February 24, 2022
When one thinks about the education received in the average Midwest public high school, what comes to mind includes Christopher Columbus, the dissection of frogs, or say “no” programs like D.A.R.E. You think about proms, homecoming kings, and crowded sports arenas. There are photos of students signing for their D2 colleges, entering the final round of a speech competition, or attending the local hometown parade.
What doesn’t come to mind? The historical presence of social activism.
Historically, across public schools in the United States of America students have learned about activism in small doses. This includes:
The Boston Tea Party
Speakeasies during Prohibition
The 19th Amendment
Martin Luther King, Jr.
These moments in history are defined as a movement with one specific element, but they’re more than just one person or one headline. These moments in history are part of a larger movement of social activism and change.
Today in the 21st century, just as each generation before us - we have a social climate movement that is influenced by celebrities, world leaders, and determined and ambitious youth around the world.
At first glance, headlines of social movements and activism are swept under the rug -but they do exist. Climate change, police brutality, discrimination, LGBTQIA+ rights and safety, voting rights, and workers' rights are all topics covered within today’s social activist movements. A few examples include:
Little Rock Nine
The Stonewall Riots
The Occupation of Alcatraz
The Salt March (led in India)
The Tiananmen Square Protests
Tamara Adrián (elected in Venezula)
Outside of these named leaders, there are many other examples and forms of activism. Brand or store boycotts, protests, blacked-out photos with hashtags, choosing to be an upstander, and taking a moment to reflect and respond in favor of positive change and safe spaces for those who aren’t invited to speak - they’re all forms of social activism.
Today, when we think of social activism, it’s painted as an extreme and radical idea, but we know history disproves that. We know that activism has existed for centuries and has been a beneficial tool to aid in positive change to meet the needs of the society at the time. Social activism is not a new way to get involved, but an essential way to engage within your community - which includes networking and giving support where it makes sense.
As generations continue to witness inequities and injustices, we will continue to see more social change movements start. What we know is, this generation - the youth of America today - has experienced the unimaginable. It is this generation that is hungry for progress. This is the generation that will find empowerment in each other to continue carrying the torch of social activism.
To learn more about social activism and its historical impact, check out this TEDx Talk from 17-year-old Hannah Testa and her experiences in youth activism: https://youtu.be/D2xcoDM6EWw