By Shanaya Daughtrey:
It’s March 16th, 2020, as I sit down and write. It seems like every time I look up, I see flashes of the news, and I see long lines wrapped around the corner of local grocery stores. There have been reports of people fighting over toilet paper. Local politicians are pleading with the people not to hoard goods, insisting that we have enough food and supplies. But how can we trust what the local politicians are saying when the leader of this country lies so profusely without shame?
We are facing a pandemic of epic proportions because systems that were put in place to handle such a crisis were systematically dismantled. Now more than ever, we must not drift into a deep sleep. We must remain awake and wake up those around us to participate in our democracy, to remove the force that is breaking down America as we know it.
Too much is at stake to have a lackadaisical attitude and not participate in our elections. If the status quo remains, the fabric of America will not be the same.
In 2019, when I woke up and became determined to engage in the world around me, my journey on my path of activism began, reflected in the following words:
I vividly recall riding in the car with my mother to an event in the early part of Summer 2019. She was “vibing” to the beat of a song from her playlist. I said, “What old song is that?” She said, "Just listen to the words, Shanaya.” And these were the powerful words that echoed throughout the car:
“Wake up everybody, no more sleepin’ in bed. No more backward thinkin’, time for thinkin’ ahead. The world has changed so very much from what it used to be, there is so much hatred, war an’ poverty . . . The world won’t get no better if we just let it be. The world won’t get no better if we just let it be, we gotta change it yeah, just you and me.” (Song by Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes)
I laid my head back on the headrest, closed my eyes, and let the rhythm of the words flow into my mind and stir my soul. I began to reflect on the direction of my life and the journey I wanted to take. The spirit of activism had been stirring in the depths of my soul since the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida, in 2018. It was stirring in my soul when I participated in a protest march for gun control, sparked by the student survivors who were not only able to call national attention to an issue that’s been rampant ever since Columbine and call out politicians, journalists, and even their parents who said it was not the time to talk about gun control but were able to orchestrate one of the largest youth-led demonstrations in America’s history—on my high school campus. It was stirring in my soul when I encouraged my peers not to be afraid to use their voice to speak out and be heard. It was stirring in my soul when I put pen to paper to write a book to inspire my generation—because we ARE more than Snapchat and selfies. It was stirring in my soul when I expressed to my mother my desire to work on voter suppression/oppression issues. It was stirring in my soul when I thought about the untimely, unjustified deaths of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland, Oscar Grant, Eric Logan, E.J. Bradford . . . the list is long and disheartening. It was stirring in my soul as I watched human beings being put into cages, treated worse than rabid dogs—babies snatched from the arms of their mothers. Activism stirs in my soul. It is the extra beat in my heart that pumps determination through my veins. I stand on the shoulders of my mother; I stand on the shoulders of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.; I stand on the shoulders of Angela Davis; I stand on the shoulders of Maya Angelou; I stand on the shoulders of the great Harriet Tubman who, with profound conviction, spoke the words, “Be free or die!”
Activism takes courage. The scared don’t try. The weak die along the way. Only the strong survive. History has shown us that determined and persistent individuals and groups of people who engage and unapologetically fight for what they believe to be right, just, and fair will eventually succeed. I think Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes said it best, “The world won’t get no better if we just let it be.” We must do our part to contribute to the uphill progression of our democracy. The world is in our hands, and in order to continue to break down the walls of hate, pernicious bigotry, and the oppression of people of color, we must stretch beyond the hashtags of social media, because as I stated in my book, Generation Z The Sleeping Giant Awakens... We Have The Power, “We Are More Than Snapchat and Selfies.”
Registering to vote as soon as you hit the legal age to do so is something that is in your control. Voting is intrinsic to the betterment of our country and stands as our voice in democracy. Along with voting, participating in organizations with cause(s) that you believe in and are passionate about can make a profound impact in your community, school, and/or society. I implore you to strive to be the best that you can be, be determined to make a difference, and be persistent in your actions. The time is now for GenZ to wake up and make the most out of any given opportunity to make a difference in the world that you a part of.
If you don’t wake up and choose to ignore what’s going on around you, you have in essence vacated the land of the living and entered into the twilight zone of the walking dead.
Wake up Gen Z!
Shanaya Daughtrey is currently a freshman at the The University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa class of 2023. She is a Presidential scholar and became a published author at the age of 17. She is majoring in political science with a minor in journalism, with the goal of becoming an attorney specializing in constitutional law. She is actively involved in student organizations on campus and is a mentor for students at a local middle school.
Read Elizabeth Gracen's interview with Shanaya Daughtrey.
Order Shanaya Daughtrey's book Generation Z - The Sleeping Giant Awakens. . . We Have the Power