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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Dad, it's all your fault.
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He listens to me rant for hours over people, my days at school, or the episode of 'Grey's Anatomy' I watched that night and never once loses interest.

He picks on me about my hair, outfit, shoes, and everything else after spending hours to get ready only to end by telling me, “You look good." And I know he means it.

He holds the door for me, carries my bags for me, and always buys my food. He goes out of his way to make me smile when he sees that I'm upset. He calls me randomly during the day to see how I'm doing and how my day is going and drops everything to answer the phone when I call.

When it comes to other people, my dad has a heart of gold. He will do anything for anyone, even his worst enemy. He will smile at strangers and compliment people he barely knows. He will strike up a conversation with anyone, even if it means going way out of his way, and he will always put himself last.

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Cover Image Credit: Logan Photography

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Irish-American History Is Just As Important As Any Other Culture, You Can't Prove Me Wrong

I cherish being Irish and I will not let anyone let me feel bad for that.

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Depending on when you're reading this, Saint Patrick's day has either just passed or is around the corner. For me, Saint Patrick's day is tomorrow. I've been debating this article for some time now because I didn't know how it would be perceived. At this point, though, I feel it's important for me to get out. No, Irish people were never kept as slaves in America, and I will never be one to try and say they were. However, Irish people were treated tremendously awful in America. A lot of people tend to forget, or just try to erase entirely, the history of the Irish in America. So much so that I felt shameful for wanting to celebrate my heritage. Therefore, I want to bring to light the history that everyone brushes under the rug.

In 1845, a potato famine broke out across Ireland. This was a big deal because the Irish lived off, mainly, potatoes. They were cheap, easy to grow, and had tons of nutrients. So when the famine struck, many people either died of starvation or fled to America in seek of refuge. When the Irish arrived in America they were seen as a threat to the decency of America. People viewed them as drunk beasts, sinful savages, barbaric, violent, belligerent, stupid, and white apes. When the Irish would go to look for jobs, many times they found signs that read "Irish Need Not Apply," even when the job was hiring. Therefore, the Irish did the jobs no one wanted, and even jobs African slaves wouldn't do. The biggest example of this is when Irishmen built canals and drained swamps. They were sent to do these things because of the enormous amount of mosquitoes; in the swamp, they would get bit and ultimately die of malaria.

Also, during this time, Irish people were poor and therefore lived in the same neighborhoods as the free African Americans. A lot of the Irish people were friendly with their neighbors of color and even got into interracial relationships. Because the Irish lived in these neighborhoods they were seen as dirty and even a lot of people at this time put African Americans higher on the totem pole than Irish. One person during the time even said, "At least the black families keep their homes clean."

The main reason American's outlook on Irish people changed was that most Irishmen took up fighting for the Union in the Civil War. I make this argument, not because I think the Irish suffered more than African slaves. I don't say this in means of trying to erase the struggles of the African slaves. I do not think that any of our ancestors should have been treated the way they were. I mean to say that the Irish did in fact suffer. Irish people were treated wrongly on the basis of...nothing. Simply because my ancestors hailed from the shores of Eire, they were treated with malice. And I write this simply because I want people to remember. I want people to understand what happened.

On Saint Patrick's Day this year, next year, and for the many years to come, I want people to embrace the Irish culture. I want the folks of Irish heritage to not be ashamed of where they come from; to not be ashamed to share their culture the way I have for many years. I want everyone to have a beer, wear some green, eat a potato or two, and dance the Irish step; to celebrate the history of Irish people with a bit more understanding than before.

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