Opinion: Activism goes beyond making noise

Alex Lisa | Staff Writer

In 2014, 200 girls were kidnapped from their school in Nigeria. It captured the attention of nations across the globe, with celebrities and political figures from the U.S., UK, South Korea, and Japan voicing their support for the girls and bringing them home. The hashtag #bringourgirlshome swept the internet as people used their voices to spark action.

As of last week, nearly four years later, half of the girls have been restored to their homes. Roughly 100 are still held captive. And where have the voices gone? Silent.

The public preaches about their power and freedom of speech too often to count. The number of movements and demands that ring through the air in retaliation against injustices is overwhelming, at times. Yet one gets the feeling that “the people” use their voice not to make change, but to make noise.

It got me thinking. And then it got me doubting.

In March, I was part of the walkout in Mason High School. I was proud to be a part of that, proud to see how our school participated in using our voices, how students across the nation were using their voices to insight change. There were many of my peers, however, that I was honestly dumbfounded by. These students were ones who protested the protest because administration supported it.

That was the primary reason I heard for students not attending the walkout. It was not “really a protest,” it had “lost meaning” because the students helping to organize it worked with administration to make it happen. That is bafflingly idiotic.

Because we worked with administration, we had newscasters in the building filming and broadcasting what we were doing that day. Because we worked with administration, more people were confident in coming to the walk out and making their voices heard. Because we worked with administration, we had voting registration set up at the lunches for students who will be 18 by the next election year. That was huge. Registering to vote was made readily accessible to hundreds of students. That is taking it a step beyond using your voice, that is taking action. Voting is what is going to directly impact what happens next.

I tried to figure out why people were angry. What was the point in excluding people in higher positions of power from the same issue you are fighting to stop? I thought that was how you won. I thought that was how you changed things faster, quicker, better.

And it is. Change is made when those on the top are finally made to agree with the voices surrounding them. The fact that administration was working with us proved we were getting stronger. But I suppose, at the end of the day, that wasn’t what some people wanted this protest to be about.

It isn’t obvious. It’s underlying. As a public, we feel empowered and proud of ourselves each time we see a new hashtag, a new movement, a new injustice being brought into the spotlight. Look at us go. Look at all these issues we’re noticing. Look at all the politicians we’re calling out.

We don’t notice when that hashtag disappears. We don’t pay attention to when that movement is put on the backburner, or when an injustice fades from relevance without being righted. We don’t notice that despite the issues and the politicians and the voices, nothing ever changes. And so we cause a three month uproar about kidnapped school girls. Yay. Congratulations to us. Forget about the fact that after you tweeted that hashtag, you walked away from your computer and forgot. Forget about the fact that after those three months, those girl were abandoned, for four years. Forget about the fact that they grow into women and we still don’t bring them home.

That doesn’t matter. You said something. You did everything you could do.

What kind of progress are we going to make if we shut down the greater influences that will come with admin support? Yes, I want to use my voice. Yes, I want to be heard, and to force politicians and people in power to listen to me.

Then, I want it to mean something.