17-year-old Yara Shahidi has been a very visible force in the ever-expanding wave of young stars and notable artists of color who are visible in the move towards social justice. Shahidi is just one example of the good that can come from young people who are informed about public policy and the representatives who are proposing and implementing these policies.
Many young activists like Shahidi have been especially vocal about the importance of being engaged in the political sphere, as it creates space for people to appoint those who will implement policies that serve them into place.
During an interview with Hillary Clinton at the Teen Vogue Summit on December 2nd, 2017, the young activist had this to say about the importance of getting young people engaged in politics, mainly by becoming familiar with candidates that represent the kind of policies they hope to see: “Disengagement does directly affect policy change and given those tangible examples, you realize how important and integral these people are in changing our political landscape.”
This sentiment is especially important as there is still a lack of representation of women of color in many political spaces, which is integral to supporting policies that are created with women of color in mind.
With this concept at the forefront of Shahidi’s rhetoric around mobilizing young people to be involved with all branches of government, Shahidi found herself creating the “18 by 18” initiative, which serves the purpose of providing young adults with political education and information on candidates in the upcoming midterm elections.
In doing so, Shahidi hopes that the initiative will improve voter turnout among young people in the transitional phase and help them make informed decisions about whom they are choosing to represent them.
With Yara Shahidi urging more young adults to become politically informed and motivated, she makes it clear that it is especially important for underrepresented communities to make sure that they are making good decisions about who is representing them. Representation definitely matters and the 18 by 18 initiative makes this blatantly clear.
2017 was a year in which many local and state government branches saw their first POC, LGBTQ, and women representatives; and this is telling because these political reps, in particular, are indeed reflecting change for the communities that they belong to.
The 18 by 18 initiative simply aims to make the presence of young people and underrepresented communities one that is no longer seen as an anomaly in the political sphere. It also aims to hold accountable those who have unreachable standards for underrepresented communities, but not as high of standards for those who are already in positions of power.
“When you’re a part of any protected class, whether it is being a woman, a person of color, a part of the LGBTQ community or an immigrant, we’re expected to get everything right and be the embodiment of perfection when it is not expected of other people,” Shahidi said.
Yara Shahidi and her efforts to educate her peers and advocate for proper representation have not gone unnoticed and are definitely a step in the right direction for putting deserving candidates in high places conducive to initiating social change.
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