The Power of Youth-Led Activism: Inspiring Change and Building Community

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On this episode of EcoJustice Radio, we discuss the power of youth-led activism and how our guest is helping to inspire change and build community. We welcome 19-year-old Youth Environmental Activist and one of the lead organizers for Youth Climate Strike LA, Kevin Patel.

Kevin J Patel

Kevin J. Patel. Photo from Medium.

The Youth Climate Movement in Los Angeles

In the US in 2019, millions of students have stepped up to the most forceful surge in youth activism since the Vietnam War. From the repeated school strikes to call for action against the globally-worsening climate emergency; to marches against visiting supporters of President Donald Trump; to die-ins for racial justice, unrest has spread among US students. A recent UCLA survey of undergraduates nationwide found that 1 in 10 expected to partake in protests while in college, the highest rate since 1967.

By far the most elusive question, investigated by Zachary Jason in the Harvard Ed. Magazine, how a march can become a movement.

National student movements began in the 1920s and climaxed during the Great Depression as socialist-oriented organizations opened hundreds of chapters and held rallies and conferences on liberal education, democracy, and labor rights. World War II and the anti-socialist wave of the Cold War fractured many of these groups.

Then, in February 1960, four African American freshmen at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University sat at a “whites only” lunch counter in Greensboro. Their nonviolent protest of segregation sparked widespread student involvement in the civil rights movement.

Radicalism, over civil rights, the Vietnam War, the free speech movement, and feminism, increased each year until 1968, “The Year of the Student” Students rioted and took over universities, factories, and government buildings in France, Ireland, Germany, Italy, Senegal, the Congo, and Pakistan. Across the United States, once sleepy, conservative campuses regularly held demonstrations.

But 1968 was also the year student movements began to unravel. The assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy set back the civil rights and antiwar movements. A lack of leaders brought a dearth of tactics and goals.

In the age of social media, youth activists have struggled to enact change. Considering four of the the most prominent youth-led movements this decade — Occupy Wall Street (#occupy), Black Lives Matter (#blm), deferred action for deportation (#Dreamers), and protests against the Dakota Access Pipline (#nodapl). Each has had a tangible effect on the world.

Because the status quo is always going to have more money and political power, failure is an inevitable, and in some ways essential, part of youth movements. The challenge is to turn them into learning opportunities and have the moral resources for the resilience that it takes to do that.

As Martin Luther King Jr. said, quoting an 1853 speech from the abolitionist minister Theodore Parker, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” Throughout his 13 years as a civil rights leader, King often invoked these words to maintain activists’ hopes and fervor.

The youth are rising up and they demand their voices be heard and their presence taken seriously. The youth are the future. Well that future better be livable, equitable, and safe.

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Today we discuss the power of youth-led activism and how our guest is helping to inspire change and build community. We welcome 19-year-old Youth Environmental Activist and one of the lead organizers for Youth Climate Strike LA, Kevin Patel.

Kevin J Patel is from Los Angeles, CA. As a climate activist for over six years, he is also the Founder and Executive Director for the youth-led climate movement, OneUpAction

Facebook: Kevin J Patel
Instagram: @imkevinjpatel
Twitter: @imkevinjpatel
https://www.facebook.com/YouthClimateStrikeLosAngeles/

Resources
https://www.gse.harvard.edu/news/ed/18/08/student-activism-20

Hosted by Jessica Aldridge from SoCal 350 and Adventures in Waste.
Engineer: Blake Lampkin
Executive Producer: Jack Eidt
Show Created by Mark and JP Morris
Music: Javier Kadry
Episode 48

Photo courtesy of Ben Goloff

Updated 18 February 2020

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About Jack Eidt

Novelist, urban theorist, and environmental journalist, Jack Eidt careens down human-nature's all consuming one-way highway to its inevitable conclusion -- Wilder Utopia. He co-founded Wild Heritage Planners, based out of Los Angeles, California. He can be reached at jack (dot) eidt (at) wilderutopia (dot) com. Follow him on Twitter @WilderUtopia and @JackEidt