Meet The Socially Conscious Young Generation
By Madeline Hartog*
Protest has been a key factor in change for decades. Often, students are at the forefront of these protests by organizing, and marching. Both the Gun Control movement and the Climate Change movement stemmed from the work of students and young people. In the past few months, we have seen protests centered around police brutality and systemic racism. What started as a protest against the murder of George Floyd, has extended into a nation-wide movement for justice for the countless Black Americans who have been killed by the police.
How else can students make an impact?
To dive deeper into this question, I have interviewed high school students from New York City. They all come from different backgrounds, but they have activism in common. My first interview was with Kennady, a Black American female. I then interviewed Zerimar, a student who identifies as Black, Latinx from the Dominican Republic. They both are heads of the Women of Color Club at their school; an affinity group that serves at the forefront for all People of Color within their school community. They partner with the Men of Color Club to work on reforms in school courses, such as the creation of a diverse history curriculum which hold both students and teachers accountable. These young women are also members of an organization that strives to create change throughout New York City. Their responses are insightful and their work shines through as they discuss racial injustice, and the important role students, play in these movements and protests.
Can you explain what actions you have taken now for the Black Lives Matter movement?
Kennady: I have been very aware of racial issues and tensions. I have educated myself so that I can educate other people. My education has included attending the Student Diversity Leadership Conference. I am passionate about race equality, so right now I have been posting a lot on social media. I have also been a founder of a Black Student organization and Instagram account that shares information. In both these cases, I attempt to debunk misconceptions and share information.
Zerimar: Something that I have focused on is anti-blackness in the Dominican community. In the United States, people are a lot more educated because of the political and social climate. Once I moved here, I learned a lot about the issues that I am most passionate about. One of the main tools that I find very helpful in this movement is Social Media. I have also planned Women of Color meetings for my community. These have been beneficial in creating dialogue. Right now, since I cannot protest, I have been spreading information through my school, and through an organization called Stand NY.
What is the role of the student in this movement?
Kennady: It is a student’s job to speak out. I recently went to a student-run protest. As a Black American, and being so connected to the movement, it was empowering to see such encouragement from my peers. Seeing young people leading these movements motivates everyone. Students are in an in-between stage. We have seen the world now, but we are motivated to change it, because we will live to see the consequences later on. Participating in the Black Lives Matter movement is building a better world for ourselves. Students have a driving passion for change, their job is to keep driving for this change and organizing in any community they can. Because it is a student’s job to speak out until we see the change we desire.
Zerimar: The younger generation is more socially aware. Here, you can make your own choices when you are young. Right now, as students, we can make a change in our specific communities. We have the power to influence our schools, homes, and communities despite our age. The role of the student now is to get their community involved; post on social media, reach out to peers and the school, and outline demands for change. But it is important to do everything in a genuine way. Students have the power to reach people with the click of a button, they have the power to open dialogue everywhere. When students are united, they can make a change, spread information, and educate peers.
Are all the actions we are seeing achieving the intended result?
Kennady: Yeah! We have had great attendance at our school meetings. Not only were people there, but people were listening. It felt as though people’s eyes were being opened. Everyone was willing to learn about what Black and Non-black People of Color have been experiencing. These actions have led to on-going discussions within my community, and other New York schools. I have connected with others who are experiencing similar things at their schools, and now we are demanding action to make change.
Zerimar: I believe that now the younger generation can educate the older generations. We have seen a lot about how this conversation needs to extend into the household. This movement, especially the online aspects, have given people the tools and resources to call out those close to them. By starting these difficult conversations, people are understanding more. I think that these conversations will create change in people’s small communities. By engaging in dialogue, we are creating a very important track for the future of these conversations. Also, I think that now, people are willing to admit guilt. They are also willing to listen. These are all amazing steps on the way to seeing an anti-racist society. A group I am involved with is organizing a conference for students around New York who want to demand change, and hopefully, this will prompt further conversation until we finally see societal reforms. I think we are on the right path to getting some results.
For this final question, I have included a White, Jewish female student’s perspective. Lucy, is the Head of Environmental Club at her school. As someone who has seen protest and has made efforts to keep the legacy of protest alive in her school, she offers thoughtful insight into this last question based on past experiences.
Is there a danger in the slowing of this movement?
Kennady: We are in a new wave of this movement. It feels new, exciting, and empowering. It is our first experience with the Civil Rights movement. We have studied this movement in history, but now we are given the opportunity to fight and make change. There are many instances where major ideas and practices have been overturned and now, we are trying to reform the systems that we live in. This movement won’t die until there is equality. I can attest to it beginning too slow in my circles, but I also see people continually putting in work. I hear about ongoing conversations, and I urge people to vote. This has gone on too long and it is time for reform, so the movement will stay until there is change.
Zerimar: We must continually show people that these things are possible. As this movement began to slow on social media, protests continued. The slowing will be a gradual process. We must remain alert because we do not want this moment to die when it is no longer a trend. Right now, we are not at that point, but in order to keep seeing progress, people need to have the same anger that they had at the beginning. We need to talk those students who have been outspoken, and those who haven’t and why they made those choices. I hope, that when things go back to being safe to gather, people are still motivated to speak up, but there is a fire right now, and I believe they will be.
Lucy: Movements ebb and flow. For example, with the Environmental Movement, we saw great activism with the anti-straw movement, and then again with the Climate Strike. Movements change, but goals remain. The people fighting stay motivated, as the movement adapts. I believe the same will be true for the BLM movement. Throughout history, this movement has come in waves, and now we see it again. Right now, social media is “trendy,” and the constant posting may die down a little bit; however, people are still fighting in cities and in their communities. In all places, students will remain persistent, as students often are, and this will create the changes we wish to see in the future.
*Madeline Hartog is a senior high school student in Manhattan and Women Across Frontiers intern.