Delicately, the father adjusted the hat of his son, who couldn't have been more than 2 years of age, as he explained to a fellow protester, "This is his second march, after the Women's March."
The child in the orange hat was just one of the many young people
stretching their legs and lungs at the march. It's a new era of activism, one that doesn't have a minimum age requirement; one that welcomes new voices to old conversations and one that has allowed a handful
of high school students to inspire thousands of people
around the world.
I've covered protest after protest, from demonstrations on campus
to the almost daily revolts in New York City
that followed President Donald Trump's election. But never before have I felt the power of the younger generation like I did on Saturday afternoon -- at the foot of the Capitol under the tepid D.C. sun.
As a college student only months older than the survivors of the February 14 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, I've been floored by watching how the traditional roles of student and teacher, child and parent have reversed
In the space of a few short weeks, students have become leaders
, cleaning up the mess muddied by policymakers and gaining traction with policy change
, while adults watch on, teary eyed and awed, as the students lead them toward a better tomorrow.
By making activism more accessible, these teenagers are changing America, serving as role models to us all and opening up opportunities
for students to shape the future. But how do we keep up the pressure, and continue fighting?
To start, students need to focus on educating themselves and studying policy; learning about the priorities of their representatives so when the time comes, they can exert their influence through the ballot. We have the ability to hold politicians accountable
and put their jobs in jeopardy, and if they don't listen, that's exactly what we are going to do. As Stoneman Douglas survivor Cameron Kasky put it during the march -- warning all politicians
ignoring public cries for gun reform -- "the voters are coming."
The most successful advocacy efforts I've witnessed have been those in which the students are relentless and meticulous -- not only outlining problems, but presenting tangible, achievable solutions. Students on stage at the march in D.C. connected with the audience because they did just that: demonstrating the impact
of gun violence through the testimonies of victims and calling for direct political action in the form of voting and mobilizing, threatening stagnant representatives
with chants to "vote them out."
On a smaller scale, these tenacious protests and passionate appeals have spurred change on my own college campus. Whether it's occupying an elevator
for as long as it takes for the NYU administration to respond to demands or marching miles to Trump Tower to protest
the President's policies, student activism has continuously pushed limits in terms of calls for change.
But that's why it works. The March for Our Lives has further stretched the opening students can climb through to access the political sphere -- and has given me great hope for our future leaders.
As a generation that has grown up with social media, the way in which the Parkland students used online platforms to organize collective action, such as the walkouts to demand stricter gun control that took place in schools across the nation on March 14, has taught me a lot about the instruments aside from voting that we can use to make our voices heard.
I'm not an American citizen and don't have the privilege of participating in elections; however, the March for Our Lives movement has highlighted the other tools at our disposal -- shaking away my former frustration at feeling as though I was watching from the sidelines.
We can reach people from all around the world online, finding people with similar drives for political action, and use the media to spread our message and inform others. The beauty of the Internet is that everyone has a voice, and high schoolers can use this platform to their advantage. Write for your school or local newspapers, orchestrate rallies and protests and spread the word online; there are unlimited ways we can participate in this movement.
In organizing an inclusive, widespread, proactive demonstration, the Stoneman Douglas survivors have set an example for young activists around the country, and have even encouraged us to hold ourselves to a higher standard in our activism.
The March for Our Lives movement -- and the teenagers responsible for it -- have sparked a much-needed
conversation about how race and representation in media have played into unbalanced coverage
of mass shootings.
In the past, students of color fighting for change have been muted by the media; the Stoneman Douglas students recognize that
, and have made a distinct effort to include the voices
previously left out of the conversation. Young activists should follow suit and encourage intersectionality in their activism, ensuring that everyone has a platform and everyone has a voice.
Although the march is over, its impact endures. From walkouts to national demonstrations to domination
of the news cycle, the mobilization of students has created a momentum that we must harness and continue to push forward.
Instead of watching violence ravage
our schools, movies theaters, nightclubs, concerts and churches, high school students have to put a foot down. With the Stoneman Douglas survivors setting an example on the national stage, there is unprecedented room for young people to encourage legislative change.
But the crux of it all, what we can't ignore amid the feelings of pride for this generation, is a sense of disappointment that we are here: suffering from the weakness of our representatives and relying on the strength of our youth.