Communication and conversation are essential to creating change. I facilitated, recorded, and transcribed two conversations between members of our iCamp community who share with us their perspectives on social justice and issues in the current political climate.
“. . .when people unite, more change is possible.”
Aishah And Genesis On Black Lives Matter, Youth United For Change, And Filmmaking By Mayana Ashley-Carner
Mayana: What social justice [actions] have you been involved in in the past?
Aishah: So, I participated in the Black Lives Matter movement in Philly. I remember going down to protest. It was downtown at the police district; I remember being face to face with the police, shouting and being a part of that protest and that movement and explaining to the cops about how we don’t feel safe around police. I had gotten into a heated argument back and forth with one of the police officers. He was like, “If something happened to you, who would be the first person you would call?” I said, “Probably my mom, not the police. Like, I don’t think to call the police, you know? That’s just not in my initial thinking because I’m kinda conditioned to be more afraid of the police at this point.” And he kinda said, “that’s BS,” like he wasn’t tryna hear what I was saying, and I just kept letting him know, “It’s just not fair, you guys think that you are above the law, and that’s unconstitutional.” And we shouted, there was a lot of shouting. It was a really intense protest. There were a lot of people out there.
More recently I went to protest down at the Philadelphia School Board. I was with Youth United For Change. I was doing the field component there and we were protesting against having metal detectors in schools, and also [talking] about the importance of having more mental health awareness in schools. So, it was nice to be there, for me especially, being an education major. It was nice for me to be in that type of environment and seeing young people being so interested and really fighting for what they believed in. It really spoke to me and really moved me.
Genesis: The first protest I’ve ever been in was Black Lives Matter, where she was. It was so amazing. There were so many people out there and I’ve never experienced something like that, and it was really moving. And something else that I did was I created a film with a group of other teenagers. It was about relationship abuse and how it affects the child in a way. And it was just a very impactful film.
M: How did it feel to do those things?
G: It felt eye-opening; it’s made me see things in a different way. So, I got a different view on how African Americans feel and also relationships in general and how it impacts people and also the children.
A: I felt really empowered, inspired. It definitely made me want to continue and to push young people to know that their voices are important and that their voices will be heard as long as they come in as a force and put that effort forth.
M: Do you guys feel like you wanna do more organizing and more social justice in the future?
G: I would. And I think it’s very moving and inspiring and impacts a lot of people and it gets people more educated.
A: I think awareness is key. I think there are so many things that people aren’t aware of. So many things that can be fought for. And I just think we all could join together a little more to make those efforts, to make everyone’s voice heard, and to make change. I feel like if we came together a little more and in the right ways and attacked situations in the right way, I definitely feel we [could] make more changes.
G: Yeah, definitely. ‘Cause when people unite, more change is possible.
M: Do you guys have any questions for each other about the things you talked about?
A: Have you ever heard of Youth United For Change?
A: So, Youth United For Change is YUC for short, and it’s a really great group of kids and a really great group of people.
G: Where is it located?
A: It’s located in [the] Frankford area. They’re high schoolers [who] come together [to] attack a social issue, whatever they think it may be. When I was there, they were working on the mental health campaign. Their leaders really came in and helped them, made sure they had the resources that they needed, showed them how to get those resources. When I say that, I mean talking to the right people who would support them in this movement. Knowing what congresspeople are on that same page that you know you can pull them in to support you, really laying out the campaign, what’s important, what points they would bring up, and really getting prepared to go into a protest or to go into speaking out on this. Setting that foundation was so important and I saw how much that helped them, building them up to be prepared to be activists, instead of just telling them, “Oh, we should start a protest,” and then trying to do it.
They actually took the time and planned it. The planning of it was really immaculate and they really pulled it off so well and when I got to see them actually in action it touched me in so many ways. I was so proud of them ‘cause I didn’t have that opportunity growing up. I didn’t know that there were things out there that would help me do a protest and prepare me for a protest. It’s a really good program. Youth United For Change.
G: Youth United For Change. I’ll look into it. That sounds good.
“I’m hoping that something will change before I die.”
Mickey And Jordyn On Changes In The United States, Effective Protest, And Abortion By Mayana Ashley-Carner
Mayana: What has your experience been in the past with social justice and organizing?
Jordyn: Well, at least this year there’ve been a lot of social justice movements because there [were] a lot of shootings this year, there was a lot of climate change awareness; we were realizing a lot of these things really have a huge impact on our lives. Not that we [hadn’t] realized it before, but I guess the youth in my community have recognized, “Oh, this is a problem and no one is doing anything to solve it, so we need to protest.” So I was a part of the women’s march, the walkout of schools for climate change, and the walkout for gun control after the shooting in the Florida school.
Mickey: I’ve definitely been to a lot of walkouts, and there’ve been an increasing number of those due to all of the current events that are going on in this society. In some ways, the walkouts have been very organized, which does show a lot of progress, and does show commitment to making a change, and at the same time, I noticed that my school did this one particular thing [where] they tried to placate our desire to make a change by letting us have a quote-unquote walkout, where we just stood beside the school for a few minutes and they got a speaker. Which, of course, was nice, but it wasn’t what was needed. So some students organized for a real walkout to secretly happen. Several of us left the school during that quote-unquote walkout and went to City Hall. I’d say that that was a pretty powerful experience.
