Are you a young person with something to say?
Do you want to make a positive difference?
Want to change the world?
If the answer is yes to any of the above; you’re probably a young activist, or at least on your journey to being one! We salute you! We are busy at team Mortal Fools thinking about what activism means to us as an organization and what it could really mean to be a bold, activist organization! Activism and the related topics, are something that permeate our meetings, our projects, our discussions and devising in our Youth Theatre group……..we are want to do the right thing and make a difference right? But where to start!?
We recently chaired a panel event late November for and by young people titled “So you want to be an activist…..now what?!” as part of People’s Powerhouse #ThisIsTheNorth festival. The inspiration for the panel came directly from our Mortal Fools’ Youth Theatre and the pressure felt by our young people to not only change the world, but to also save it. The young people who took part shared with us the will, the energy, the want to be more activist……but within a world constantly asking them to be more and be better in so many ways, with so many expectations, so many causes, so many things need to change…….it’s a lot and it is difficult to know where exactly to start.
Well, we thought we’d start with this blog post as a means of sharing insights from Mortal Fools Youth Theatre, share some of the amazing advice the young people’s panel gave during the #ThisIsTheNorth event and some of our learning working with young people along the way that might shape or inspire your activism. This blog post is for young people, folx who work with young people and anyone who needs a little jump start in motivation in their active allyship. We want to get you thinking and reflecting about the type of activist you want to be, what you care about and how in your own way, you absolutely can change the world (or your corner of it!).
We’ve learnt a lot from the young people, we work with at Mortal Fools – we are still learning daily and as the years pass, the contemporary issues important to young people and pressures placed upon them in a constantly evolving world, is ever shifting and changing. It never stops! What is important to young people right now TODAY, might be quite different to ten years’ time. That is why it is so important to constantly listen to young people’s voices and involve young people in things that impact them…you know….like decisions on education etc.
When we say “young people” by the way – at Mortal Fools, we recognize how inadequate that term can be and that it ignores intersectionality, individualism, leads to stereotyping and that a young person at 11 is very different to a young person at 16. Each individual young person that we’ve worked with has taught us something different and we’ve often seen their perspective and priorities change as they’ve grown up and grown with us; from them, we’ve learnt to look differently at the world, to be more ourselves, and (probably the most important one) to be braver and bolder.
Our young people didn’t teach us these things by staying quiet, by keeping their thoughts to themselves, by waiting for permission - they taught us these things by being young activists; by having and sharing their thoughts and opinions on the world around them, by caring passionately about things, and wanting to express themselves in powerful, creative ways. And that’s exactly what the starting point of being an activist……deciding what you care about and why and then speaking up about it.
Our recent panel discussion as part of #ThisIsTheNorth festival was no exception – young people front and center speaking up. Our eyes were opened up by the four young people who took part as Lead Panelists; two who were from Mortal Fools Youth Theatre and two were members of Gateshead Youth Council & Assembly. Each of the Lead Panelists answers, and the responses we had from other young people were inspiring in their own unique way. We delved into what it means to be an activist, how folx can get started, times they felt like that had stood up for something they cared about, times they felt they had been listened to, the pressure they feel having the future on their shoulders and how we (and you!) as folx that work with young people can support and encourage even more activism and young people to find their voice.
We came away feeling so empowered and more aware than ever how important it is to provide young people with a space to share their opinions and have a voice. And not just as a space for them to share and speak up, but a space where they can be listened to. Where their thoughts can be heard & acted upon.
If you’re a young person reading this, and you want to speak out about something you care about, then please let this be the encouragement you need! Do it! If you’re already doing it, then keep going, do it even louder & please don’t give up! It is a noisy old world out there – but we are here, we are listening and we want to amplify your voice.
If you’re an adult reading this then please support the young people around you to be young activists and encourage them to speak up. It’s so important. Now more than ever. Give them space to debate and explore and develop their opinions, their values and imagine a world, that we are too often blinkered in our ways and structures to be able to see. You get such value from it.
Ok. So. Now you might be wondering, but how? How do I start? Well… we wanted to share with you some TOP TIPS to encourage activism and to use as a starting point.
So…..You want to be an activist? Now what? Well you could……
1. Take some time to reflect on what is important to you – you can’t care about all the things equally all the time and you might want to change the world – but change happens often in more bite sized chunks. Take some time to think about what makes you feel passionate, what pisses you off, what excites you, what is important to you, what would you make a protest sign about? Write them down, collage them, draw them, represent them in ways that are meaningful and inspiring to you.
2. Do your research: read and learn about the thing(s) you care about; websites, socially engaged influencers (we’ve got a list at the bottom of this post), books, online articles; things that should help you understand the topic more and help you articulate exactly how you feel about it & what you’d like to do about it! Make sure you try to only use reputable sources – you don’t want to accidentally spread any #FakeNews
3. Listen to others – Being an activist is about having your voice heard and making change happen – it isn’t about shouting others down and driving an alternative view underground. Actually, really understanding other folx point of views, their experience, how their mindset has been shaped, will help your activism. The ideal is that two opposing sides on an issue, could sit down, positively debate, respectfully listen and leave the conversation with more knowledge and understanding of the counter-point.
4. It’s about the small things – Folx tend to focus on big activism or feel overwhelmed by the enormity of a “problem”. Think about what changes and things you can do right now in your control, to advocate your position and make positive changes. E.g. If you’re passionate about LGBTQIA+ rights and equality and want to be an ally– you could watch a film by a queer film maker and talk to others about it, attend an exhibition by a queer artist and purchase a postcard or a print, correct someone’s use of incorrect pronouns, read a blog post by a queer content creator, attend and support pride as an ally! The small things lead to big shifts in change
5. Contact your Local Council: ask them for more information about any local groups you could join, every city should have a Youth Council (a short email can go a long way!)
6. Get Curious – Ask questions! The only way you can dismantle and challenge structures that exist is by questioning them and understanding how they came to be. If you’ve ever seen someone in a group setting, stick their hand up to ask the question that everyone was thinking but too afraid to ask, then you’ve seen activism in action. Asking questions and having the confidence to do so – is a brave and bold thing. Don’t be afraid to question
7. Research and get in touch with your Youth Theatre Groups or Young Writers groups – these can be brilliant safe spaces to build your confidence, explore contemporary issues with peers, find your voice and find the right words to say what you want to say. In the North East, of course, you can get in touch with us at Mortal Fools’ Youth Theatre and for writers groups, we’d suggest our friends at New Writing North.
8. Social Media: use your online platform to share your voice and what’s important to you, amplify intersectional voices, follow other activists, share blog posts, videos, pictures, artwork (credited properly) and find your tribe.
9. Remember activism is about what you do when no-one is watching – activism for social media likes and followers has been a big thing across 2020 – real activism continues every single day, which is why it is so important to define and understand what is important to you. Doing some of the small things – can mean that you do things everyday.
10. Do something in 2021 – set yourself an activism goal for 2021. Decide one thing, one cause, something that you want to be a part of, change or challenge and set a route (may be using some of the points above) to get there. We’re doing this right now at Mortal Fools – we are very action focused and trying to be brave!
If you’re interested in connecting with other activists and socially engaged organisations, we suggest following:
I Will Campaign
Carly Jayne Jones
Well happy reading…..we hope you’re off to do something right now. Please do tell us about any things you are passionate about, what you want to change about the world and any activism you get involved in. You can keep in touch with us on our socials @mortalfoolsuk and please share this blog post with anyone you think might find it useful!
Blog post written by Team Mortal Fools’ Sian Armstrong & Rachel Horton