The Youth Wave Starts Here.





As a young activist, there's a tricky line to balance when it comes to dealing with emotion.


Anger is usually what fuels me--that daily dose of injustice, disappointment, and grief that sucker-punches you whenever you read the news. It's both liberating and draining. But this weekend in D.C., when I took to the streets as a member of the national Women's March Youth Empower Cohort, for a moment, something else replaced that anger. It felt kind of like hope.


Because even though I noticed struggles and rifts within the Women's March--like performative activism, non-inclusivity, close-mindedness--I was energized by the diverse, heartfelt, inspirational, and committed youth protesters. Youth are at the forefront of a major shift in activism--from movements that are superficial and reactionary to those that are nuanced and intersectional. I'm so grateful to have met the leaders of this movement. I know we will all stick around--not because we choose to, but because we know there is no option not to.


Welcome to the youth wave.



After weeks of national phone calls, planning, and organizing, I got to watch the Friday night Youth Wave event come to life! With over 150 young activists in attendance, it was an incredible opportunity to chat, snack, and make friends with future leaders from all over the country. I even met some of my 'Internet friends' for the first time, which was absolutely surreal. Our inspirational line-up of speakers included Linda Sarsour, the founder of Women's March, who is badass and powerful and also delightful to chat with over hot cocoa!





I lived my pre-teen dreams of becoming a Social Media Influencer by covering the Youth Wave event for VICE, which meant that I got to share the youth movement, through my perspective, to over 2.4 million watchers! Even more exciting was getting published by Washington Post's The Lily earlier in the afternoon. Unsurprisingly, I dodged plenty of internet trolls for both pieces, which I choose to wear both as a badge of honor and a testament to misogynistic, tribalistic internet culture.





I led my group in a roundtable discussion about the challenges of youth in activism. When it was my turn, I talked about how white adults are often the gatekeepers to the halls of change, forcing young WOC to squeeze themselves into palatable templates just to be heard. Other kids mentioned topics as diverse as the struggles of balancing work and school, finding self-confidence, and remaining inclusive. The conversations were so eye-opening and powerful, because we listened to each other. We got each other.


As a keynote speaker, I addressed the intersections of gun violence and femininity for an audience of nearly 200.

March day was freezing and rainy, but I had never felt more energized. I marched with a contingent of youth from across the country, creating a powerful Youth Wave that was reported on everywhere from NBC News to Vice.



Even though we had met less than 24 hours ago, I fell in love with my inspiring, passionate, crazy fellow Youth Cohort leaders.

The revolution will be cute as heck, basically.

I finally met my Homegirl Project team member Joyce!

The shirt says it all.


I met Women's March founder Bob Bland, who is also my 2019 fashion icon!


Even though the Women's March was far from perfect, I'm strengthened by the young allies I've gained and the friendships I made. There's a lot of anger, still, but there's also a lot of hope. Now all I have to do is gather the aches and impulses inside me, translate those into words or movements or projects, and maybe try to change the world.

© 2023 by MALAVIKA KANNAN.

malavikawrites@gmail.com