On March 25, at the ‘March for our Lives’ protest across the United States and a few cities globally, Yolanda Renee King, the nine-year-old granddaughter of Dr Martin Luther King Jr, gave a rousing speech, which she concluded with the concise phrase: A gun-free world. Period. The legacy of a man such as King Jr can never be erased, but it was somehow poignant, if not promising, to know that his light has been brought to focus once again by someone so young.
If we look at the state of the world today, with terrorism, sexual harassment scandals, slavery, xenophobia and religious divisiveness, one might become disillusioned. But if we look closer, we will see many promising stories of brave souls coming forward to expose the lies and deceit of the matrix we inhabit. People are questioning ideology and voicing dissent. And some of the activists in question do not even have a license yet.
The March for our Lives campaign was founded by high-school students who survived the Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school shooting in Parkland, Florida. Their grief and fear galvanized them to make a change, and for the first time, the conversation about gun control is reaching the higher echelons of society. And Yolanda upped the ante by saying that weapons are not needed at all.
The new generation, all around the world, is teaching us that silence will no longer be tolerated. There is Sophie Cruz, who at the age of five began her fight for the rights of immigrants when she broke through security to hand a letter to Pope Francis. In it, she asked for his help to speak out on behalf of undocumented immigrants so that her family would not to be deported from the United States.
We all know that Malala Yousafzai was only 15 when the Taleban tried to kill her. She chose to use her forum to push for the rights of girls to be educated. And then there is Payal Jangid, who escaped child slavery and is now a member of the “Children’s Parliament” in her village in Rajasthan, India, where she educates citizens about abuse and child marriage.
But youth activism is not just for defending humanity. A little over three years ago, when she was in eighth grade, Phoebe Goldstein managed to have her school cancel a trip to Sea World in defense of whales and dolphins in captivity. And Tayler Jensen, an animal-loving teenager who is the founder of VegAlliance, started a vegan club which is now a grassroots organization and even got the attention of PETA. Jensen encourages people around her to adopt a compassionate, plant-based diet and has many supporters and sponsors.
Everywhere, we hear of youth activists pushing for a better world, a phenomenon that tells us we must be on the right track somehow, regardless of how things appear on the surface. Something magical is arising on our planet if kids are inspiring and guiding adults! William Wordsworth was right when he stated: “The child is father of the man.”
These kids are teaching us that we are never too young to transform the world. These stories can inspire us, as adults too, to use our platforms to defend those inhabiting our planet, not just those who share our religion, our race, our gender, our sexual inclinations, our political beliefs, our education level, our financial status or our social standing. And not just those who are human, but all sentient beings, as Goldstein and Jensen would remind us.
It is never too early or too late to transform our consciousness. And when we are disillusioned by the ways of the world, and have no energy to change it, then we should at least speak out about it. We never know which child we may inspire to actually do something about it.
By Nejoud Al-Yagout