Interviewed by Breanna Edwards
Interviewees: Hasasha Miriam, Jackson Rowell, Jadyn Bellander, Emily
Article edited by Annika Lilja
There are thousands of problems in the world, and it's all too easy to feel like each one is getting worse every year. Most of us, especially people reading this blog, are very passionate about one or several causes, and may want to do something for them. Maybe you have scrolled through endless articles and nonprofits telling you how to get involved. The possibilities, and mostly, the vastness of the issues, is overwhelming. This was what inspired me to write this article, in which I interviewed four young activists and asked them a few questions, the overall goal to find out: HOW do you become, and most importantly, stay an activist? Before we dive in, let’s meet the interviewees and learn what they’re passionate about.
(Note: Some of the interviews have been edited for length, grammar, and spelling.)
My name is Hasasha Miriam, a young mothers global ambassador under the Coalition of Children Affected by AIDS. My main cause is to focus more on the rights of young mothers (puting young families first.) I advocate for young mothers to gain equal rights like any other mum in all public places such as hospitals, banks, churches and in all congregations. I also work to break down taboos and work with the government to give us a chance to speak for ourselves, hence giving us a platform to represent our issues that hinder us as young mums.
I’m Jackson Rowell, the Public Relations Vice President for Young Americans for Freedom at University of Florida. We are a conservative, non-partisan organization that works to promote free speech and conservative values through campus activism and other projects.
My name is Jadyn Bellander, I’m currently a Junior at Montana State University. I am the founder and president of Vision: 0 Suicides at Montana State University. The club is targeted at increased suicide prevention and working towards making mental health resources at MSU more attainable all while raising awareness about suicide prevention. I am essentially in charge of the administrative side and rallying the troops or other members to keep them motivated and pushing against any setbacks.
Hi! My name is Emily and I am a teen environmental activist. I am a senior in high school and I will be continuing my education at UConn and studying environmental studies. I am extremely passionate about the planet and the only thing I want to do in life is help the planet. I have an instagram page @emilys_environment where I share my actions and encourage others to help the planet. My main cause and purpose in my activism is the advocacy of youth activism and plastic usage. What kicked off my love of the planet and my advocacy was learning about plastics and how they harm the planet. Since 5 years ago I have pledged to take plastic out of my life and help others get it out of their lives. I want to help the planet and have others speak up for it as well. I have an instagram page with almost 1k followers where I share ways to be friendly to the planet and advocate for it. I am a member of many organizations such as OY4C (Our Youth For The Climate), Friday’s for the Future DC, and the founding member of OY4C MD, the OY4C sector in Maryland. I am the past Vice President and Current president of my school’s environmental club, and I always try and bring awareness of the environment into my school everyday.
What Made You Start Activism?
Miriam: I started activism because I had a vision of putting young families first and sharing stories about young mums in order for them to get equal rights .
Jadyn: Whether it was advocating for the environment, working against social issues, or raising awareness around socioeconomic gaps in my community, as a young girl I always wanted to create positive change in the world around me.
Emily: I don’t necessarily know if I can pinpoint something that made me start but it's definitely been a journey. About a few years ago I learned about the effect of plastics on the planet, your body, women, business, people in poverty, underdeveloped countries…I never wanted to use it again. I wanted to make a change. Of course It is extremely hard to get rid of plastic in your life while living in the age of plastic, but I want to be a part of the change.
How did You Get Started With Activism?
Jadyn: I got started with activism as a participant in the Red Ants Pants Girls Leadership program 2018-2019. I was a high school junior and the basis of this club is to build confidence and leadership skills in young women from rural Montana. I am now an alumni of this club and participate in alumni type panels and some guidance for current members.
Emily: I originally started with an Instagram account called @nomor.plastic and I posted about me taking action and cleaning up my street and little actions like that. Eventually I wanted to take a leap and I changed my personal instagram to an environmental page. I started by posting little infographics about sustainable living and my favorite eco-friendly brands, but I wanted to make a bigger impact. I started creating reels and reached a much broader audience. Around the same time I became a primary committee member of an organization called Our Youth for the Climate. This organization was created by another youth activist @thezerowasteteen on Instagram. (Who you should totally check out.)
Do You Ever Feel Discouragement in Activism?
Jackson: Activism can be discouraging if there is no enthusiasm. Fortunately for us, UF YAF has a strong membership core of hard working individuals that help all of our activism projects run smoothly.
Jadyn: All the time! When I was starting a food pantry at my high school there were many people telling me I could not do it and simply shouldn't bother. With starting the club on campus, I currently face MSU administration trying to silence my voice or discourage me from starting this club and making a difference.
Emily: Yes, almost always. It's very hard to have a positive attitude especially during times where everything seems to be falling apart around you. When you see things on the news saying pieces of glaciers as big as Texas have fallen into the ocean or towns have been flooded due to abnormal natural disasters, it really brings you down. Sometimes I go weeks without posting or filming just because I feel like I am not making a difference.
How do you Deal With Discouragement and Feeling Overwhelmed at the Issue?
Jackson: Being overwhelmed can leave people stressed, and with the little amount of time we have in the year, this can be a huge challenge to our productivity. To solve this, we have to work together as a strong unit, lending a hand to those who need it.
Jadyn: My best advice for dealing with discouragement is to take a step back when you feel burnt out or it feels overwhelming. Take a step back and take care of yourself. When you are ready, go back out there with fresh eyes.
Emily: When I'm feeling down about the planet I try my best to take action. I try and make a new plastic swap, go for a trash walk, make a post or a reel. Anything that makes me feel like I am making an impact helps. It is extremely hard because of the amplitude of the issue but activists all understand it is hard work and it does pay off. Individual action seems little and insignificant but it makes a huge impact. No matter what you do, big or small, all actions that help the planet make a difference, don't let anyone tell you otherwise.
What is Your Advice to Teens Who Want to Get Started With Activism? What do You Wish You’d Known When You First Started?
Miriam: I advise teens who want to start activism to keep up their spirits and never give up. They must be with a lot of passion because they have to expect both negative and positive results out of it, but it's through resilience. Personally I wish I would have made enough research about activism and had enough support from different people hence being given enough platform. You have to keep the ball rolling.
Jackson: My advice to teens who want to start activism is to not be afraid to reach out on social media to those in clubs. Get involved early and take on leadership roles if available. Success for your cause is out there, but can only happen if you start working now.
Jadyn: My advice for all you youngins wanting to make a difference is go do it. Go out there and use your voice. It is scary and sometimes you may fail but there is never anything worse that can come out of activism than if you had not said a word in the first place. Also, know that there are going to be setbacks. There are going to be people who will try their hardest to shut you down and tell you that you can't make a change. Here I am as a 20 year old college student who has made two huge changes for my community because I did not give up and I did not listen to negative comments about my work. Additionally, ask for help. there are so many people willing and excited to help. Oftentimes, they just do not know what kind of help they can give or how to help. Finally, do not be afraid to delegate. Some projects are more time consuming and overwhelming than others. Devise a team and have a strategy to divide the work. Finally finally, TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF!! You cannot be out here trying to make a difference if you are not taking care of yourself first. Monitor your health and well being and do not be afraid to take a step back and take care of yourself.
Emily: Just jump right into it. This generation is going to change the world and I want everyone who has a passion about something that seems political in anyway to speak up about it. Your passions are someone else’s passions and there are groups of people around the world who will support you and your actions. Don't let anyone stop you from your dreams and keep going, keep pushing for change, whether you're an environmental activist, social justice activist, or just deem yourself an activist, never stop fighting. You are driving change. People look up to you, don't let them down