My interest in activism started early—I was only five when I attended the “Day Without Immigrants” march in 2006—but I was interested in what it means to other students my age. So I sat down with Heavlynne Richard, 14, and Jordan Cain, 15, to interview them on the topic.
I started by asking them what social issues currently have their attention.
“Definitely racism, feminism and LGBT issues,” says Jordan, who is a student at Los Angeles County High School for the Arts.
“For me,” says Heavlynne, “it’s Black Lives Matter! Racism is prevalent, and my family and I have experienced it directly.”
Heavlynne says her brothers have complained about racial profiling while they’re out with friends, and her father too: “Why do police pull over my dad—a security guard—when he did nothing wrong?” she complains.
I next asked them if they felt people take their activism seriously, being only 14 and 15 years old.
“Well, look what happened today,” says Jordan. “We made signs for the anniversary of Michael Brown’s death, which read ‘No Justice, No Peace’ and ‘Black Lives Matter.’ We held them up as we walked through the streets of L.A. and I was amazed by the response. Some yelled back ‘all lives matter’ while others gave us a thumbs up.”
Heavlynne says she recently attended West Adams Neighborhood Council’s “Storied Streets” screening and discussion on homelessness and was surprised by what she found.
“I learned there are myths about the homeless. People assume if someone is homeless it’s their fault. But the lack of affordable housing is the main reason. There are many homeless with college degrees, or veterans. Some worked all their life and had everything taken.”
“Then people shame them,” said Jordan, “by telling them to ‘just go to a shelter.’”
“Yes! But the thing is,” says Heavlynne, “those shelters are crammed! There are some who inflict cruelty on the homeless and then go post about it on social media; but tomorrow, those bullies could be in the same situation.”
The three of us chat for more than 40 minutes, and I leave feeling encouraged.
For me, activism is important because it helps people recognize what is going on in the world, and makes many topics public. This is our planet, and in order to make it a better place we need to get our hands dirty, whatever that means to you.
Because that’s what activism means to me: to be a part of the change you look for, not just the change you hope for.
Let’s keep making this world a better place.
Larsen, 15, is a student at Los Angeles County High School for the Arts, and is a self-proclaimed adolescent activist. Raised alongside her family business (an arts non-profit for youth), Lily serves on the Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council, helping to spread awareness for worthy causes. Her petition to end factory animal farming has garnered more than 15,000 signatures. You can follow Lily at adolescentactivist.com.