Christian Yohannes

Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Young Defender Christian Yohannes is a 20-year-old George Washington University junior, from Leesburg, Virginia and a product of Loudoun County Public Schools. He is the son of Ethiopian immigrants, a community activist, a former White House Intern in the Biden-Harris Administration, and the youngest Second Vice-President in Loudoun County’s NAACP Branch.

While in his community’s NAACP branch, Christian saw politics in action, as he calls “a game of chess for political interests.” In addition, he remains involved in human rights work leading field trips for Loudoun County Public School Students – educating them on the importance of learning Black History by going to various historic sites around the county. “Black history is always under attack in this country, and will be for some time,” Christian shared. Part of the work he leads includes meeting with school board members, Virginia’s state delegates, and most importantly educating the county’s youth to create a culturally responsive society.

Another initiative Christian human rights work is focusing on is “Marches to the Poll.” This civic engagement project takes place across the country to turn out the vote in coming elections. This comes at a time when Loudoun County has revoked the right to vote recently – disenfranchising Black voters by instilling various voting restrictions with strict ID requirements and voter registrations and unaccessible poll locations. This goes against an individual’s human right to fair and safe elections. When asked if there is a contrast between civil and human rights, he shares, “Human rights are not necessarily civil rights, but civil rights are human rights. Voting is a civil right that is also a human right. They are both extremely necessary to protect.”

This ideology comes at a time when we see worldwide social inequalities that are escalating, impacting millions of people. Christian explains, “I see human rights as a basic need everyone is entitled to that is directly affecting one’s life and the decisions that they make along with the ability for them to do something. All should be viewed in an equitable manner.” Christian’s approach to human rights work includes: looking at such existing policies critically, identifying the problem, and then taking a stand via speaking up and educating the public on such issue(s), while also coming up with possible solutions. This approach is what he also alludes to as activism, which he displayed when first being asked by the Virginia Department of Education to evaluate their social science curriculum – in the rise of conversations surrounding critical race theory.

“I looked at every single page of the curriculum to see why people could potentially be so angry about it. There was no mention of critical race theory there,” he said.

As part of Gen-Z, Yohannes understands the importance of energizing the youth and involving youth in decisions that impact not just the now (what is currently happening) but the future. For inspiration, Christian looks at Civil Rights Activist Reverend Jesse Jackson, his mother (who he calls his “Mom-Mager” a combination of being his mom and his manager keeping him on task traveling with him mostly everywhere) his sister, and the current President of the NAACP Branch Loudoun County, Reverend Michelle C. Thomas. Thomas also happens to be the mother of Christian’s best friend, Fitz, who tragically died in 2020, at age 16, in Loudoun County during a system failure experienced by EMS.

Christian’s drive, accomplishments, and projects he is working on, give full credit to having faith in God, the incredible mentorship, and his upbringing in a single-parent household alongside his mother and sister. “Having been raised by two amazing women allows me to be able to learn and hear different perspectives beyond my own. I embody the qualities that my mother and sister have taught me”.

Christian is on track to graduate from George Washington University and pursue law school to become a Civil Rights Attorney – while not tossing away the idea of pursuing political office. “I worked so hard to get where I am. I know what I know and I know what I can do! I don’t minimize myself or make a moment too big for myself,” Christian expressed. He wishes to protect African American interests and save lives via public safety, and it is why he exemplifies the values of a Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Young Defender.

Profile written by Jaylen Bradley.