Category Archives: Global Youth Activism

Did the Youth-Led Arab Spring Succeed or Fail? Juan Cole’s answer.

Historian Juan Cole maintains that the young activists did lead successful revolutions, defining revolution as a rapid change in social and political institutions and attitudes caused by a social movement.[i] Various social movements acting together create a revolution. Specifically, the radical youth stopped the practice of presidents for life turning power over to their sons as Mubarak was planning to do in Egypt. They disrupted the financial control of the ousted presidents and their allies in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya. Also, they opened up discussion of political issues and youth unemployment and creation of new political parties. What youth most wanted was karama (dignity), individual rights and freedom similar to social democracy in Nordic countries. Cole said they made “new social and media spaces in which their demands could be voiced.” However, they were naïve to think that deposing an autocrat would change the oppressive system. After the revolutions, they turned their focus from government to organizing thousands of new NGOs, where they continue to use their horizontal and pragmatic organizational skills. He predicts, “They have kicked off what is likely to be a long intergenerational argument.” Because the key problem of youth unemployment hasn’t been solved, they will continue to “agitate for change” having had practice in how to mobilize and network.[ii]

[i] Juan Cole. The New Arabs: How the Millennial Generation is Changing the Middle East. Simon & Schuster, 2014, pp. x-xiv.

[ii] Ibid., p. 270.


5 Girl Activists

Brits Protest Trump

#NeverAgain gun control activists explain their tactics

David Hogg and Lauren Hogg. #Never Again. Random House, 2018.
What tactics did these Parkland, Florida, savvy and outspoken teenagers use to make so much happen so fast in the gun control movement? David Hogg explained in his #NeverAgain book that they were very disorganized and as teenagers, no one liked being told what to do. If someone had a good idea, they did it, without asking for approval. Individuals focused on what they did well, such as tweeting, giving interviews, or organizing. He said they didn’t have a plan or hire consultants and focus groups, but communicated the way they were used to online. They started by “going to war with the NRA” with tweets suggesting companies end their special deals with the NRA, which gave the students a “bigger stage” of national attention. Gonzales quickly gained more Twitter followers than the NRA. They picked a few clear goals and picked their battles, ignoring trolls but challenging well-known people like Laura Ingraham who criticized his question, “What if our politicians weren’t the bitch of the NRA?” They weren’t respectful of people in authority like Senator Marco Rubio. What Hogg said made them succeed is they “obsessively” stuck to the task of changing the national discussion about gun control, often spending the night at Cameron’s house and waking up with another idea. After the March for Our Lives in Washington, DC, they organized into committees. Hogg said Gonzales is the only “non-type A” person in the group, the “peaceful radiance at the center of all the spinning wheels.” He advises activists to stay loving and “never, ever stop pointing at the naked emperor.”

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, 28, beats #4 Democrat in NYC Primary

Signaling the importance of staying in touch with the grassroots, a 20-year member of Congress, the chair of the Democratic Caucus and in line to be Speaker, Joseph Crowley (age 56) was defeated in the June 2018 primary. He sent a substitute for a debate with his opponent Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, leading to criticism from the New York Times editorial board. An educator working with high school students (a graduate of Boston University), Ocasio-Cortez said she spent two years talking with the voters in the New York City district, which is half Hispanic—she’s fluent in Spanish. She recruited volunteers to campaign in six languages.

She posted a viral video titled “The Courage of Change” where she said, “Women like me aren’t supposed to run for office.” She writes her own social media with a large Twitter following. She has a Puerto Rican mother, was born in the Bronx, is only 28, ran her first race against Crowley, is a member of the Democratic Socialists of America, supports Black Lives Matter, and was outspent by at least 10 to 1. Before she ran, “I felt like the only way to effectively run for office is if you had access to a lot of wealth, high social influence, a lot of high dynastic power, and I knew that I didn’t have any of those things.”[i] What changed her mind was her participation in the Standing Rock protests against the Dakota Pipe line in 2016. The day she got back home, a national organization called Brand New Congress asked her to run for Congress. Ocasio-Cortez advocates eliminating ICE, universal healthcare, a $15 federal minimum wage, tuition-free public colleges, and making living in New York City affordable. Echoing the recent progressive emphasis on values, she said, “For me, it’s all about leading with our values and leading with our issues…in a moral society.” Hopeful, she says, “We are never beyond repair.” (She and Cynthia Nixon, candidate for governor, endorsed each other.)

[i] Gabriella Paiella, “The 28-Year-Old at the Center of One of This Year’s Most Exciting Primaries,” The Cut, June 25, 2018.

Road to Change Gun Control by Never Again Students

June 15: March For Our Lives: Road to Change. Starting in a Peace March in Chicago, the students bused to 20 states and 75 cities to “get young people educated, registered, and motivated to vote.” They pointed out that more than four million teens turned 18 in 2018 and Jaclyn Corin said in email, “We know there is no better way to bring about change than voting.” They described their effort as “a youth-led movement on a mission to elect morally-just leaders.” (The simultaneous Poor People’s Campaign also emphasizes the morality issue.) Tactically savvy, they partnered with Rock The Vote, Headcount, NAACP and Mi Familia Vota, They encouraged students to form intersectional activist clubs in their schools based on relationship building. They sponsored a petition that got hundreds of thousands of signatures, created merchandize to buy, and reached out to partner with gun violence prevention organizations.[i] “Price tags” calculated the amount of money that politicians accepted from the NRA, state by state, to be printed out and displayed. The campaign’s specific goals are to create “a searchable database for gun owners; funding the Centers for Disease Control to research gun violence so that reform policies are backed up by data; and banning high-capacity magazines and semi-automatic assault rifles.”