Zoe McGhee • Copy Editor
Before 19-year-old business management major Nya Lofters organized protests and was active in defending her heritage, she had to teach herself how to care for her differently textured hair, navigate foster care and recognize that she was set apart from many of her classmates.
“We lived in Fort Worth, and it was predominantly black, the neighborhood that we were in,” Lofters said. “It was never like, ‘You have a different history than this little white kid.’ I mean, we were kids, and we were just living.”
Living in foster care for three years after being removed from her mother’s care and residing in Fort Worth with her grandmother for one, Lofters and her family moved to the small town of Chandler.
“I didn’t really embrace my blackness until I came to [Chandler] because it’s predominantly white,” Lofters said. “It was kinda hard because, especially when I came to Chandler and Brownsboro, I was figuring myself out and becoming a teenager then, and I didn’t even know how to do my own hair.”
The residing county of both towns, Henderson County, has maintained a history of racial disparity. According to the U.S Census Bureau, 89.8% of the county population was of White descent, with 6.4% of Black or African-American descent, in 2019.
Despite living in a less diversified community, Lofters navigated questions about her culture by trial and error.
“All of my friends were white, and I was trying to ask them for tips on things, and my hair texture is different,” Lofters said chuckling. “I remember I almost completely fried my hair because I was washing it every other day like my friends did, and I was straightening it all the time like my friends did, and I realized, ‘Yeah, I probably shouldn’t be doing that on my hair.’“
Though Lofters has been forced to become her own teacher, she remains consistently strong in her identity.
“Nya has always been such a confident person, like with her body and especially her race,” long-time friend Amanda Paul said. “She’s never been like, ‘Oh, I wish I was a certain way.’ She’s always been so proud to be herself, and I’ve always admired that.”
Celebrating and defending her heritage amid the Black Lives Matter movement, Lofters has attended multiple protests, including one she organized, and uses her voice for change on social media.
“The first protest I went to was one that I organized myself,” Lofters said. “I was honestly kinda nervous, and I thought that nobody would show up, but everybody showed up, and a lot of my friends from high school were there, and I honestly felt very supported and proud.”
Standing testament to Lofters’ actions, Paul described her consistent do-good nature.
“Nya has always been a bold person, even in high school,” Paul said. “She always stands up for what’s right, even if she loses friends over it. She doesn’t care as long as it’s what’s right.”
With rioting and looting swarming the media, Lofters expressed gratitude toward her current hometown for how it’s been handling the situation.
“There’s no rioting [in Tyler], it’s just peaceful,” Lofters said. “[The BLM movement] hasn’t affected me as much as it has people in other cities because Tyler is very calm about this situation. It’s really made me proud to live where I live.”
Currently attending the University of Texas at Tyler, Lofters explained her love of the diversity on campus.
“Even walking on campus for the first time before I was a student here, I saw people who looked like me and people who looked way different than me,” Lofters said excitedly. “It was nice that no matter where I went, there was always a variety of people. Everybody accepts everybody for who they are over here, and they really like it.”
Lofters wishes to continue to fight for what she believes in, and she demands a societal shift.
“I do for sure want to see change,” Lofters said. “I want some laws to change to where Black people aren’t targeted and that nobody of color is targeted. I want to see that everybody is on the same playing field as each other. That’s my big thing is equality, like no matter what race, gender or sexuality, I just want equality.”