Political Thirst Traps, Hacktivism & Gen-Z for Change
Subscribe to Lemonada Premium for Bonus Content
The new generation of activists is very tech-savvy and isn’t afraid to call out what they believe is wrong. This week, V is talking to Gen-Z For Change activists, who utilize social media to educate their generation, encourage and mobilize civic participation. V sits down with leaders Victoria Hammett, Olivia Julianna and Harry Sisson from the organization to talk about how they’re deploying TikTok armies, posting political thirst traps, shutting down tiplines and planning other clever ways to shift the political debate. We’ll hear about when they each realized speaking out was part of their calling, what it’s like being a leader at a young age and how you can get started in also fighting for change.
Follow our guests on TikTok at @victoriahammett, @0liviaJulianna, and @typical_democrat.
Keep up with V on TikTok at @underthedesknews and on Twitter at @VitusSpehar. And stay up to date with us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram at @LemonadaMedia.
Click this link for a list of current sponsors and discount codes for this show and all Lemonada shows go to lemonadamedia.com/sponsors.Joining Lemonada Premium is a great way to support our show and get bonus content. Subscribe today at bit.ly/lemonadapremium.
V Spehar, Harry Sisson, Olivia Julianna, Victoria Hammett
V Spehar 00:00
Hey friends, it’s Friday, July 8th 2022. I’m V Spehar. Welcome to V INTERESTING. As you know, on our Friday episodes, we get to dive a bit deeper into something we’re really curious about. And today, it’s gonna be all about Gen Z politics. I don’t know about you, but to me, it appears like the kids are all right. In fact, they are more than all rights. They are thriving. We’ve got a whole new generation of young people who are organizing, strategizing, and finding new ways that they can enact change in this country. And they’re definitely not waiting for the approval of their Gen X parents or their Boomer grandparents. Oh, no, they are doing this all on their own. Why this rush to action? Have you seen the news lately? It’s not like we got a lot of time left. And all of this activism goes way beyond social media for them. Even though let’s be frank, Gen Z has the internet in a chokehold and knows exactly how to use it to their advantage. Gen Z activism is so much more about community building and finding innovative ways to attract the attention of our most plugged in generation. So for today, I’m really excited to welcome three young activists to talk about their choice to become politically engaged, specifically through the organization Gen Z for Change. Victoria Hammett is the group’s director of programming and Deputy Executive Director. She’s joined by members and political advocates Harry Sisson, and Olivia Julianna, all of them under the age of 21. Y’all, thank you so much for joining me today. So, I wanted to start off by asking each of you just like how you got involved in activism, when did you realize that speaking out was part of your calling? And maybe start with Victoria?
Yeah. So I’ve always been, you know, personally pretty politically outspoken, growing up. And it wasn’t until the summer of 2020. When, you know, lockdowns were happening. So much was happening in the news that I decided to start sharing my political beliefs online. And that fortunately, led me on a path where I got connected with Gen Z for Change, and Olivia and Harry and so I’ve just been kind of doing that ever since.
V Spehar 02:13
Yeah, and I remember seeing you early in the summer of 2020. And also, Olivia, that’s, that’s about the time that you started getting active on TikTok too, right. Can you talk to me a little bit about your journey?
Yeah, so I grew up in like a really, really small conservative town in Texas. And I was a junior in high school when the COVID lockdown started, and I was just stuck at home on my phone, watching the news just all day, every day because of all of the utter chaos that was going on in the country at the time. So there’s the pandemic, there was like incidences of police brutality going on everywhere, protests, Trump running for reelection, I was just so overwhelmed. And I really wanted to go to protests. But I couldn’t because I had a conservative parent who did not believe the same things as me and I was also immunocompromised so I couldn’t go to protest. So I was like, okay, so I followed people like Victoria on TikTok. And I was like, this is something I can do, like I could start making political videos like I know how to work a phone. So I just started making TikTok’s on how I thought Trump was awful. And about just other socio economic issues that were going on and it just kind of blew up from there. And I got involved with Gen Z for Change, when I actually it’s really funny. When I got the message to Gen Z for changes, starting, like one of my friends messaged me on TikTok, and it’s like, Hey, we’re starting this thing called TikTok for Biden, like, do you want to join? And I was like, no, I’m good. And like, connected, though at first, but then later, I was like, okay, actually, this sounds kind of cool. Like, I’ll fill out the application and joined and then I joined Gen Z for change. And here we
V Spehar 04:04
Here we are now. And Harry, I also found you via TikTok. But I know you do a lot of debating on like Omegle, and different other platforms. Talk to me a little bit about how you got involved politically?
