The election of Donald Trump, and the year and a half since his victory, have brought with it a whole lot of backlash: Women took to the streets of DC and cities throughout the nation to fight for their rights. A progressive and diverse group of politicians, including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, have been underestimated and then victorious. We’ve witnessed battles, both online and on streets, against climate change, student debt, and immigration. And, perhaps most notably, we’ve watched a generation of young people—Generation Z (many of whom can’t even vote yet)—rise up and lead the charge. Whether it be the Parkland students and their fight against gun violence (organizing March for Our Lives rallies across the country), or artists like Sonita Alizadeh, the Afghan rapper who went viral last year with her song protesting arranged marriages, teenagers are taking things seriously—and should also, clearly, be taken seriously themselves. We wanted to examine the motivations and work of teens on social media, a place where in the past few years they’ve gathered to share injustices and fight them. We wanted to see what inspires them to keep on going. So we asked seven young activists and community members on Instagram to take a photo of what gives each of them hope for a better future. The approach, we told them, could be either literal or conceptual; they were to use a digital camera or a smartphone. What they sent back—a snapshot of bell hooks’s Salvation: Black People and Love, an image of a school-wide walkout, a self-portrait—were varied and unique. And yet, despite the tense political situation we find ourselves in, all of them were equally optimistic. —VICE STAFF
Gabby Frost is a 20-year-old based in Philadelphia. She’s the founder and CEO of Buddy Project, a nonprofit movement aiming to prevent suicide by pairing people as buddies and raising awareness about mental health.
“I’m mainly involved in mental health activism, but I want to get more involved with gun safety because of the intersection between it and mental health, which a lot of people overlook. My image is a picture of a shirt campaign I started.”
Corey Maison is a 16-year-old trans teen and an advocate for LGBTQ rights.
“I’m two and a half years into hormone replacement therapy, and I hope to have bottom surgery as soon as I’m cleared by my doctors and mental health professionals to fully complete my transition. My mom, who’s also transitioning—we’ve grown even closer going through this process together, and that gives me hope.”
Izzy and Ailbhe Keane
Izzy Wheels, founded by the Irish sisters Izzy and Ailbhe Keane, is a brand of stylish wheel covers for wheelchairs. Izzy was born with spina bifida and is paralysed from her waist down. Their mission statement is, “If you can’t stand up, stand out!”
“We’re very passionate about people with disabilities and people of diversity being included in the fashion world and mainstream media. We think seeing young people wearing art on their wheels, and the joy on their faces, gives us hope for a better and more inclusive future.”
Shalice Ader is a body positivity advocate living with alopecia.
“What gives me hope for a better future is my positive and confident mind-set. Every day, I have to remember that the past is the past, and I shouldn’t be so hung up on it. Life is all about moving forward and looking toward the future.”
Ugochi Egonu is an 18-year-old Black Lives Matter activist, aspiring slam poet, and student at New York University.
“Salvation: Black People and Love by bell hooks changed the way that I look at activism and my own community. When most people say that your activism should lead with love, that tends to be a way to try to pacify oppressed people and keep us complacent.”
Tamir D. Harper, 18, is a college student and a Frederick Douglass Distinguished Scholar at American University, studying secondary education, public relations, and strategic communications. At 17, he cofounded UrbEd Inc., a nonprofit that advocates for high-quality and efficient urban education by working to disband the school-to-prison pipeline, increase teacher diversity, improve building conditions, and advocate for local control of schools.
“Students at SLA [Science Leadership Academy] participated in the National Walkout this year. They were given little notice and worked to make signs. We had over 100 students, elected officials, district admins, and the actor Sheryl Lee Ralph.”
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This article originally appeared on VICE US.