(Contributed by Digital Daughter Amanda H. Cronin – and my real daughter)
Poster in hand, juiced-up phone, caffeine and disaffection charging up my spirit, I ascended from the metro up into the gray-skyed capital city to exercise my first amendment rights. Groups of people dotted the streets of Washington, D.C. cradling their signs, all moving towards the Capitol. The call and response of “Tell me what democracy looks like! This is what democracy looks like!” made my heart swell with pride for my country. As I moved into the crowd in unison with thousands of pink “pussyhats,” I felt absorbed and embraced by the singular compassionate heartbeat of the crowd.
I never imagined that I would be here. That in my lifetime I would feel it a necessity to march for my rights. In the past, I viewed protesting as something that only people in history textbooks did.
In Global Studies, EHAP, and AP American History, we learn that the history of the world is a continuous story of conflict and resolution. Gandhi’s peaceful resistance in India, the French peasants at Versailles, and the patriots at Boston Harbor all raised their voices and ultimately succeeded. Across the boundaries of time, they were all fighting for the same thing: for their voices to be heard and for freedom from oppression. Now in 2017, we are facing another challenge to our freedoms. But how do we know how to react and act? How do we go from our classrooms to the streets?
The Women’s March was much more than a procession. The hours I spent listening to inspirational speakers and iconic performers and talking to fellow marchers felt like a combination of a concert, a religious service, and a huge family reunion. I sang with Alicia Keys (“this girl is on FIRE!”), amen-ed Gloria Steinem, and hugged a Syrian refugee. In the shadow of the Capitol building, the whole event felt justly defiant. No one adjective can perfectly fit it, but considering the scale and setting of the March, monumental feels pretty appropriate.
When scholars discuss the “protest generation,” they largely speak of the baby boomers fighting against Vietnam, constraints to women’s rights, and racism. But we, Generation Z, are now being referred to as the new protest generation. It is time to step into our new role using our strongest weapons: our voices and our pens. It is time to decide what our ink holds. It is time to protect one of our most precious rights: the freedom of speech.
But how do we make our voices heard? We’re just kids, after all. Who will listen to us? Well, one thing that we can learn from history is that sometimes it is not the loudest who achieve victory, but the most persistent. Some of us are “slactivists,” and prefer to participate more passively, and some of are activists and choose to vocally contribute. But if you want to join a protest march, what do you need to know? Through first-hand research, here are a few things I have learned. 1. Phone a friend. Dissenting is much more fun if you have a buddy or two! 2. Get creative. One of the most enjoyable parts of a protest are observing the innovative posters and chants that people create. (And if you’re lucky, your signs will be so compelling that you accidentally end up on FOX News!).
- Don’t be afraid. Most protests are peaceful demonstrations and all the people in attendance are kind and genuinely want to be there. 4. Listen and learn. As part of the new protest generation, we have a lot to learn from veterans. Talk to adults around you to get their advice. 5. Don’t forget your mission. It’s true, protests can be fun and entertaining, but you are there for a reason. Don’t lose sight of your objective, and you will be one step closer to success.
As a student merely months away from graduation and the adult world, I see an onslaught of daunting issues that threaten our civil rights. What once appeared to be a clear, sunny horizon is now foggy with gathering clouds. But we can’t wait for fairer weather to intercede. It is time to pull on our proverbial rain boots and ponchos and march through the storm.
As Gloria Steinem declared, “The Constitution doesn’t begin with, ‘I, the president,’ It begins with, ‘We, the people.’” The first amendment guarantees our collective right to speak out, march and mobilize, and my right to write this editorial. We, the new protest generation, must do all in our power to protect it.