The Political Thinkers of Our Generation

By Caroline Gray

The following are photographs and responses from students under 18 years of age in Winnetka, IL.

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Abby & Annie: I think being overwhelmed translates into a little bit of hopelessness. All of these problems, being so overwhelmed by all of them, and not feeling like you can make a difference… feeling like you have no power while you hear about all these news stories that are so tragic, and you don’t agree with them, but you feel like you can’t do anything about them… I wonder what the long-term effect of that is.

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Chaitan: We are contributing to the argument in a very uninvolved way: through Facebook and social media. No one is really doing anything about it. Back in the ’70s, you could see people protesting with picket signs and actually PROTESTING things, and now-a-days, it’s like, “Hey, let’s go on Facebook and fix gay rights.” They don’t actually DO anything.

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Greg: No one really thinks about this, but local politics are so important. I wasn’t 18 for the presidential election, but I am going to vote in my local election, and I think that is something everyone should do. You might not be able to do anything on a national scale, but on a local scale, there is so much you can do. If you play a part in your local government, that’s a really good way to make changes.

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Julia & Bevo: I think a lack of caring is a huge part of any kind of issue. I think that we don’t care about our environment, we don’t care about the policies, and if we do care, sometimes our voices aren’t heard. So I would say that with any kind of problem, there is a lack of responsibility that people feel they have.

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Autonomía

By Anna Daggett

ADaggett.HQZapatista

This photograph was taken of a mural at a Zapatista caracol, a center of government of the Zapatistas of Chiapas, Mexico. In response to the North American Free Trade Agreement’s passage in 1994, they rose up with arms against the state of Mexico to create their own autonomous communities, places where the needs of the people are being met. In these communities, people are not needing to migrate to the US for a better life and can maintain their traditional way of life and culture.

Spuistraat, Amsterdam

By Kim Bui

Bui_Amsterdam Spui (1)

The Squatter’s Movement in Amsterdam started growing in the 1960s as a way to challenge the post-war housing shortage during which thousands of young people were homeless while houses stood empty and boarded up.  In 1980 on Coronation Day, April 30th, riots hindered the Squatter Movement’s unity as violence was used by a few of its members, affecting the general public’s image of the “squatter.” Since then, there has been a decrease in the number of squatters living in the city as well as their political influence. In 2010, a ban was introduced to make squatting an illegal act.

Previously empty houses such as those pictured above have had residents living in them for over three decades.  The Wet Kraken en Leegstand (Squatting and Vacancy Law) has helped protect established residents from the ban, by making it a lengthier process to be evicted.  Houses on Spuistraat combine living and working space by creating a tight knit group of artists who influence and inspire each other as well as manage, maintain, and improve their living spaces through cooperation.

Anxieties of Place and Mind: Reevaluating Social Justice Overseas

By Devon Snyder

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This picture was taken while I was studying abroad in Brazil in the spring of my junior year. The scene depicts the winding streets of Pelourinho, the historic center of Salvador, Bahia. Located along the central coast, Salvador was the first capital colonial city established by the Portuguese, and was the final destination of the Estrado do Côco, the Coconut Road, which received thousands of slaves from the time of the city’s founding in 1500 to the 19th century and the rise of European Abolitionism. During the height of the slave trade, Pelourinho was the site of punishment and discipline. The neighborhood derives its name from the whipping post, or pillory, that was located in the central plaza. Today, under the shadow of the two of the city’s oldest churches, small booths selling acaraje and hair beads occupy the space where this fixture once loomed.   

While I was not aware of the specific history of the city, I knew going into the program of Brazil’s infamous “racial democracy” and the continuing contention between the country’s dominant Afro-Brazilian population (the country is home to the largest African diaspora) and the predominantly White individuals occupying positions of power. More than half of Salvador’s population identify as “Brown” (or of mixed heritage), with nearly one fourth identifying as “Black.” (These numbers must be considered critically, as there are still many negative associations with the “Black” identity, and many Afro-Brazilians prefer to consider themselves mulatto/a or “multiracial”).

A significant portion of these individuals resided in and around Pelourinho. Indeed, the neighborhood has historically consisted of a mosaic of low-income housing units and decaying colonial architecture. It wasn’t until 1985, when Pelourinho was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site that the city began to funnel monetary and developmental resources into the neighborhood. Subsequently, this remodel resulted in the displacement of hundreds of families, many of which stood as living representations of the African heritage the government was attempting to preserve.

It is within this contradiction then that I find myself considering the topic of social justice. Yet it is not its application that concerns me, but rather the concept of social justice as a state of mind. Ideally, those that like to think of themselves as champions of social justice and equity do not merely do so in praxis, but attempt to apply the theory within their individual world views. Assuming this to be true, what happens when an individual of this sort finds themselves in a space like Pelourinho, which, despite its tainted history is inarguably visually and recreationally stimulating? This is a question that I often found myself wrestling with, as I attempted to rectify my experiences as a visitor with the guilt that came from my knowledge of the neighborhood’s colonial and contemporary tradition of violence.

As the year anniversary of my leaving approaches, I can honestly say that even though I am no longer surrounded by Perlourinho’s pastel facades, this anxiety plagues me still. It remains dormant within me, an idiosyncratic remnant far more valuable than any souvenir. The weight of it lies not in its resonant need to be confronted and conquered, but in understanding how to channel this anxiety in a productive manner. This, to me, is the struggle of social justice. How do we, as advocates and allies, attempt to turn a critical eye to the world without falling victim to cynicism and paralysis?            

No Estás Olvidado

By Anna Daggett

ADaggett-1.Jose Antonio - No Estas OlvidadoHQ

These photographs explore the issue of migration, the violence and injustice surrounding it, and potential solutions. It was taken in the spring of 2013 while I was on the Borderlands program based in Tucson, Arizona. This photograph was taken at a border protest in Nogales that rallied against the death of Jose Antonio, a 16-year-old Mexican boy who was killed by a Border Patrol agent a year ago. This agent shot at him from the US side in reaction to rocks that the boy was throwing at the fence. This was an international protest: the photograph of the fence was taken of the US side and the photograph below was taken of the Mexican side. We passed candles and words through the slits in the fence in solidarity against border violence.