Young adults can be powerful forces for social change. Just take Amandla Stenberg, the 16 year old Hunger Game actor, whose video on culture appropriation went viral earlier this year. She sparked a critical conversation and continues to engage with millions worldwide about how black culture is often appropriated while black lives are systematically oppressed and undervalued. And Amandla is not alone. Young people around the world are standing up in our own unique ways to fight for the issues that affect us daily.
We stand up despite the fact that we are often neglected and excluded from the conversation. Take for example, Nicole Maines, who in fifth grade was denied the right to use the girls’ bathroom because she is a transgender girl. She decided to fight her school district’s discriminatory policy and began a five-year court battle that ended this past year. Her activism resulted in a major legal victory for transgender youth. Maine became the first state to declare it illegal to deny transgender students access to bathrooms that align with their gender identity.
Amandla and Nicole aren’t the only youth who have used their voices to make a difference. At the age of 15, Joshua Wong co-founded, Scholarism, a democratic student activist organization, that attracted 120,000 students who successfully protested against the implementation of pro-Communist curriculum into Hong Kong’s public schools. Wong continues to fight, and is one of the youngest political leaders in his country.
While Wong took to the streets, Tavi Gevinson, took to the internet to begin a battle of her own. When she was 15, Gevinson felt like there wasn’t any media that offered an honest space for teenage girls to discuss the issues they face. So she created Rookie Mag, an online blog where teens can submit their own pieces, share their thoughts, and examine issues through a feminist lens.
Amandla, Nicole, Joshua, and Tavi are just a few young activists whose actions have created real change in their community. That’s why The Global Youth Advisory Council was created, to support and amplify the voices of amazing young people, like you, who make a difference. Because youth voices are integral to challenging and overcoming limiting stereotypes so that everyone, regardless of gender, race, class, age, sexual orientation or circumstance can fulfill their human potential.
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Patrick King was a summer intern at The Representation Project where he worked to help launch the Global Youth Advisory Council. He is a student at Pitzer College, where he writes and produces Media Talk, a blog and monthly radio program that critique media and popular culture.