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Where Youth Advocate Jadayah Spencer Finds Her Power

by the Editors March 02, 2019

If you ever doubt that real change is possible in this world, just spend a day with Jadayah Spencer.

Brimming with optimism that’s only rivaled by her action, this 23-year-old force for change is the executive director of the International Youth Leadership Institute (IYLI), an NGO dedicated to educating and fostering leadership among young people, particularly those of African descent and indigenous people worldwide. 

Spencer, a Brooklyn native, is also an ambassador for Global Citizen, the worldwide platform that works to fight poverty and promote education, with a global project this year focused on achieving gender equality. Recently, Spencer hopped on a Citi Bike® bicycle to take Life and Money by Citi through her day, with stops for Senegalese bissap tea, at the campus of her alma mater and a martial arts studio that helps her stay focused to take on the world as she does.

Watch the video above and read below for more about each stop on her tour.

Le Paris Dakar
 

1365 Fulton Street / Bedford-Stuyvesant

Stately rows of historic brownstones line the streets of Bed-Stuy, the tight-knit Brooklyn enclave Spencer calls home. It bustles with locally owned businesses like La Paris Dakar. This cozy café — where Spencer often starts her day — draws neighbors in with their savory and sweet crepes, delicate croissants and the traditional Senegalese hibiscus tea bissap. “The flavors, the people, the music, atmosphere … everything is so welcoming and speaks to the beauty of West African cultures,” Spencer says.
 

New York University
 

70 Washington Square South / Greenwich Village

Founded in 1831 to educate the growing number of New York City residents, NYU now enrolls students from every U.S. state and 133 countries around the world. Spencer, a standout student, started at NYU at 16 and graduated at 19.

Her work with IYLI regularly brings her back to campus to collaborate with the Liberty Partnership Program at NYU to facilitate workshops that empower high school students. “Youth have to understand that we don’t have to wait to make change,” Spencer says. “We can make change right now.”

When she has the free time, Spencer strolls through vibrant Washington Square Park and the surrounding area.
 

Negril Village
 

70 West Third Street / Greenwich Village

“For a quick bite,” Spencer says, “I like to wander through the Village. There’s an Ethiopian spot, right across from an Italian spot, and just down the block Greek and Korean restaurants too.” She fittingly calls the area the U.N. of food.

One of her favorite places to grab lunch: Negril Village, a Jamaican restaurant. “It has such a welcoming vibe, and their mac and cheese is delicious.” Traditional dishes from throughout the Caribbean — Trinidad, Puerto Rico, Jamaica — are given a modern spin and paired with tropical cocktails. Check the calendar to catch DJs or live calypso, reggae and Latin bands.
 

United Nations Headquarters
 

405 East 42nd Street / Turtle Bay

Founded in 1945 to protect and promote human rights globally, the United Nations comprises 193 Member States. A tour of its soaring headquarters in Manhattan is not to be missed. The 39-story skyscraper, clad in dove-white marble and glass, was designed by prominent architects in the post-World War II spirit of unity that the U.N. set to exemplify and uphold. Book in advance for one of the guided tours of the diplomacy organization and several of its historic chambers offered Mondays through Fridays.

Spencer, who serves as co-chair on the U.N. Department of Public Information’s NGO Youth Representative Programme, says that her work at the U.N. “opens your mind to global issues and reminds you how important it is to uplift the voices of people who may not be heard so readily.”
 

MAUSA Health and Fitness Center
 

759 Washington Avenue / Prospect Heights

Following in the agile — and athletic — footsteps of her family, Spencer practices martial arts at the MAUSA center in the Prospect Heights neighborhood in Brooklyn. Skilled trainers impart lessons in traditional and urban martial arts, but the practice is deeper than a workout for most students, Spencer included. She says, “Martial arts helps me clear my mind, strengthen my spirit, and gets me ready to face tomorrow.”
 

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