Throughout the summer, the nation was rocked by demonstrations regarding the COVID-19 pandemic and the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. These protests also found a home within Flagstaff in recent months, and as returning NAU students are growing more plentiful by the day, social justice efforts could be reignited this fall.
It is no secret that college students are among the most vocal populations in the United States when it comes to matters like civil rights and freedom. A recent article from Forbes predicted 2020 as the year student activism will reach its peak — regardless of remote or in-person learning. In recent years, politics around the country have drawn more young activists into this scene through physical protesting and social media campaigns. For social platforming specifically, Forbes reported that college students are likely the most adept and knowledgeable.
“U.S. politics have become more polarized, and college students have been drawn into the fray on topics like climate change, gun control and immigration policies,” the article stated. “Expect their calls for protest to multiply, to become louder, and to recruit the throngs of supporters that harken back to those memorable days in 1968.”
Senior Calli Jones, president of the NAU Young Democrats, said she participated in many of Flagstaff’s protests over the past few months. The Young Democrats led this summer’s March for Justice, she added, which ended with a formal sit-in at the Flagstaff Police Station. Furthermore, Jones explained that her club partnered with the NAU Black Student Union (BSU) to help spread the movement around northern Arizona.
As students return to the Flagstaff area for in-person classes, which are scheduled to resume Aug. 31, Jones said this growing population could generate more protests.
“Students are key in pushing social movements forward,” Jones said. “Together, we are far stronger than apart, so I believe our return will spark deep discussion and direct action.”
The BSU officers of NAU, including president Alexa Hart, vice president and secretary Kobe Lee and social justice chair Amethyst Nabors, made several statements regarding the increased potential for protests. Together, the seniors stated that they wholeheartedly stand with the BLM movement, along with the justice and peace it represents.
Similar to Jones, the BSU officers said there is potential for protests to be reignited among the incoming student population. As an organization, their hope is that students pursue a more direct route to enacting change, specifically by speaking with NAUPD or Flagstaff Police Department directly.
“However, regardless of whether they want to continue protesting or not, we will continue to fight, educate and inspire our people,” the BSU officers said. “We will continue to strive toward being devoted to justice rather than order.”
For those who participate in protests, the BSU advised individuals to remain level-headed and avoid simply “following the crowd.” The board members added people should stand up for what they personally believe in, rather than fighting for a cause because it is trendy.
The BSU officers also said anyone who supports these social justice protests should educate themselves on the matters at hand. This research may include pursuing ethnic studies courses or attending BSU meetings, which have open attendance for all.
Although the recent resurgence of the BLM movement focused on the deaths of Jacob Blake, George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, along with the Black-lived experience, the board members said their organization also strongly opposes the “gentrification and cultural appropriation of the Indigenous populations of Flagstaff.”
“Understand that as MLK states in the Birmingham letter, ‘injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,’” the BSU explained.
Similarly, Jones said she encourages NAU students to become involved in social justice efforts as much as they possibly can. While protesting is undoubtedly important, she advocated for change-makers to go even further, which can be accomplished through voting and other active participation in the Democratic system.
“Never let your elected officials become comfortable,” Jones said. “They should hear you in the ballot box and on the streets.”