Rejecting apathy

Colectivo 41 is a youth collective that works on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex issues in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. Its mission is “to empower LGBTQI youth within San Miguel to become leaders and agents of change within their communities through political advocacy, community mobilization and educational initiatives.”

I have spent part of each winter for the past several years in San Miguel, a beautiful town in the mountains a few hours north of Mexico City. With its clean, dry air, sunshine every day (at least at this time of the year), warm days and cool nights, it is not surprising that this has become a gathering point for many others from Canada and the United States who are seeking an escape from the realities (weather and other) of our lives at home.

White hair activism

One of the many appealing aspects of life in San Miguel is the wide array of political activism we can become involved in; much of it work being done in concert with and/or led by Mexicans. There is a very active women’s organization; a safe house for Mexicans who have been deported from the United States back to communities in this area; the Train Tracks Migrant Relief Project; work to address the serious water crisis throughout Mexico, and more.

It did not take me long to notice that most of those involved in this work are older. White hair and comments about the aches and pains of ageing are common at most of the events I attend.

Given this context, it was exciting to encounter Colectivo 41 at a recent Ser Mujer event. This group of young people brought a different and much appreciated energy to the gathering.

“We are who you are talking about”

It got me thinking more generally about the importance of youth activism. Whether we think about the recent youth involvement in gun control activism in the United States, the role of young women in speaking out about sexual violence in Canada, the United States and around the world, the Occupy movement, or the WE organization that encourages young people to play a role in engaging others (from ME to WE) to address social justice issues across the globe, young people want a role to play in making their world a better place.

All too often, those of us who have been working for social change for decades don’t take the time to reach out, to engage and, most importantly, to listen and take a back seat to youth activists.

Reciprocal learning

This is our loss. Young activists may not always do things the way we have done them (or the way we think they should do them), but the new strategies they are employing may prove to be more successful than the old.

More importantly, the members of Colectivo 41, along with countless other activist organizations of young people, are claiming their right to shape the world they will live in long after we are gone.

They are rejecting the choice of apathy, and we need to make space in the activism circle for them. There is room for all of us and we can all learn from one another.

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