J: [We] had the same thing where our [school was], like, “Oh, you can’t leave school, just stand outside and we’ll talk about it, have people gather around,” and we [were], like, “Oh, this isn’t going to change anything. We actually need to walk out.” So everybody just left and the teachers [couldn’t] do anything ‘cause teachers aren’t allowed to put their [hands] on students. But it’s also, like, this is something [so] important to us that we just walked out. And in Center City it wasn’t just students, it was actually other people who cared about the topic as well, which was nice.
Ma: How did you guys feel doing those things?
Mi: Going to a protest or a march or anything of that sort—it feels necessary. I would say that to be in such a big group that holds the same views feels empowering and feels like a real change is being made. And at the same time, I know that there’s so much more that needs to be done. It’s both exciting and disheartening.
J: I felt some kind of feeling of “Oh, I’m home.” Just knowing that other people support what I believe in is a great feeling to me because when people share ideas with each other, that’s a nice feeling, so, when I saw all of these kids from all these other schools in Philadelphia just walk out with me, I thought that was so powerful. But the part that hurts me is the fact [that] we walked out and nothing happened. All these schools across the nation walked out and nothing happened. So, again, as Mickey said, it was very disheartening knowing you did something, you organized it—kids organized it, which was a big thing—and nothing really happened.
Mi: I would say that it did draw attention to these issues. Of course, issues come and go and people consider something bad that happened to be last week’s news so soon after [an] atrocity has occurred.
J: I feel like the reason why nothing has really changed is because our society is afraid of change. I feel like our country’s so stuck on old ideals or just not wanting to change that nothing is really going to happen. So I feel like if our country is willing to change even a little bit, it’ll make a huge difference.
Mi: While there are many issues in this society, in some ways, for certain groups, this is the best that society has ever been. And that’s encouraging but also really sad, because while we are making progress, we’re so far from what many of us consider to be ideal.
J: Yeah. That’s very true. I mean, I know we’ve come a long way from racism, but there’s still a sense of the fact that you could walk out [of] your house and be uncomfortable. That’s not okay. Especially when it comes to race. I mean, we did definitely make progress, especially with laws, but I do feel like there’s still a lot more work to be done. I’m hoping that something will change before I die. I just want it to happen sooner but I know that it takes a lot more time.
Ma: Going into the future, what are your ideas about stuff you wanna do related to social justice and organizing?
J: Definitely another women’s march. I just wanna do a lot more protesting, especially since the power of resistance is very strong, and I do know that especially when youth do it, it’s so much more powerful because adults always think that we’re not on their level with thinking, or we don’t think how they think. They don’t realize that we also have views and opinions too, so when we walked out, it brought so much more attention to a problem that adults have been walking out for for years.
Mi: I would say that solidarity is one of the most important things possible in pursuing social change. [There are] a lot of groups that are marginalized, [and] it would be dangerous for just the people from that group to gather for a protest or a march without having solidarity from groups that don’t face that specific type of oppression, because that would just make any group an easy target for conservatives. I’d say that an action that I would like to take in the future, while it is ambitious, is to be able to organize some of the protests and marches that aren’t happening.
J: I also wanna be able to organize things because I’m always shy about it and I don’t like to speak up about certain things. Growing up I never really spoke up for myself, and that’s something I’ve always wanted to do, so that’s something I would also like to do in the future. Our country’s just built on old ideals and it’s not willing to change it for the better of the country. They just put [up] the first statue of an African American in Philadelphia this year. It’s such a huge step and that made me happy, but in a way I was angry because I was like, “It took us all these years, even after we solved the racism problem and gave African Americans all of their rights, to put up [an] African American statue.” I feel like our country was built on white male supremacy. And it still is. It’s very obvious. And I love this country ‘cause of the opportunities I can have but when it comes to my social life, I feel like it is hard. I also hate that a lot of kids’ future universities are taken away from them–or jobs–because of their race or their sex or their gender. And it’s not fair. I read stories about people not getting accepted for jobs or college because they were either a black woman or a woman in general. It’s not fair that because we’re not white men we can’t have all the privileges that they have. It’s just crazy how men have such control on our country.
Mi: Have you seen the picture of the people who specifically passed the anti-abortion law? It’s a whole bunch of white men!
J: Yes! Yes! Yes! Why do you care so much about something that has nothing to do with you? You do not have a vagina. Why do you care so much? White men have such a control on literally everything we do. They don’t even have the opportunity to get pregnant.
Mi: Only people who can get pregnant should get to have an opinion here.
J: It’s terrible. That abortion thing made me so mad. And then those posters that were like, there was a picture of a uterus on there, and it was, like, “You can’t talk until you have one of these.” That’s what really hit me, ‘cause I was, like, “Why are you trying to control me when you don’t have a uterus? That doesn’t make sense.” It’s just terrible.