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Will This New Website Force the Mainstream Media to Listen to Youth Activists?

The idea of leaving college and entering a world that doesn’t have social justice at the top of its agenda is quite daunting. As passionate individuals leave their communities and migrate across the globe to find their callings, the platforms they worked on throughout their college careers no longer have use. And while these activists disperse and embrace the real world, there is a deep void to be filled: the need for a community. But now there's a place for that — {young}ist.

I recently had the chance to talk with Isabelle “Izzy” Nastasia, co-founder and managing editor of {young}ist, where young people build digital power. {young]ist is a place for “storytelling, creative intervention, and political/cultural commentary by and for activists, artists, and writers under the age of 26.”

At the age of 21, Izzy has already made incredible progress in the realm of social justice activism. An organizer from the age of 14, when she addressed segregation issues roughin public schools, her laundry list of activism includes diversity student movements, environmental and food justice, nonprofit development, and racial justice. Through her extensive work, Izzy discovered a gaping hole in the fabric of social justice. She realized that “there wasn’t any place to reflect on social justice movements led by young people” and that there was a need “to focus on youth analysis.”

“There needs to be a place to spotlight voices that are being left out of prevailing movement narratives … inspired by artists and authors cross-pollinating in ways that they usually are unable to do so,” says Izzy.

{young}ist's goal is to enable emerging youth networks to create these narratives, ultimately forcing the broader media sphere to adopt them as well. I spoke with Izzy about her work building a global community for young activists, and what {young}ist hopes to be in the future.

 

Yash Bhutada (YB): What was the most challenging part of getting involved with the organization?

Isabelle Nastasia (IN): It would be some combination of finances and working from a distributed office. We don’t have one office space, and there are lots of different projects being worked on, and many people also working in different jobs. It sometimes makes it hard to move things as quickly as we want, but we respect that people need to work [for money] and survive.

It has been really enjoyable, though. I have been a part of a lot of organizations, and I think this has made me the happiest.

YB: What types of projects is {young}ist currently working on?

IN: The biggest project right now is the website. We have only been a group since about March, and it's been this constant process of doing outreach across the globe.

We are really trying to make this a global movement. We have already reached out to student leaders in Egypt, Chile, Greece, and Pakistan. The site that we are building is going to be very customizable; for example, it will be accessible to people who are hard-of-hearing, deaf, blind, visually impaired. The first rollout will allow people to organize content on their home page, and can create specific feeds based on particular tabs. The second rollout will be integrated into social media, where people can submit work, almost like a more aesthetically pleasing Reddit.

YB: What are your long-term goals for {young}ist? Where would you like to see it in five years?

IN: I will be involved for the next five years! I would love to see {young}ist as a legitimate news source for social movements across the globe. I would love to see a spread of staff— staff who are video producers and podcast producers — and have us grow in the arts, and eventually grow globally, not just in North America. We want to have strategic partnerships with youth led movements and organizations across the globe.

YB: What advice would you give to college students who are looking to create change on campus or do work with social justice?

IN: I find that college can be a place where people become radicalized. I have seen so many of my friends come out as queer, seen so many of my friends of color feel empowered and find spaces to do incredible things in their communities, seen people disillusioned by institution, people who never find that space. But there are things beyond college and places to write beyond college.

My advice to college students or high school students is fight to find a community that you feel is representative of you. There are those spaces pretty much anywhere. They can be hard to find, though. In the meantime, you end up needing to create your own space, which is what {young}ist is about.

Young people should try and put themselves out there. Even if you get disillusioned, it will lead to bigger things. Explore all aspects of your interests and work with a bunch of different organizations if you’re into social justice. Stick up for yourself if you are being exploited.

 

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