“I have always been passionate about protecting the rights of people and standing up for them. But it took me a while to realize that the political/policy realm was the best place to advocate for those rights,” says Antonia Okafor, a Carrollton resident who recently began making waves in the individual rights movement.

One of her greatest passions in policy is the area of criminal justice reform, because it hits close to home for her. At the young age of seven, her father was incarcerated for 20 years for a nonviolent crime. This changed their family’s life forever. After his sentencing was over, he went back to Nigeria and was never allowed to return to the United States. Growing up with a father an entire continent away was difficult. It opened her eyes to the flaws in our current justice system and encouraged her to learn more about it.

“People may be surprised to know that those policies were largely enforced during Clinton’s presidency,” Okafor says. “Republicans, Libertarians, and those in between have this amazing opportunity to deal with this issue.”

Another issue she has been a vocal advocate for is gun rights. The student government and faculty at her school passed measures to convey their disapproval of the Campus Carry bill, so Okafor started the “Network of Enlightened Women”, a student organization, to ensure that both sides of the debate had vocal representation. “What I noticed most is that student voices were not heard, particularly conservative voices. I wanted someone to stand up for their rights. I want someone to be their voice. I became that voice,” says Okafor. And she certainly has been able to be that voice, raised in a pro-Democrat family, she’s had plenty of time to hone her debate skills.

Okafor is currently a graduate student at UT-Dallas pursuing a masters in public policy. When she’s not bogged down in her studies, she is an active leader in numerous groups: Students for Concealed Carry (Southwest Regional Director), Students for Rand (TX Coordinator and UT-Dallas Campus President), Denton County Republican Party (Precinct Chair), and KERA, NPR’s DFW affiliate, where she is a Community Advisory Board Member presenting a conservative voice.

Okafor says, “I am involved because I want to know the issues and policies that affect people like me. I want to know those who make those policies and how I can help them make better decisions.” She also wants to see more young people involved in the political process. “Being young should be an advantage in the process,” she says. “We have a lot of great ideas and energy.”

When she isn’t out being the voice of reason, Okafor can be found catching up with childhood friends and traveling. She also enjoys attending conferences where she can meet other like-minded young conservatives who are also fighting to make their voice heard.

Charles Blain

Charles Blain is the president of Urban Reform and Urban Reform Institute. A native of New Jersey, he is based in Houston and writes on municipal finance and other urban issues.