January 25 2019
“45 people died last year in my city and no one said a thing… It was really just about rising up and trying to... amplify those stories as much as I could.” Vikiana Petit-Homme saw the gun problem in her city of Boston, Massachusetts and was distressed by the lack of attention being brought to the issue. She also stated that gun violence in Boston is “100% concentrated in communities of color” - The community of Roxbury, Boston is labelled as “the heart of black culture in Boston” and has a 61% black population. However, the area is also known for its high crime rates. A resident of Roxbury has stated: “there’s not one day I could go by and there’s no violence.”
Vikiana’s activism in the gun safety sphere began when she attended her local March For Our Lives chapter. “I’ve always known [that] there [was] a problem in my community. However, I didn’t always feel like I had the power to do something about it,” she said. Now, Vikiana is the Northeast Regional Director of March For Our Lives - Boston, and she’s learned a thing or two about creating protests. She compartmentalizes the process into three steps: getting an idea, planning, and spreading the word.
According to Vikiana, finding a larger objective in your protest is a great place to start. Make sure that you have defined goals that you hope to achieve through the protest. Making a list of demands is a great way to give your protest a purpose. Additionally, these demands can serve as your North Star - when making decisions during the planning stage, you can ask yourself: “Will this help us receive our demands?”
Planning a protest can come with many challenges and setbacks, so the earlier one plans the better. Vikiana and her team started planning the Boston March for our Lives protest an entire month before they actually commenced.
In addition to finding a location, you’ll need to think about factors such as permits, stages, activities, etc. Of course, all of this depends on the scale of your protest. Ask yourself questions: how are you funding all of this? What will the protesters be doing (listening to speakers, marching towards local government offices, etc)?
In order to plan a protest, it is essential to form a team of dedicated, like-minded people. Reach out to clubs and organizations in your area that you believe would be interested in helping. For example, if you want to plan a local pride parade you can enlist the help of members from your school’s lgbtq+ club.
Once you’ve made the connections that enabled your protest to happen, make sure you continue to plan for the future. It is vital that you reach out to people who attended your protests even after they're over. “Without that, you lose the whole movement and you lose a lot of people who support your mission but maybe don't know how to get involved.''
Spreading the Word
The more people you can get to stand behind your movement, the stronger the message you’ll send. Vikiana emphasizes the importance of promoting the protest consistently on social media and utilizing tools such as hashtags and memes. “Were teens; we can do this. Memes are our friend,” she said. Having original and funny content is important for a social media feed, but it won’t be effective if it's messy. Social media can be many people’s first impression of your protest which is why having original and organized content is crucial. The March For Our Lives organization is very effective in its social media outreach, although Vikaina reiterates the help they've gotten from the media. “The media was all on us and we could spread our message like that.” Reaching out to local papers and telling them about your protest is not only a great way to get media coverage of the actual event, but it can also result in free promotion!
Another way to spread the word is to encourage people to bring friends. Vikiana notes that if one person promises to bring 5 or so friends to the protest, and those friends bring 5 people, the numbers can build up fast.
With teen-led movements like March for our Lives and FridaysForFuture, youth leaders have caused millions of people from around the world to take action. “We’re able to respond quicker and we just bring a new perspective that wasn't there before,” said Vikiana. By protesting, teenagers can come together and amplify their voices so that the world takes notice.
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