The importance of activism


Infographic by Ava Mitchell ’20.

Ava Mitchell '20, Staff Writer

Sitting at the dinner table with my family a few nights ago, an old memory resurfaced. At the beginning of October last year, my family and I took a trip to Grand Rapids. One morning while out walking around, an elderly man carrying a clipboard and a pen stopped my parents and told them: “sign this petition to help bring an end to gerrymandering in Michigan!” Both of my parents eagerly obliged and left their signature, along with many others. I was impressed that someone would choose to spend their weekend this way but did not give much thought to the petition after that day.

What we came to realize, over a year later, was that very petition did, in fact, gain the amount of signatures it required and is now on its way to becoming legislature for gerrymandering reform. With the midterm elections fast approaching, this was an astoundingly timely story that demonstrates how in our democracy, every voice, or in this case, signature, does make a difference.

For those who may not know, gerrymandering is defined by Merriam-Webster as: “to divide or arrange (an area) into political units to give special advantages to one group”. Gerrymandering is not specific to a particular political party; it is a strategy used by all in order to gain advantage in elections. At the time, I had little to no idea of how the political process worked, let alone what the repercussions of gerrymandering were. When it came to voting, I used to have trouble envisioning how a singular vote could make much of a difference in the final outcome of America’s policies.

However, I am happy to say that this recent experience has changed my mind. It takes incredible persistence and dedication to ask complete strangers to agree with them on a controversial issue and it is enlightening to know that there are people so passionate about certain topics; so passionate that they are willing to go out and fight for what they believe in. This event represented local democracy at work, and it proved to me that individual activism can spark real change.

As not only a student, but a journalist as well, this event really struck a chord with me. Many teenagers and young adults, whether from South or elsewhere, don’t believe their actions (or lack thereof) when it comes to politics have any affect. What I have now learned is although we may not be able to directly control what’s happening in Washington D.C., we still have a voice- and that voice can be heard.