A Seismic Shift for Systemic Change

Once again we are witnessing a Youthquake…the unique influence of young advocates on their peers, parents, policymakers, the press and the public at large.

DACA Dreamers, Black Lives Matter, Earth Guardians and most recently the #NeverAgain students refuse to be intimidated. These activists are shaming and motivating those in positions of power.

We are not here to be patted on the back. We are not here to be told we are doing so much because we know what we’re doing and we’re doing it for a reason. We’re doing it so our legislators, so that our lawmakers will make a change, so that they will take us seriously, so that they will not dismiss us any longer, so they won’t reschedule, so they won’t push us in another room as they dance around our questions. Because we came here prepared and we’re going to come to every single meeting with every single legislator—prepared. We know what we want. We want gun reform.   Delaney Tarr – Senior, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School 

Occupying congressional offices, blocking traffic with die-ins, marching to state capitols, all reveal a clear trend. These youth-organized actions build public support to put direct pressure on lawmakers to support specific policy solutions. These campaigns signal to even younger youth not to wait until they are old enough to vote to make demands of elected officials. This generation sees a world where it is normal and expected for young people to participate fully at all levels of decision-making.

The seismic shocks from Florida students reverberate among other age groups. More than six in 10 Americans, including most parents, think students should get involved in the issue of gun policy and school safety; just over a third say the issue would be better left to adults, according to a CBS Poll. “Youth fix” has replaced “fix our youth.” It is no longer outlandish to hear these non-voting constituents talk of their clout now, especially DACA Dreamers. In a speech at the National Student Walkout in DC, Student Board of Education Member Matthew Post of Montgomery County, Maryland, didn’t mince words:

The adults have failed us.This is in our hands now, and if any elected official gets in our way, we will vote them out.

Even the most ‘woke’ adults are in awe of how effective this generation conducts research, identifies political allies and targets, deploys tweets, delivers “no B.S.” speeches, captures the media spotlight, organizes walkouts, crowdfunds for a national march. These activists aren’t polite and patient. They do not follow the plodding pace of most advocacy organizations. Instead, they communicate 24/7 using WhatsApp, collaborate using Google docs, amplify the voices of many rather than a single spokesperson–essentially embracing a leaderful approach.

DACA Dreamers, BLM, #Enough and thousands of other young activists represent a continuum who deftly combine the tactics of the past with digital strategies to pursue systemic change. Online sharing of these lessons abounds from Youth Radio’s “Controlling Your Online Presence” to Youth In Front’s video “How does a march become a movement?” The SPARK Movement’s DIY on Posters and Subvertising are also among the links highlighted on our Resources page. We are counting on you to recommend other freebies to make Youthquake the Word of 2018 and every year in the future.

#NeverAgain National Student Walkout March 14, 2018

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