Millennial Organizing and the Intersectional Justice Movement
Last week, hundreds of Millennials converged on Washington DC for Our Generation, Our Choice, a mobilization for justice on race, climate change, and immigration. The action was endorsed by a variety of groups, including 350, Million Hoodies, United We Dream, and Hip Hop Caucus.
The main message of the event was that millennials could no longer wait for politicians to fix the major issues we face as a nation. If we want racial, economic, immigration, and climate justice, we need to join together and take action ourselves to move this country forward. In other words: We are the people we’ve been waiting for. Here were the demands, taken from the official website:
“We are taking to the streets of Washington, D.C. to demand that we keep fossil fuels in the ground; protect and respect the dignity and lives of immigrants, and black, brown, and poor communities; reinvest in healthy jobs, renewable energy, and an economy that works for all of us.”
The planned mass civil disobedience, with hundreds of millennials coming together blocking the street in front of the White House, demonstrated the most powerful idea of Occupy Wall Street: All of our grievances are connected. A recent Salon article explores how Our Generation, Our Choice creates linkages between different forms of oppression:
“Justice for people of color and immigrants is dependent on addressing environmental concerns and economic inequality. Fixing economic inequality and environmental issues is also dependent on the liberation of people of color and immigrant populations. Communities of color and undocumented agricultural workers are in the most danger of hazardous environmental outcomes. Discrimination against these communities is also found to drive economic inequality and environmental destruction.”
This strong, unifying message could be seen on the main banners at the front of the march:
The youth are rising, no more compromising! #OurGenerationOurChoice pic.twitter.com/mrMSG9nT4r
— Lindsay Meiman (@lindsaymeim14) November 9, 2015
As a generation, we can no longer settle for single-issue justice or wait for the political system to respond. As the banner says, we need to resist, reinvest, and reconstruct. Here are other powerful scenes from the event:
.@usclimateplan The youth are rising, no more compromising! #OurGenerationOurChoice pic.twitter.com/tL9sq0GfSn @vidcode…
— Sharon Thompson (@DreamWorkshop) November 12, 2015
There is no #climate justice w/o #ImmigrationReform or affirming that #BlackLivesMatter. #OurGenerationOurChoice pic.twitter.com/phef1YRhmZ
— U.S. Climate Plan (@usclimateplan) November 10, 2015
Resist. Reinvest. Reconstruct. Beautiful art for resistance at center of #OurGenerationOurChoice action in DC. pic.twitter.com/W9EDSVTLxV
— Collin Rees (@collinrees) November 9, 2015
This idea of a unifying justice isn’t only being articulated at rallies and protests, but is also seeping into our gridlocked political system. The platform of Bernie Sanders, who has been extremely popular among millennials and students across the country, also indicates that our oppressions are connected, and he frequently emphasizes how electing him as President won’t alone accomplish the progressive change we need. He is urging young people not only to produce a historic voter turnout, but also to march on Washington to pressure Congress to act in our interests. From a June interview with Katie Couric:
“If a million young people march on Washington they to the Republican leadership, we know what’s going on, and you better vote to deal with student debt. You better vote to make public universities and colleges tuition free, that’s when it will happen.”
Bernie’s popularity among the 18-35 age bracket is reflected in the massive grassroots movement that has sparked as part of the Political Revolution. One of the major youth organizing groups, Millennials for Bernie Sanders, has been profiled by The Guardian and Vice. Their Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram have thousands of followers.
The content featured on Bernie’s expansive social media network is a reflection of the campaign itself, covering a wide variety of the issues we face everyday and linking it with the larger corrupt system. This includes climate change, racial inequality, mass incarceration, immigration reform, The Trans-Pacific Partnership, student debt, and a multitude of other issues. When Bernie mentions that his “economic and social justice” platform will win over voters, he is referencing this new unified justice movement, which recognizes that we are all connected by the oppression we face and must work together.
Kshama Sawant was recently re-elected into the Seattle City Council after pushing for Seattle to become the first city to pass a $15 per hour minimum wage. The platform of her campaign, and her party, Socialist Alternative, also reflect this new justice movement, with a goal of ending economic, LGBT, climate, immigration, racial, and gender inequality.
