In the glow of youthful activism generated by the Parkland students and the movement they have unleashed, I find myself contemplating the once-young activists I have known (myself included). I ponder their current whereabouts. Are they still involved in changing the world? Do they realize how much of a difference they have made? Are they entertaining, as many should (Christian — are you reading this?), the idea of running for office?
Young activists carry movements forward. They build new ones. They fight for their future unapologetically. They carry on when those of us who are no longer young activists cannot.
The Parkland students are changing the gun debate. Moving it beyond the stasis it has been mired in. The Parkland students are driving a national march in solidarity of their movement. As they do so, the Parkland students can — and should — draw on the progressive activism infrastructure that exists. In some cases, that infrastructure is also comparatively new: the Women’s march in 2017, and again in 2018, harnessed the energy of hundreds of thousands of Americans around the country, and around the world, in support of women’s issues. Pride, also, offers an existing infrastructure on which to build progressive action; an infrastructure that is well defined and decades old.
Young activists and LGBT history
Since 1969, when the Stonewall Riots served as a watershed moment for transgendered people, gay men, lesbians, bisexuals and our allies, the LGBT community has been organizing and demanding our rights. Year in, and year out, Pride events around the country and around the world have brought together disparate elements within our community. Younger political “rabble-rousers” march behind the community’s elders, who proudly join other community organizations as parades weave through city centers and rural districts.
Pride is not the only organizing force within the LGBT community — not by any means. In NJ we are blessed with LGBT community centers, LGBT employee resource groups, LGBT welcoming congregations, and scores of other affinity groups. When LGBT individuals are out to their families, their places of work, their schools, and their communities, they push the equality envelope.
LGBT Pride events complement these individual and organizational efforts. The show of strength at a Pride event reminds our elected officials just how large, and diverse, and adamant, our community is. Pride is a constant, a presence, a partner within society. Pride events offer the opportunity for everyone to get involved, be accepted, and join the movement. For some, it is an annual ritual; for others, participating in pride may be that individual’s first step in their development as a young activist — a right of passage as it were.
Jersey Pride in Asbury Park, NJ is now in its 27th year. Sadly, some of our original young activists are no longer with us; their passion remained, but their bodies were no longer able. Some of our young activists are now not-so-young activists. Still fighting the fight. And each year, the next generation of once-young activists joins us. Ready to change the world.
Please join them, and all of us, in Asbury Park on Sunday, June 3, 2018 and help us make a lasting, resounding difference.
Laura Pople is the President of Jersey Pride Inc.