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Activism

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Active Voice

The 26-year-old activist is reimagining new social and political norms

At the time of Trayvon Martin’s murder in 2012, Brea Baker was only 17. The now 26-year-old racial and gender justice activist recalls the tragedy being a defining moment in how social media served as a catalyst for activism in the United States. Black Lives Matter proliferated on Twitter and the overall digital space, playing a key role in Baker’s coming-of-age. Though she initially pursued a degree in physics while attending Yale, Baker’s growing involvement in activism pushed her to switch her major to political science. …


Active Voice

The 29-year-old founder of Ethel’s Club had to make a hard pivot last year, but she knew it was important to stick to her vision

Naj Austin knows exactly what she wants and has no problem making it happen. Her high school classmates always knew this. “She’s a dog with a bone,” says a description in Austin’s high school yearbook. “She doesn’t let anything go. When she finds something she believes in, it’s a never-ending journey.”

Now 29, Austin feels she hasn’t changed at all. In November 2019, she launched Ethel’s Club, a social group and safe space invented for people of color, after becoming fed up with the lack of options for people like her to flourish and thrive in a welcoming environment. She…


Here’s how Nsé Ufot and the New Georgia Project are fighting the state GOPs’ latest attempt to suppress Black and Brown voters

Following Democrats’ stunning victories in Georgia in November and again in the January U.S. Senate runoffs, the Peach State has once again become ground zero for Republican voter suppression efforts. The latest iteration of their fight to shrink the vote is House Bill 531, which passed Monday in the Republican-controlled Georgia House of Representatives. The legislation adds new restrictions to in-person and absentee voting, including adding new ID requirements and limiting the early voting period that was so crucial to Democrats’ recent successes. The bill now heads to the GOP-controlled Georgia Senate, where an identical measure was introduced last month…


Grassroots groups helped turn out a record number of voters

Growing up as a Vietnamese immigrant in Georgia, Quynh Nguyen saw firsthand the barriers that can prevent foreign-born Americans from participating in the electoral process. “My mom and dad speak English,” she says, “but not well enough to understand that there’s a website where they can check their voter registration status.”

Nguyen has devoted her career to helping members of her community navigate the voting system. …


Column

Social media may feel like some women’s only route to justice

Close up of a teenager using her smartphone. Her face is obscured by her phone.
Close up of a teenager using her smartphone. Her face is obscured by her phone.

Since Covid-19 hit, I’ve become a bit of a TikTok addict. The social media app offers entertaining, quick content that makes me feel connected to what young people are up to, an algorithm that’s proven remarkably mindful of my interests: dog videos, mom humor, and — of course — feminism.

It’s pretty heartening to watch a younger generation of women pick up the mantle of innovative activism and run with it. I’ve seen teens dancing to voicemails of their abusive ex-boyfriends as a way to raise awareness about red flags in dating, watched young women rapping about online abuse, and…


To march on a highway is to declare bravery in the face of danger — and an unwillingness to lose

Residence in America requires interaction with its vast network of highways. Yet the American highway system, born to defend against foreign military attacks and to transport commodities, is redundant. America and its highways are synonyms for each other; both narrative-based, costly, and destructive. This summer we’ve seen elected officials, and the judges they appoint, stretch every sense of the law to maintain white power structures, and we’ve seen how nervous they get when the people stretch our own power, moving from our streets to the highways. …


From 1960 until her death, Patricia Stephens Due had to wear dark glasses, a symbol of her lasting trauma

In the last six weeks, police around the country have met Black Lives Matter protesters with extreme responses — from rubber bullets to tear gas. For some, the result can be a lifelong disability.

It’s a reality writer Tananarive Due knows well; her mother, the civil rights activist Patricia Stephens Due was teargassed by police in 1960 and lived with severe light sensitivity until her death in 2012. GEN asked Due to share what that experience was like for her mother and what current protesters can learn from the movement of the 1960s.

GEN: Your mother had a history in…


A Black Lives Matter confrontation pitted neighbor against neighbor — and displayed the raw power of a social media flash mob

Steven “The Worldwalker” Newman found himself in some unnerving situations while circumnavigating the globe on foot as a young vagabond and writer. On a journey that began on April 1, 1983 — because people said he was a fool to do it — and ended on the same day four years later, he saw British troops patrolling the streets of Belfast in armored vehicles, narrowly escaped a robbery by machete-wielding bandits in Thailand, and was arrested and beaten by Turkish police as he made his way toward the Iranian border.

But none of this shook his faith in humanity like…


Sociologist Jennifer Schradie explains what journalists can do to fight fake news

The Covid-19 pandemic and protests against police violence have created endless opportunities for the spread of misinformation. Stuck in their homes, many people spend their days glued to social media, trying to stay informed about all the things happening in our world. Those conditions make us especially vulnerable to what researchers have called an “infodemic,” where we have difficulty sifting through the flood of information to understand what is real or fake, trustworthy or unreliable, evolving fact or settled truth, information or disinformation.

Researchers like Jennifer Schradie, PhD, who is a sociologist and assistant professor at the Observatoire Sociologique du…


Low-income students like Cat Sposato are fighting for equality in a system built by and for elites

On March 8, as the coronavirus was starting to spread across the country and New York City seemed an increasingly dangerous place to be, a group of student activists at Columbia University met to discuss the situation. Classes were not yet canceled, and the chapter leaders of the First Generation Low Income Partnership (FLIP) — a national nonprofit that advocates for first-generation and low-income college students — were worried about their community. What if kids couldn’t afford adequate cleaning supplies or protective equipment? Or if they got sick and couldn’t do their work-study jobs, how would they pay the university…

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