We have received many direct messages — and see it in social media postings on platforms like TikTok viewed by millions in some cases — in which young people in their teens and twenties say that our campaign inspired them and urge us to keep going.
Let us first say that your support inspires us! And, yes, we will keep going.
Youth have been the drivers of social change throughout modern history, from American, French, and Haitian revolutions of the 18th century, to the abolitionist, suffragist, labor, civil rights, and anti-war movements of the 19th and 20th centuries, to the pro-democracy and climate justice movements around the world today.
You are fighting for your futures – for climate action, racial justice, economic justice, and peace.
You cannot afford to settle for compromises that don’t provide real solutions to these life-or-death issues.
Politicians in office may have to vote for compromise legislation that comes out of negotiations at times because it is progress, if not a full solution.
But our job as a movement for change is to demand real solutions and make the political system respond to us.
We got started in activism in our teens and would like to offer a few suggestions based on our experience.
1. Don’t let older people discourage you.
Too often older people advise youth to lower their expectations in the name of realism. But the reality is that we need raise our expectations of what our government should do to protect the people and the planet.
Compromises got us into the current situation of climate meltdown, economic hardship, and a new nuclear arms race. Once you start settling for compromises, it is a slippery slope of more and more compromises until you are supporting the system you started out to change.
Older activists often don’t listen to younger people. You may speak and then the discussion continues as if you had not spoken at all. Don’t let that silence you. Make the older people hear you.
And organize your own youth groups where you can talk among yourselves to develop your own perspectives and take your own actions.
2. Be part of an organization.
Communicating with each other as isolated individuals in online virtual communities can only get us so far. We need to participate in organizations in our local communities. Working together in local organizations makes us smarter as we discuss issues and challenge each other’s ideas. It develops us as thinkers, speakers, and writers who can better communicate our views to the general public.
As we talk to the larger community through our local organizations, we reach a broader audience than virtual online communities that tend to congregate like-minded people in separate groups that are isolated from each other.
If we are going to win over and engage the majority in our communities, we need to talk to our whole communities, not just among ourselves.
It is good to participate in single-issue movements addressing issues you care about like climate, racial justice, and affordable housing and college.
We also urge you to participate in the Green Party where we bring the single issues and their constituencies together for mutual support around a common platform. The Young Ecosocialists, the youth caucus of the Green Party US, is a good place for young people to get involved in the Green Party.
3. Study history.
History, particularly the history of social movements and social change, will put your current activities in perspective. You will see that movements have periods where nothing seems to change and other periods when changes happens in leaps and bounds.
Social change is a process, not one event. You need to see being active in public affairs is a lifetime commitment, not something you can work on for short term goals and then let go. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Studying history will give you the patience and the hope you will need for the long run.
We are in it for the long run. We hope you will be, too.
And so you are invited to join us on Saturday, December 19 for a special organizing event geared toward YOU.
You told us what issues are important to you NOW, and so we’re going to work alongside you to begin fighting for change.
(If you haven’t yet filled out our 2021 Issues Survey, click here to fill it out.)
To learn more about the event, read the agenda and RSVP, click here.
We’re looking forward to pushing for real system change alongside you. So please RSVP to our Youth Organizing Call today.
Howie Hawkins and Angela Walker