The Grind ft. Evan Malbrough
My Voice, My Cause
by Caleb Smith
What does it truly mean to be “woke?”
Some may think that to be woke or socially conscious they must post hashtags such as #MeToo, #BlackLivesMatter, or #OscarsSoWhite on social media any time a discriminatory act takes place.
I myself once believed that by doing those very actions, I fulfilled the criteria of being an activist – but in all actuality, I was more of a slacktivist.
Slacktivism is defined as actions performed via the internet in support of a political or social cause but regarded as requiring little time or involvement.
After seeing the perpetual police shootings of unarmed African Americans, the 2016 presidential election, and various occurrences of social injustices, I felt a responsibility to become more of an activist.
I challenged myself to the notion that if fearless civil rights activists of the past—Fannie Lou Hamer, James Baldwin, and Medgar Evers—placed their lives on the line daily by raising their voices, the least I could do was learn how I, along with my peers, could use social platforms to have our voices heard as well.
I decided to link up with public policy major Evan Malbrough to gain a student’s perspective on how we can begin to use our voices to create social change.
Throughout his time at Georgia State University, Evan has been heavily involved in the political realm. He has interned for the Cobb County District Office, the Office of Congressman David Scott, and the Public Defender’s Council. Evan is also a member of the Clinton Global Initiative and served as the first African-American president of the Young Democrats of Georgia State University. While connecting with Evan, he expressed that we too can become just as involved as young activists by familiarizing ourselves with politics on the local level.
Q: What strategies do you have for your fellow undergrads who would like to become more knowledgeable about politics along with public policy but might not know exactly where or how to start?
Evan: “Always be ready to learn. Get involved with your town. Don’t be afraid to talk to your local officials. One single coffee run with your local official can change your whole perspective. Don’t hesitate to earn an internship for a political office, and feel free to join local and school political organizations. The government is made up of multiple forces. So, we have to be aware that the system cannot be fixed with uneducated solutions.”
Q: What are some things that we can do as college students when we feel outraged by repeated occurrences of social injustices, such as police brutality, sexual assault, and institutional racism?
Evan: “I would say first off, get educated on the systems that are behind these occurrences. You cannot remove a cancer you do not know the nature of. After that, you organize.”
Q: How valuable is social media when it concerns activism?
Evan: “I believe it is valuable, but it is a double-edged sword. Yes, it gives so many a platform to spread activism, but it also gives a space for others to be minimalistic. Sadly, social media has convinced some people that a retweet and a comment is activism.”
Q: What level of influence do you believe that us college students have within politics?
Evan: “We have the power to swing local elections with ease. We have the best knowledge of internet communications, so we’re at the helm of social media campaigns. We are the gatekeepers of information. A gatekeeper of information is someone who can control what can be taught. For example, school boards and textbook makers are gatekeepers of information because they decide the curriculum that young minds are taught.”
The Power Behind the Vote
Due to us being the “gatekeepers of information,” we often debate on current topics. One particular discussion that’s dominated social media and everyday conversations on campus, is whether it’s still effective to vote.
The Pew Research Center recently reported that during the 2016 presidential elections, voters between the ages of 18 and 29 made up 19 percent of the electorate, which is only half of the Baby Boomer voting population.
Our generation has the lowest voter turnout of any age group. Approximately 46 percent of us voted in the last presidential election compared to 72 percent of the Silent Generation, consisting of voters age 71 and older.
Some of our peers feel that voting is unnecessary, while others believe that as Americans it is our duty, right, and honor to exercise our ability to vote.
After asking Evan for his insight on the debate, he smiled with a look of excitement to drop his own two cents.
Q: There’s often a debate amongst our peers on campus and on social media whether it’s still effective to vote. Do you think that it’s effective and if so, why?
Evan: “It’s effective in context. Change-makers are people who go beyond voting. Focusing on voting by itself eclipses all the other work that needs to be done. There is no finish line, it’s a continuous marathon. We have to get out and be active in our communities.”
Q: How important is it for us, specifically as college students, to participate in local elections?
Evan: “Very. The economic and social policies of the coming local, state, and federal administrations will have a lasting effect on all of our adult lives.”
Being a Change-maker
One way that Evan has gone beyond casting his vote to being a change-maker was by earning a membership with the Clinton Global Initiative.
Established in 2005 by President Bill Clinton, the Clinton Global Initiative’s mission is based upon assembling up-and-coming world leaders to implement solutions to the planet’s most pressing issues, such as providing solar power and emergency aid to third world countries.
“I was really excited when I learned that I was accepted into the program. I knew that I had the chance to build up a coalition and network with other leaders across the world”, stated Evan.
From Slacktivists to Activists
In closing, it is time for us to focus our efforts more on becoming activists rather than being slacktivists. You don’t necessarily need multiple political internships, or to be the most knowledgeable about politics— all you need is your voice.
As both undergrads and Millennials, we yearn to leave our society in a better state for following generations. By becoming more familiar with the intricacies of politics, we can begin to leave the legacy that we desire to leave. In the words of Evan, we are the “gatekeepers of information”.
We have the ability to connect with the world within seconds. We must voice our cause, and we must never forget the power that we possess. Continue to engage and go beyond casting your vote. Have your voice heard as a change-maker and remember that being an activist consists of more than just a retweet or a hashtag. Get involved on campus, connect with your peers, and create the change that you wish to see.
To find more information about National Scholarships and Fellowships, visit the Honors College website (https://honors.gsu.edu/scholarships/prestigiousawards/) and contact Jacob English and Laura Weissbaum.
For more information on voting and politics, check out the links below: