Social Media Is Undeniably Giving Power To Youth Activists

Social Media Is Undeniably Giving Power To Youth Activists

Activism has no age.
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Young adults are often told that they cannot enact real social or political change. They are too young, too inexperienced, too naïve, or too idealistic for the serious work of activism. But as the millennial generation has shown time and time again, young adults hold wide potential in the realm of activism and social justice work.

Their efforts have been significantly spurred by social media outreach, creating greater accessibility and garnering wider audiences than other movements in the past. Yet this, in turn, spurs the discussion of social media activism — is it enough to consistently re-post articles or re-tweet motivational hashtags? To show support online rather than in a rally? While the uses of social media are debatable, it has undeniably allowed young activists to incite changes that resonate on a large scale.

A recent example is the massive Boston Public School walkout in early March. Over 2,000 students walked out of classes and marched through downtown Boston to protest proposed budget cuts to the city’s school system. The proposed $20 million cuts would debilitate the budgets of schools across the city, forcing them to cut certain academic programs, extracurriculars, and even the free student MBTA pass. Middle and high school students alike raised their voices against these injustices, creating a demonstration that forced both Bostonian witnesses and the leaders of the city’s education system to consider the damages of the proposed cuts.

The Boston school walkout is one of many instances that shows the power of social media paired with youth activism. Protesters spread their message on Twitter using the hashtag #bpswalkout, summoning students across the city to walk out of their classes on Monday morning. While adults often cite social media as evidence of this generation’s narcissism and laziness, social networks can invaluably unite people in a common cause.

Social media has also been utilized by student activists at universities across the country protesting racism and a lack of diversity in higher education. At the University of Missouri (“Mizzou”), a student-led activist group known as Concerned Student 1950 issued a list of demands in October 2015, intending to address and dismantle institutional racism amongst students and administration at the university. A syllabus about the protest, institutional racism, and black activism was also created to be used in classrooms across the nation. After a graduate student’s hunger strike, a 30-student-strong boycott of the football team, and a myriad series of protests, president Timothy Wolfe announced his resignation and the university agreed to implement a series of initiatives such as diversity training for faculty and staff and the hiring of a Chief Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity Officer.

The movement gained national attention and news coverage through its extensive social media presence, highlighting the power of determined students with a boundless online audience. The activists at the University of Missouri also inspired other similar protests across the country. Likeminded students in Ithaca College’s People of Color at IC, Yale University’s Black Student Alliance, and Brandeis University’s Ford Hall 2015, among others, have released similar demands and sparked campus protests against racism.

On a more global scale, consider Pakistani youth activist Malala Yousafzai. In 2013 she was shot by the Taliban on her way to school, and after recovering the attack she co-established the Malala Fund. An advocate for girls’ education and empowerment, at 17 she became the youngest person to win a Nobel Peace Prize. She will continue fighting until every girl across the world has the opportunity to go to school. Her story spread extensively on social media with the help of hashtags like #StrongerThan and #BooksNotBullets.

Millennial activism is distinguished by its online accessibility. Yet its reliance on social media leads many critics to claim that young people engage only in “Facebook activism,” in which they share or re-tweet articles and posts but do not actually contribute to the cause. While this is a valid concern, millennial activism cannot be discounted based on its online presence.

As the past few years have shown, youth activists have a wealth of untapped potential to both identify pressing societal issues and encourage others to create change. Young people have the remarkable power to create dialogue on critical issues, and these conversations — often on social media — are the first step in enacting real change.

Cover Image Credit: Learning Lab

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This Is How Your Same-Sex Marriage Affects Me As A Catholic Woman

I hear you over there, Bible Bob.
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It won't.

Wait, what?

I promise you did read that right. Not what you were expecting me to say, right? Who another person decides to marry will never in any way affect my own marriage whatsoever. Unless they try to marry the person that I want to, then we might have a few problems.

As a kid, I was raised, baptized, and confirmed into an old school Irish Catholic church in the middle of a small, midwestern town.

Not exactly a place that most people would consider to be very liberal or open-minded. Despite this I was taught to love and accept others as a child, to not cast judgment because the only person fit to judge was God. I learned this from my Grandpa, a man whose love of others was only rivaled by his love of sweets and spoiling his grandkids.

While I learned this at an early age, not everyone else in my hometown — or even within my own church — seemed to get the memo. When same-sex marriage was finally legalized country-wide, I cried tears of joy for some of my closest friends who happen to be members of the LGBTQ community.

I was happy while others I knew were disgusted and even enraged.

"That's not what it says in the bible! Marriage is between a man and a woman!"

"God made Adam and Eve for a reason! Man shall not lie with another man as he would a woman!"

"Homosexuality is a sin! It's bad enough that they're all going to hell, now we're letting them marry?"

Alright, Bible Bob, we get it, you don't agree with same-sex relationships. Honestly, that's not the issue. One of our civil liberties as United States citizens is the freedom of religion. If you believe your religion doesn't support homosexuality that's OK.

What isn't OK is thinking that your religious beliefs should dictate others lives.

What isn't OK is using your religion or your beliefs to take away rights from those who chose to live their life differently than you.

Some members of my church are still convinced that their marriage now means less because people are free to marry whoever they want to. Honestly, I wish I was kidding. Tell me again, Brenda how exactly do Steve and Jason's marriage affect yours and Tom's?

It doesn't. Really, it doesn't affect you at all.

Unless Tom suddenly starts having an affair with Steve their marriage has zero effect on you. You never know Brenda, you and Jason might become best friends by the end of the divorce. (And in that case, Brenda and Tom both need to go to church considering the bible also teaches against adultery and divorce.)

I'll say it one more time for the people in the back: same-sex marriage does not affect you even if you or your religion does not support it. If you don't agree with same-sex marriage then do not marry someone of the same sex. Really, it's a simple concept.

It amazes me that I still actually have to discuss this with some people in 2017. And it amazes me that people use God as a reason to hinder the lives of others.

As a proud young Catholic woman, I wholeheartedly support the LGBTQ community with my entire being.

My God taught me to not hold hate so close to my heart. He told me not to judge and to accept others with open arms. My God taught me to love and I hope yours teaches you the same.

Disclaimer - This article in no way is meant to be an insult to the Bible or religion or the LGBTQ community.

Cover Image Credit: Sushiesque / Flickr

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Who Boko Haram Is, And Why YOU Should Care

The terrorist group you don't read about in the headlines.
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Who is Boko Haram?

Boko Haram is a terrorist group which has been steadily taking over the country of Nigeria for the past several years. It has killed more people than terrorist groups such as ISIS (from 2010 to 2016 Boko Haram killed 29,360 people compared to ISIS killing 18,070.)

As a radical terrorist group, Boko Haram categorizes itself as “Muslim” but follows ideals starkly different than any religious laws Islam prescribes. They disregard “Western ideals” such as women’s rights, education, and voting. They target civilians, especially women and children, and were responsible for the kidnapping of the 300 schoolgirls in 2014.

Why should you care?

If they are allowed to take control of the entire country, inflicting terror and destruction in the process, they might expand outside of Nigeria, and potentially take over other African countries. At the rate they are growing, there may be little hope for the nation’s future. Nigeria has been fighting Boko Haram since 2002 and has been unable to defeat them. Clearly, the Nigerian military needs significant help in order to achieve this goal.

In February, the United States sent a dozen troops to Nigeria to train soldiers, and in a recent phone call with the Nigerian President, President Trump promised to reopen negotiations on the sale of attack planes to Nigeria, which are valued at around $600 million. However, this sale has been criticized as an empty gesture by the US to put down criticism that the US hasn’t done enough to fight Boko Haram, by people like Matthew Page a former State Department expert on Nigeria.

It’s appalling and unbelievable that this situation has gone on for 16 years with no end in sight and no solution for the problems that Nigeria faces against Boko Haram. Few people know who Boko Haram is, or that they are taking over an entire country. The scale of the problem in Nigeria is not consistent to the degree of which it is reported on. Why?

The answer to this question is the lack of focus on issues that matter by the mainstream media. The media largely controls the world’s knowledge of pressing issues. They have the liberty of not publishing stories about nations being overthrown but publishing stories about the Kardashians instead.

The fact that the mainstream media has enough power to contribute to mass amounts of people not knowing about such an important topic in the world is distressing, because if the media has control over the news of Boko Haram not being spread, what else do they have control over and are we not aware of?

Two important questions we have to ask are, why is this issue not being covered to the degree that it should be, and what other global issues are not being solved because of the lack of knowledge people have on these topics?

There may not be a way to force the powerful nations of the world into doing more than enforcing economic sanctions in Nigeria and withholding weapons from them, but there is a way to control the knowledge of the people.

People fighter global issues they are most passionate every day: religious freedom, the rights of women, racism, the basic human rights of people across the world. What would happen if the number of people that knew about Boko Haram doubled, or trip? How many people would stand up and say something, do something, to change this problem? What would powerful leaders of the world see this change and this movement, not just surrounding Boko Haram but other global issues, and decide to use their power to fight for these causes?

Cover Image Credit: Unsplash

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