By JENNA JARDINE An activist fervor has taken over the nation. Americans are turning to the streets, the internet, grassroots organizations and each other in an effort to make change. People are rallying behind the issues they care about, unsure if they will have an impact. Such feelings even cross party lines, as a recent Gallup satisfaction poll found that 72 percent of Americans are dissatisfied with the state of the country. Among the most active are those under 30.
From the Civil Rights movement to opposing the Vietnam War, the young have been a driving force for change throughout American history, said NYU Professor of history and social studies Robert Cohen, 61. “Since the rise of the modern university students have played a significant roles in movements for social change and reform,” Cohen said. “Students mobilizing against Trump right after the election helped to show that a new mobilization was coming from those who want an inclusive America.”
Millennials are working together both in the time-tested ways of their parents and in their own unique ways, playing upon their strengths and relying upon their wisdom as the most educated generation the U.S. has ever seen. Young and idealistic, students have the time and enthusiasm to engage, “They can use that energy to fuel movements, even without much money,” said Cohen.
So how can you make an impact on the issues you care about?
The key to any movement is getting organized. Begin by gathering members of your community for a strategy meeting to brainstorm issue oriented ideas for action. The Women’s March offers ideas on how to organize, or ‘huddle’ as they say, like keeping the meeting under the 90 minute mark and ending with a group action.
To promote activism in a particular area start with longstanding organizations. NYU student Amanda Lawson did just this, transferring her passion for issues regarding criminal justice reform into a partnership with the Bronx Freedom Fund, the first charitable bail organization in New York City. Her work gives students the opportunity to help people being held on minimal charges get out of jail and back to work and their families. “The immediacy of our work with young people is great,” Lawson said. “It becomes less of an action and more of a duty, it’s just knowing that if you are able to give your time, energy, money, then you should.”
Still if you don’t feel up to being the wizard behind the curtain, the Women’s March has you covered. You can join one of the nearly 5,000 ‘huddles’ mapped out on their website, and to top it off there are thousands of events on social networking sites you can attend, just check out the pages of organizations like Planned Parenthood and LGBT Advocate.
Even a broke college student can donate a few dollars to an organization, right? Showing support from afar by using those website donate buttons is great way to put money to work on social issues.
In weekend after Trump’s travel ban alone, hundreds of concerned citizens raised $24.1 million dollars for The American Civil Liberties Union, (ACLU). That’s is nearly six times the amount typically raised in a year, and many of the donations came from private citizens who had never supported the group before.
Beyond money, donate other essentials to a non-profit in your community. You can donate goods like sending packages of essentials to water protectors at Standing Rock or care packages to troops overseas. Local groups are often most in need of volunteers, making time the easiest thing to donate to an issue. Organizations fighting the good fight welcome support in any form.
Contact your local, state and federal representatives by any means you can. Whether it be phone, email, or snail mail tell them what issues you care about. Civic engagement has always meant petitioning, traditionally done by walking door-to-door and gathering in public spaces. Now it’s done online in the form of petition websites and activist platforms.
The internet has become the millennial town hall, by creating a space to gather the support of people across the country behind one issue. NYU junior Fadumo Osman has joined the ranks of organizers in this technological realm by co-founding Now It’s On Us, a rapid response platform used to mobilize students in response to a tragedy. Her group was able to organize civic engagement from NYU students after the travel ban was instated. This type of response has become popular on college campuses as it provides a simple way for students to offer assistance and stand in solidarity with peers facing challenges and to organize behind movements. “Now It’s On Us is unique because it was made by young people who were observing the behavior of other young people,” Osman said.
Millennials have also turned to the long-time standby, the hashtag, to take a stance in activism as well. Hashtags like #DressLikeAWoman in recent days and #BlackLivesMatter have started full scale social movements. With politicians increasingly responding to what is trending online, a hashtag like #HeWillNotDivideUs can serve as a rallying call to public servants.
This is something everyone can get behind. Marches and rallies focusing on spreading love and solidarity, often hosted in parks, are springing up across the country at a time when many Americans feel discouraged and divided.
These ‘Love Rallies’ focus on inclusiveness and solidarity, and are often facilitated by young people in college cities. One such rally filled Washington Square Park at New York University on Nov. 11, and was organized by NYU student Sydney Miller. Another event filled the Boston Common park near the Boston University on the same day.
Acceptance and love is also being supported online through movements like The Body Is Not An Apology which promotes “radical self love” by fighting for the acceptance and respect of all bodies.
Millennials are one of the major backers of this type of social activism, organizing movements promoting greater diversity and supporting their peers when targeted, aiming “for greater diversity and support of minority students,” Cohen explains.
Activism around love is nothing new, but millennials are bringing even more groups into the fold, focusing on solidarity and acceptance, so join the group hug!