I’m a youth activist, and like most young people, I’ve had a lot of additional time on my hands lately. With schools closed and social distancing measures in place, COVID-19 has put a pause on my regular activism work. That said, I wanted to share how I’ve remained engaged as a youth activist. By following these five tips, you also can stay involved and even grow as an activist, all while in quarantine!
1. Research. Research. Research.
For activists, knowledge is power, and the more we know about the issues we care about, the better we are positioned to create tangible change. Now is a prime time to educate ourselves about the various issues affecting our communities and our world. From watching a documentary about climate change to reading news articles about local politics and policies, there are countless ways to better inform ourselves about the most pressing issues of our day. Recently, for example, I’ve read up on the Trump Administration’s latest executive orders and UNICEF’s U-Report.
Action Point: Research about an issue that affects your community. Read news articles, opinion pieces, and research reports. Think critically about what you are reading, and don’t settle for surface-level knowledge. Ask questions—and find answers through research.
2. Sign an Online Petition
With in-person protests and marches suspended due to COVID-19, young people nationwide have turned to online petitions to make their voices heard, relying on sites like Change.org to demand action. I’ve made it a priority of mine to sign five Change.org petitions each day while self-isolating. Signing an online petition may seem like a small act, but it’s a simple way to stand up for what we believe in.
Action Point: Find and sign 5 petitions on Change.org this week. Share a petition on social media, and maybe even create one yourself!
3. Connect with other youth activists on social media
As youth activists, we often make the most impact when we come together and wield our collective power to demand change. Fortunately, connecting with other activists has never been easier. Social media has made it possible for us to find and partner with activists in our communities–and on the other side of the country. Here are two articles with influential changemakers you should be following on social media, including youth climate activists and LGBTQ+ icons. While these are national-level activists and figures, make sure to also follow local, grassroots-level activists and students who are fighting for change in your community.
Action Point: Find and follow youth activists in your community on social media. Don’t be afraid to DM one and ask about their activism work!
4. Brainstorm ways to get involved (once quarantine ends)
Due to social distancing measures, there’s not much in-person activism work that can be done right now, but we all can look ahead and start planning future ways to get involved (once quarantine ends). Whether it be organizing a future youth climate strike or clothing donation drive or setting up a fundraiser to benefit a specific community, there are many ways to make an impact. Now is the perfect time to start planning for future initiatives. Personally, I’ve been reaching out to local high schools to organize clothing donation drives for the upcoming school year. I’ve also dedicated time to brainstorming new organizing strategies and thinking about how I can be more effective as an activist.
Action Point: Read Jamie Margolin’s article in Teen Vogue about how to make an impact as a youth activist. Check out this Youth Activism Toolkit. And brainstorm future ways to get involved in your community–and start planning and organizing.
5. Get Inspired
Right now, as COVID-19 has paralyzed our country and continues to claim the lives of thousands, it’s easy to feel powerless and disheartened. While our lives and activism work have been put on pause, the issues we are addressing—from climate change to racial injustice—continue to rage on. To remain inspired and committed to my activism work, I’ve turned to Ted Talks (here is a personal favorite), books about or by influential activists (I just finished The Autobiography of Malcolm X), and impassioned opinion pieces and political rants (like this one).
Action Point: Watch a TED Talk. Read a book or opinion piece in the news. Follow activists on Twitter. Rant about politics with a friend. And brainstorm how to incite future change.
Even as we social distance, remaining engaged as youth activists is possible. Use this time to get inspired, reflect on the impact you’ve already made, forge new partnerships with other youth activists, and start thinking about future ways to change the world.
By Matthew Tikhonovsky, a youth activist who is passionate about refugee advocacy. He’s the co-founder of Walk a Campus in my Shoes, a nationally-recognized refugee awareness campaign, and founder of Refugee Thrive, a youth-led service initiative. Matthew’s advocacy work has been recognized by T-Mobile and the Clinton Global Initiative, and he’s contributed to The New York Times and The Huffington Post.