WASHINGTON (WDVM) — Zyah Brown, a 9-year-old from DC, is making a difference through music about social justice issues. She has a tribe of people behind her helping to make it happen.
Zyah’s dad, Ron Brown, said “this is big. When I was nine, I don’t remember doing nothing like this.” Zyah has been writing and performing raps since she was six. She first performed her song “Ride My Bike” at her elementary school, Two Rivers Public Charter School.
Zyah’s former principal, Guye Turner, explained, “She had written a song about riding her bike and was really excited about ‘I wanna ride my bike,’ and without me ever hearing the song, because she said she had recorded it, I said, ‘Would you ever mind singing it for the school?’ I just threw it out there and she said she would think about it.”
A few weeks later, Zyah performed her song at the community meeting. Turner said, “Mom and dad got her all set up, and she came in and Zyah, she transformed into a superstar.”
The superstar people have become accustomed to watching perform is named Fly Zyah. Over the years, her songs have transformed from songs about riding her bike to songs about social justice issues. Most recently, Fly Zyah released, “Dear D.C.” which is a song centered around social justice issues and a situation that happened to her family on 2020 Election night.
The creator of TheRapTrade, Stacy Frazier, said, “Someone so young being able to see those painful realities and speak about them in such a poetic way, it’s a beautiful thing. All people need to do is look at her, look at her age and know there is truth in her words.”
“I feel like the world needs something,” Zyah said. “We’ve been hearing from a bunch of grownups perspectives and what they feel, so from a kids perspective and what they see, it’s different.” Zyah said she hopes that through her music, not only will the world be changed, but people who are down will realize they are not alone.
Her mom, Danielle Champ, added, “She talks about it like she sees it. She wants equality. She wants people to get along. She doesn’t understand why because Black people are Black, they’re looked at different. She doesn’t understand it, but that doesn’t stop her from speaking.”
Through her music, Fly Zyah is already making the impact she dreams of. Family friend, Tiana Hines, explained, “It was very empowering for me, as a Black woman to see a young Black girl do this and show other young Black girls that they can do this too.” Hines daughter is Zyah’s best friend.
Together, they play, do arts and crafts and participate in local protests. “She is not the type of scholar that’s running around and has lots of things to say all the time. She’s quite reserved, but you can always tell she’s observing and aware of her surroundings,” said Principal Turner. “I think that’s what gives her the perspective she has and why she’s able to write music at such a young age and what she writes about because I think she’s constantly watching people.”
“Honestly, no one except my friends know my silly side or my regular kid side,” Zyah said. “They only know rapper Zyah. But they don’t know things like, I want to be a painter and I want to bring Bob Ross back and be Bobalina Ross.” In addition to being a regular nine-year-old kid, Zyah is also very shy. “I’m nervous a lot of the time, but people when I post stuff they say I don’t look nervous at all, but I’m horrified.”
Support from her family and friends gives Zyah the confidence she needs to press on and perform. She explained, “The crowd, they cheer me on and stuff and my mom and dad cheer me on, and the music just calms me down when I’m rapping.” “Here she is now, and she realizes and knows she’s making a difference, I feel like that’s what’s pushing her to do more,” Hines added.
While Zyah aims to make a difference with her music, she also takes to the streets and social media to make a difference. Principal Turner said, “It’s never about Zyah, you know. Even, I think her music and why it was so unassuming and such a surprise is because her music is not about her, it’s about her community.” Some service projects Zyah has headed up include collecting books about coding to donate to local high schools and encourage young women to pursue a career in tech, and putting together an Amazon wishlist to make goodie bags for the District’s homeless.
Brown said, “I did my thing called ‘Blessing Bags,’ (many people) donated a lot of money to help me help homeless people in need.” Champ added, “Whatever she accomplishes, she wants to take everybody with her and make sure they feel loved.”
Zyah has taken place in community projects as well. She’s performed for the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday and created the song at Project Create in Anacostia. Christie Walser, the Executive Director for Project Create, said, “Our kids have a lot to say. They really have amazing things to talk about in their lives and their life experience, they just need a microphone.”
While Zyah’s parents do not push her to create anything she is not feeling, and work hard to make sure she enjoys her childhood, they are very proud of her accomplishments so far. Her dad, Ron Brown, said, “She’s doing something that is not being done, and that’s just making an impact again with music.”
Her parents feel that impact when people reach out to them to help Zyah with her music. Champ said, “It’s really refreshing when people approach us and their heart is on their sleeve. They just want to do whatever they can to help her get that message across.” Frazier said, “I’m going to continue to work with them hand-in-hand. I’m going to continue to put their music on my platform, and at no cost because it’s for the betterment of the community.”
As Fly Zyah continues to put out music, the 20 plus people who lend a hand to help her succeed know the investment is worth it. Zyah’s uncle, Arthur Brown, explained, “She is going to make the world better. As she grows older, and we make sure she’s good, she’s going to make sure the world is good. If we do the same for every youth out there, the world’s gonna be alright.”
In March, Fly Zyah will be performing at Union Stage as part of a celebration of Women’s History.