CHICAGO – Despite consistently low voter turnout, who says millennials don’t care about politics? Many in this generation – roughly ages 18 to 34 – say they simply prefer to spend their time on specific issues, not specific candidates.
As News21 traveled across the country, we met with millennials who are taking a new approach to political activism on the issues they care the most about – from the climate, to elections, to racial injustice.
Maurice Forbes: Campus Crusader
Maurice Forbes, a 26, works at NextGen Climate as the Nevada youth director. His job: visit college campuses and communities to organize and empower millennials to find climate solutions.
“You can see across the country, millennials are increasingly driven and motivated behind a sense of purpose, and climate change and climate solutions is definitely one of those issues that we feel is really most important to us,” Forbes said. “You find a lot a students who are really excited and engaged with the possibility of having more political power and having an outlet to express their feelings and their views and ways that they think would really make a positive impact on our country.”
While Forbes said millennials are ready to bring about social change, they want to see how the results will affect their communities, which is why Forbes works with his team to localize issues.
“Our strategy is really to go to them and start engaging in these conversations relating to the issues and fights that they’re having,” Forbes said. “I hear a lot from theses campuses across Nevada that ‘I care about these specific issues that are going to be affecting me and less so about a particular candidate that is expressing their views on that.’”
Forbes said the real power of millennials comes from their ability to connect with each other across the nation and organize their issues.
“A lot of millennials are coming into their power, and we’re finally at a place that we’re able to speak out through really cutting edge ways,” Forbes said. “We’re able to speak out through mass platforms, through social media platforms, to get our voices heard, and those voices are moving and sharing and galvanizing our support. And I think that now is a key time. Never again will you be able to be elected to an office without making a plan to support the issues that millennials care about.”
Take 5 minutes to register to vote now, or spend four years watching Donald Trump trumpify the country! Your choice! https://t.co/1ISQtkdws2
— Jadon-Maurice Forbes (@MoeForbes) July 8, 2016
Sierra Hudson: Social Media Savvy
San Diego resident and political activist Sierra Hudson uses the power of social media as a tool when trying to ensure government accountability.
The 21-year-old recently organized a group of activists to help make sure people’s votes counted in the June 7 California primary election. Hudson said her team noticed poll workers were giving provisional ballots to many Latinos, college students and residents who live in poorer areas.
Hudson said that when she organized a protest and confronted the board of elections about it, they invited her and her team of nearly 60 volunteers to watch officials count the ballots.
“I felt a little bit comfortable there, but I was still like ‘we need to make sure that they do count it,’” Hudson said.
Hudson said the main way she organized this protest and got volunteers was through social media. She said she started #MichaelVuWeAreWatchingYou. Michael Vu is the the registrar of San Diego County.
— Kekilei (@808_katsu) June 27, 2016
“The biggest thing is to find someone else who has interest and other people in your community, friends and family and bring them together and talk,” Hudson said. “We’re going to have some awesome things happening. I’ll tell you, we’re an awesome generation.”
Cameron Flowers: Creative Communicator
Cameron Flowers, a 22-year-old Chicago native, is using technology and the power of communication to spread his message about America’s broken political system and racial oppression.
Flowers is a co-founder of the company IncluDe Innovation, which is a team of “developers, designers, strategists, and most importantly activists,” according to its website. They are a design company that focuses on web and mobile design for small and minority owned businesses.
“I really wonder, what if the phone in your hand wasn’t a distraction, but a way to plug you in even more into a movement,” Flowers said.
Flowers said using creative ways of communication is one of the key ways he’s trying to spread his message about the flaws in the American political system because of its basis in “fundamental racism.”
“F— the idea that one president or a system of presidents will help me in this structure,” Flowers said. “I don’t believe that the structure is set up in a way that benefits black or brown people – or all people – because everyone is oppressed.”
He’s been collaborating with the social group Black Youth Project, which Flowers describes as “representing youth 18 to 35 of all orientations, fundamentally coming together under the premises of a queer, feminist lens, ideology and thinking.”
“By adapting to these frameworks, we can really create in this space an open and loving space full of solidarity amongst black individuals that is necessary in the fight against institutions of policing and structural racism altogether,” Flowers said. “I love it, and I look forward to now being home from school and organizing and get more active with the organization.”