Movement or fad? New activism examined

Friday, March 10, 2017, Vol. 41, No. 10
By Linda Bryant

Throughout the 2016 election cycle and following the election of President Trump, millions of young people attended rallies, demonstrations and protests to exercise their First Amendment rights.

It’s difficult to tell just how broad the student and youth activism is at this point, but many say it’s a growing trend. The Ledger reached out to a few people on the front lines and asked if they think today’s young leaders are the real thing.

Will they have a big impact or fade away?

Violet Stubbs, 21, MTSU junior

Campus activist


Founder, Progressive Fairview

“Students are becoming more motivated and less apathetic every day. I think many in my generation are liberal on social issues and less attached to traditional definitions of left and right. But some of them are disillusioned with the political parties. They may have voted Libertarian or for Dr. Jill Stein. Much of the (coming) political power lies with the millennials, if we could just get on the same page.”

Kesi Foster

Director, Urban Youth Collaborative, NYC

Premiere student activist group


“It feels like young people recognize it’s their time, not just to be involved but to lead. At first, we saw young people joining rallies and protests, but now we are seeing young people say we are going to organize these protests and rallies, we need our voices to be heard, because we have to lead transforming our society to bring us closer to a just society.

“Locally, nationally, and globally we will see young people’s activism and organizing grow ... as a proactive force for nurturing communities and efforts that show us there is a better way for us to exist.”

Cameron Dare Clark, 25

Harvard Law student


National student leader

“We are living in a historical moment with a new generation of activists.

"Millennials in particular have utilized new and innovative methods to achieve significant success.

“This can be seen through what is known as ‘hashtag activism,’ enabling youth to engage politically from anywhere.

“This does not happen only in protest; young people are engaging in conversation at the dinner table, with friends and with strangers to discuss current events and ways to create a more fair and just society.”

“We are seeing a newsworthy uptick in organizing only because of our current president and his policies – it has compelled the average Joe and Jane to take to the streets and stand up for what they believe is right.

“This activism is taking place on both the left and the right, though through vastly different tactics and with completely different goals.”

Dr. Christopher Huff

Assistant professor at Beacon College

Protest movement expert


“At the most basic level, a sense of idealism and the belief that injustice is gripping the world motivates young people to get involved. In the 1960s, the Vietnam War and racism inspired students (many who came from politically active families) to reject the solutions proposed by the two major parties and push for more radical possibilities.

“In that way, yesterday and today’s young activists are quite similar – they have come to believe that the political status quo will not solve the nation’s problems.

“I have yet to see from today’s activists, however, the ability to organize with the same sense of discipline and commitment that those in the 1960s did – although the Trump presidency may spur that cohesion.

“Today’s students seem committed and passionate, but may lack the knowledge to turn that into effective organizing.”