Sawant’s district had the highest voter turnout, and she credited part of her victory to the energy that Bernie is generating across the country:
“It’s absolutely true that Bernie Sanders putting these questions on the national agenda has really created, and will continue to create, enormous momentum. There were so many people who said: ‘I wasn’t paying that much attention to Seattle politics but I’ve been listening to Bernie Sanders’ politics. I’ve been so excited by his call for a political revolution against the millionaire class and I’m looking around me and thinking I need to get involved at a local level.’”
Socialist Alternative was a major organizer of last week’s Million Student March, another action which demonstrates that the millennial generation understands the intersections of oppression and inequality. The demands included a $15 minimum wage for all campus workers, tuition-free public college, and cancellation of all student debt, but the protests included a much wider range of issues:
Beautiful: divestment, wage justice & more in solidarity #MillionStudentMarch @UMassAmherst today! #FloodTheSystem pic.twitter.com/z6gs5vCXNm
— Energy Action (@energyaction) November 13, 2015
VIDEO: "#Mizzou we got your back!" from the #Philly #millionstudentmarch #MizzouHungerStrike pic.twitter.com/SMKkFI5sYb
— 15 Now Philly (@15nowPhilly) November 12, 2015
#millionstudentmarch #UOaccess #freecollegenow #15now #freecollegenow @Univ_Of_Oregon pic.twitter.com/9sxPtusc1h
— Ellen (@dorksidedarth) November 12, 2015
Last week was also the Fight For $15 nationwide day of action, with hundreds of strikes and protests occurring across the country. While this movement isn’t only comprised of millennials, we see the same inter-sectional solidarity beginning to form. What began in Brooklyn as a single-issue movement pushing for $15 per hour minimum wage and the right of low-wage workers to unionize, has now become something so much more powerful. For instance, check out these memes which were used to promoted the recent strikes:
The linkages here are obvious. Many low-wage workers live in communities which also face over-policing and police oppression. At the same time, workers fighting for a $15 per hour minimum wage also have family members and friends who face the constant threat of deportation. Economic justice is very important but this would not be enough to improve the lives of those currently earning the minimum wage.
An article in Fusion recaps the massive Fight For $15 protest in Milwaukee outside last week’s GOP Debate, highlighting the diversity of the crowd and the issues they were fighting for.
“The Fight for 15 is about intersectionality, because it’s black and brown people who are most affected by low wages. We’re all in the same sinking boat, so we have to work together.”
These others scenes from last week’s strikes show the new justice movement in action:
The fights for economic and racial justice are intrinsically linked. #BlackWorkMatters #BlackLivesMatter #FightFor15 pic.twitter.com/DpN1XpTrnp
— SEIU (@SEIU) November 10, 2015
.@BYP_100 #BlackWorkMatters #FightFor15 "Most of the people making low wages r black & brown women. We deserve more" pic.twitter.com/jEfYsEwSak
— Fast Food Forward (@FastFoodForward) November 10, 2015
#FightFor15 x #BlackLivesMatter x #Immigration Justice Advocates shut down traffic at 125th in Harlem #Anonymous pic.twitter.com/1DTsdNDH6N
— Anonymous Aussie (@AnonyAussie) November 10, 2015
Immigration reform in the agenda of #FightFor15 pic.twitter.com/JVPzYKxlIb
— Arise Chicago (@AriseChicago) November 10, 2015
Also, just last month, Fight For 15 groups participated in the National Day for Climate Action across the country:
These are just a few examples of how our these once single-issue organizations have begun to join together to form a large mass movement for intersectional justice. Having signs at a protest which address different issues and solidarity between groups coming together for an action are very important, but this burgeoning movement must evolve even further. Rather than just individual people who are fighting for different conceptions of justice, we need to become a unified force where every single one of us is working to dismantle oppression in all forms. Once we reach an understanding that the unique issues we face each day are inextricably linked, both on the streets and in the ballot box, we will be better able to push for the progressive transformation of our society.
As Mikhail Bakunin once said: “I am truly free only when all human beings, men and women, are equally free. The freedom of other men, far from negating or limiting my freedom, is, on the contrary, its necessary premise and confirmation.”