Youth Activism in the USA: One Year Later

Young Activist Network (YAN)

March 2020 marked one year since a group of young activists from Norfolk, joined by staff from MAP and Youth Access, travelled across the Atlantic to meet with campaigners and research youth activism in the USA. Here’s what we learned:

A handwritten quote by Linda Sarsour: 'Love is radical and powerful'
After touching down in NYC we attended a lecture on migration, refugees & the politics of sanctuary given by racial justice and civil rights activist Linda Sarsour.

Unity is not Uniformity

Linda highlighted the importance of groups fighting against oppression working together.


We’re not one thing, and you can’t work in isolation. People are infinitely varied and they can all come together around a movement.

Love is radical & powerful

Pursuing activism with love in mind implies that activism is not just fighting against something else, it is something that is a persistent and immovable and an established part of being alive.

Young Activists from Norfolk with Hebh Jamal
Young Activist Hebh Jamal taught us:

Sphere of Impact & Sphere of Influence

The issue is always going to be bigger than the influence we have: it’s about figuring out what we can do with the influence we have.

The activist is always asking a question

Demand justice be served. Ask vital questions, even if you’re not getting answers that you want.

A hand-drawn diagram of an iceberg - the visible part is the 'flashy stuff', the part underneath the water is 'groundwork and organsation.' Inspired by Hebh Jamal.

Activism out of necessity rather than choice

Hebh’s campaigning was born out of a need for representation of Palestinian students and other marginalized people in her school. She was involved because she had to be: ‘I’m not “getting involved”, I am involved. How can I not be?’

Reclaim the word ‘failure’

Don’t be discouraged when you encounter get setbacks. You’re not doing it because you think you’re going to get great results and be happy. You’re doing it because it’s the right thing to do.

A handwritten quote by Ramon Contreras: 'It needs to be loud, it needs to be bold, it needs to be annoying to the point that people pay attention.'
We ate pizza and discussed activism with Ramon Contreras and Amelia Eberline

If you want something heard, it has to be seen

It needs to be loud, it needs to be bold, and it needs to be annoying to the point that people are paying attention.

Value everyone’s time

Ramon values time spent meeting people. He believes in valuing people equally: treating the cleaner the same as the CEO.

Photograph of Yale University
We travelled to New Haven, where we met with members of a local Youth Advisory Board and heard from residents of the city and students at Yale University.
We learned to always ask the following questions:
  1. What do I know?

  2. What is my role?

  3. What can I learn?

Young Activists from Norfolk meeting with City Wide Youth Coalition
City Wide Youth Coalition taught us:

Be conscious of the space you are taking up

Who is affected by an issue? Who is best placed to do this work?

A safe space can be transformative

The effects of a network – if its foundations are grounded in love, respect & a genuine fight for justice – spill outwards in a way that cannot be quantified.

Project Reach logo
We took part in a workshop with Project Reach:


We were asked to challenge what we thought we knew about ourselves and how we perceived the world around us. We might unwillingly have systems in place that are unjust, and deep rooted.

Open a discourse within yourself

How can we make sure that we are being as inclusive as possible? What are your internal prejudices and can you be open about them and try to dismantle them?

Youth Activists Youth Allies logo
In a workshop with the Youth Activists Youth Allies (YAYA) Network we learned:

Accessibility is key

Who can access activist spaces?

We are growing & evolving

Acknowledge what you  don’t yet know.

If you speak from knowledge you speak from the heart.

The amazing youth-led organization United We Dream taught us the power of:

Leading through experience

They offer a platform and protection to the immigrant community – those directly affected by the issues they campaign on.

Young Activists from Norfolk with Wendy from YouAct

Talking to Wendy, founder of the YouActProject, was the best possible end to our trip.


Wendy facilitates connection-making and helps turn theory into action.

We are so grateful to the brilliant campaigners who generously shared their time, knowledge, and experience with us.