By Chyanne Robinson
In the midst of a pandemic, 18-year-old activist Jules Thomas, has continued to bring light to an ongoing problem of hunger and deprivation of basic necessities to his community of East Palo Alto, CA. During his freshman year of high school, Thomas and his mother launched their non-profit organization, Onyx Village Connections. Thomas got the idea for the organization after seeing so many homeless people not able to obtain a meal at least once a day, an injustice that Thomas felt dehumanized them.
Me and my mother saw a problem in EPA [East Palo Alto] -- how some of our residents hadn’t been able to get hot meals in a while [and we knew we had to do something],” said Thomas.
Thomas is the first to admit that he has been shaped by the community he grew up in. While he is proud of his community, from the corner stores, local restaurants, and community members seeing you grow up, he knows that struggles that come from living in a low-income community. As a full time senior in high school, Thomas never misses a chance to make life better for his neighbors. Whether he’s gathering food from local/chain corporations or raising awareness for political issues or racial inequality, he never misses a chance to help inspire the one’s around him.
Thomas was determined to offer these people a hands up and not a hand out, and in his eyes, Onyx Village Connections is not to be seen as the “big man” within the community, but as a family member wanting to see others’ prosper.
“Sometimes people who come to our community see this as a project… but for us it’s family.”
And Thomas has no intentions of stopping in Palo Alto as he plans to expand his organization, to not only a national non-profit but to the Motherland of Africa in the next 5-10 years.
Thomas hopes that his work in the community will inspire others to follow their dreams and make a difference in their own way.
“For everyone out there who wants to pursue a business, go out and do it. Have that idea and build that business no matter if you’re 4 or 44. No matter what, persevere and push through because one day you will be a successful individual no matter how long it takes,” said Thomas.