for AisFor. If that wasn't enough, Paxton is also a talented musician and is currently producing her first album.
We recently had Paxton in Diem to chat with us about her journey as an activist and her thoughts on speaking out for what you believe in. Here's an excerpt on that conversation:
Diem: What’s your work title (the professional you)?
Paxton Smith: Abortion Rights Activist and Musician
Diem: What’s your real-life title (the real you)?
PS: Singer, Songwriter, and Queen of Failing to Recognize Sarcasm
Diem: Where are you Dieming from?
Diem: What’s the best part of your day?
PS: My unbalanced breakfast
Diem: We like to think of Diem as the place you go to for a trusted exchange of knowledge—it's an extension of the group chat you have with your best friends. What knowledge would you like to share with the community? This can be advice, a tip, or a valuable piece of information you want other people in the community to know.
PS: Those who disagree with you are not your opponents, but rather your partners in thought.
Diem: If Diem is a meta-verse, and you’re an avatar—what’s your superpower?
Diem: What change would you like to see in the world? What are you doing to help bring this change to fruition?
PS: I would like for abortion to not only be legal, but accessible to all people, regardless of race, age, gender, or income. To help make this a reality, I serve on the board for both WRRAP and AisFor, in addition to keynote speaking across the country.
Diem: What kind of community events will you be bringing to Diem?
PS: The possibilities are endless!! Info/education sessions are where I'll start.
Diem: What exciting things do you have going on that you’d like people to know about?
PS: I have a book coming out on January 22, 2022! It is called "A War on My Body" and it will center around the many perspectives on abortion that are far too often ignored. All the proceeds will be donated to The Afiya Center!
Diem: What are three other women or non-binary pioneers you’d like to shout out?
PS: Mika Simmons. Mika is the founder of The Happy Vagina, a platform that aims to open the conversation about women's experiences and gynecological health. This platform, for me personally, has been much needed. They destigmatize a lot of the natural things that I was taught to be ashamed of growing up.
Diana Weymar. Diana is the founder of the Tiny Pricks Project. She and a group of volunteers hand stitch quotes from current times into fabric, creating a material record of the impactful words and events that affect not just the U.S., but across the world.
Greta Thunberg. I'm sure we all already know who this is, but Greta is one of my biggest inspirations as an activist, so I feel obliged to include her in my three. Greta is an 18-year-old climate activist, working every day to bring attention to the existential threat that climate change poses to us all.
One more! Mikki Kendall. Mikki is the author of Amazons, Abolitionists, & Activists, as well as Hood Feminism (the book I'm reading now!). She focuses on bringing attention to the intersectionality of race and gender, shifting the narrative of feminism from centering on primarily white individuals to include all races. In America (and in many other countries), race plays a role in just about everything, but it is downplayed in the media to an unthinkable extent. I cannot stress enough how important it is to take the time to listen, read, and educate yourself on the racial disparities in your nation.
More quotes from Paxton that we loved in this conversation...
"Knowledge is such a powerful tool."
On her viral valedictorian speech...
"I wanted people to know how it felt to have that basic human right taken away from you."
On advocating for yourself and others...
You are your own biggest advocate. If you are afraid of saying something, then other people will be afraid too. Nobody is going to save the day for you—you need to be the facilitator. And when you do speak out, you can’t expect to have an immediate, global impact. But you will have an impact on somebody. While your voice may not cause a huge shift, you can absolutely affect an individual."
On what the words Body Power mean to her...
"To me, Body Power means being in charge of your own body and your own mind. Doing what you want to do with yourself."
On asking for help...
"Ask for help. It’s so easy to be like, ‘I’m strong, I can do this by myself.’ And maybe you could, but with some held you could do it better with someone else’s advice."
Paxton can be found in Diem at @PaxtonSmith and next up she wants to invite Deja Foxx into a conversation in Diem!