PrideTime Blog Editor
This September, I had the luck of partaking in history’s largest global climate protest. On Friday, September 20th, I skipped school to protest global climate policy (or the lack thereof). I was only one of a possible 60,000 to 250,000 marchers in New York City who marched from Foley Square to Battery Park, signs in hand and voices echoing in chant through the streets. But this strike was not the only one organized youth in recent years. From gun control movements to climate strikes, to mass involvement in gay pride parades, the younger generations-- Generation Z, specifically-- have shown they're set on changing the world.
My experience in the #FridaysForFuture climate strike in September is something I wouldn’t exchange for the world. It was easily one of the best days of my life. I took a 9 am train with a couple of my friends into the city where we met with fellow strikers at Foley Square, the initial gathering spot for that day. Here, I met marchers of all ages from all across the area; I met students from New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, and other surrounding states. I remember being huddled so close with these strangers and feeling a sense of unity as we held up our signs and chanted together. I remember being crushed in the crowd and looking around to see Foley Square swarmed with a crowd of individuals who were just as passionate as myself about a change in climate policy. I remember a feeling of hope overcoming me as my arms began to ache from holding my sign above my head, and my throat began to sore from chanting so loudly.
Once the actual strike began, marchers began walking to Battery Park. In this march, I recall turning around and seeing an unbelievably large crowd both ahead of and behind me; I remember hearing the echoing of catchy chants surrounding me, and the inspiration I gained as I looked around at all of these strangers who had come together to preserve the future of our planet. I was surrounded by children, teenagers, adults, and elders who all shared the belief that our dealing with this global crisis is not adequate. That global policy needs to change if the future of humanity ever wants to stand a chance.
Upon reaching our destination of Battery Park, we waited for an hour at two for the guest speakers to arrive. You could practically taste the excitement in the air as sweat beaded down our foreheads and the minutes counted down, signifying that Greta Thunberg, the mastermind 16-year old (at the time) behind the strike would take up the stage soon. When she finally did, following performances from Jaden and Willow Smith and other youth climate activists, I had never heard cheering so loud. Crushed between other teenagers, held back by a metal gate, I can still hear the sound of cheering and feel the reverberation in my chest as I watched Thunberg walked across the stage.
Thunberg took to the stage and delivered a strong, inspiring speech, as she always does. She urged the seriousness of the climate crisis we face and told the crowd to continue voicing the need for change. Thunberg went on to deliver more sentiments to the crowd about policy change, but also applauded fellow youth for standing up for their future-- for our collective future. She concluded her speech by saying, “This is only the beginning. Change is coming, whether they [world leaders] like it or not… This is what people power looks like. We will rise to the challenge, we will hold those who are accountable. We will make the world leaders act-- we can and we will.”
Thunberg isn’t the only one organizing protests, though. In the past decade alone, there has been a rise in youth-organized demonstrations advocating change, whether it be in terms of gun or climate policy, racial or gender inequalities, and any other bases for discrimination. Ranging from the Black Rights Movement, to the March for Our Lives Movement, to the DACA and Dreamer Movements, Women’s Marches, and #FridaysForFuture school climate strikes, it’s clear that the youth will not back down in the face of challenge-- that they will not sit idly by and watch injustices continue to unfold.
Though youth-led protests have gained much media attention in the past couple of years, they are nothing new. Students and youth alike have been combatting major issues in the form of protests since the Civil Rights Movement. Youth have taken it upon themselves to change the world, using their voices as their power, demanding to be heard across the globe. From the Vietnam War Protests, to the famous Tiananmen Square incident, to Arab Spring Protests, and Indigenous Water Rights strikes, there’s a history of younger generations being the ones to change the world. Generation Z is not an exception. Though we may be named after the last letter in the alphabet, we are determined to not be the end. I striked for my future and I can say that being alongside fellow marchers, I am convinced that if anyone can change the world, it’s the youth.