Yeah. So, you know, I first started getting involved in politics back in 2016. I was living in Ireland at the time, and, you know, being in Europe and kind of watching the 2016 election unfold from there with all these, you know, these European folks being like, what is going on America? I’m like, I know, right? But then, you know, similar to Olivia, when the COVID pandemic struck, I was meant to give him my TED talk, and it got cancelled because of COVID. And so I was kind of inside and I was like, bored, you know, I was just watching the news and everything unfold and I was like, I feel like I’m not doing enough. I feel like I have to, you know, correct some of the lies that are being told from the on the right and so in such so I was like, why not just hop on TikTok and start making videos and it just kind of kind of grew from there and it’s come to this point where you know, every day debating with conservatives and reading the news and keeping up with everything, and it’s definitely a grind. But it’s, you know, it’s amazing. It really is.
Yeah, I wanted to ask you about that, because oftentimes when we see young men, we’re seeing them in groups like turning point, are these deeply conservative, sort of like Trump following groups. What made you gravitate away from that life and towards identifying with the Democrats?
I just think that, you know, the conservative view of the world is just fundamentally wrong. And I think we’re seeing a lot of that, you know, recently. You know, a lot of pro-lifers are men, right, and their idea of telling women what to do with their bodies, I just think is, as I said, fundamentally wrong, I think, you know, I think that generally their kind of view on low income people or people of color and things like that, they don’t take into account the broader picture. And, you know, their advocacy for candidates like Trump, you know, and overturn the election, things like that. I think it’s just disturbing. I would describe it as a describe that as a serving, so I think when you look at the two parties objectively, and look at the facts, and look how, you know, what the Democratic Party pushes for what the Republican Party pushes for, I think the decision is pretty straightforward.
V Spehar 06:17
Speaking of disturbing things that happen online, Victoria, I have seen your comment section, and that is a lot to endure, you are getting attacked near daily constantly by people, oftentimes twice your age, saying things that I don’t think they would say to their daughters, certainly not, how do you deal with that?
Yeah. So originally, I remember my first big wave of hate was when I started to series, talking about how if Jesus was alive today, he would be very left wing. And so obviously, that upset a lot of Christians. And initially, it hurt a lot. Some of the hate I was getting, because these were people, you know, I grew up Christian, these were people who I could see being in my youth group or at my church, you know, people who, for a lot of my life, I kind of looked up to when I was a kid, you know? And so it’s definitely difficult. But eventually, the internet just kind of wears you down. And now I get comments that are like, I’m gonna come to your house and kill you. And it’s like, okay, good luck, you know, it’s just eventually. Yeah, it’s not quite as scary or alarming anymore.
So coming from that place of, like you said, growing up Christian growing up in youth group, a lot of people did, I grew up Catholic, like, and then you kind of find your way into a different world. What were your feelings in kind of leaving that place of community to join this community?
Yeah, so for me, um, the way that Christianity was introduced to me was just that it was a religion of love and community and caring for one another, you know, my mom was the one who got me involved in the church. And I remember when Hurricane Katrina happened, she opened her house to a bunch of people who were unhoused that we didn’t even know they could just stay with us for as long as we wanted. That was the type of behavior that I associated with Christianity for a long time. And when I realized that so many Christians just preach hate every day and use my faith to do that. That’s what really started disconnecting me from the church, and made me seek out other groups.
V Spehar 08:13
Yeah. And Olivia, I can see you nodding, coming from a deeply conservative state, Texas, can you talk a little bit about how that was for you growing up?
Yeah. So I grew up a lot like Victoria, where I grew up in like a very religious household. But I would argue that my upbringing was a little bit more youth involved in terms of the religious activities. So from ages 14 to 17, I worked in a ministry here in Texas, and I would go every summer and every fall, and I would speak or I’d volunteer. I was actually president of Fellowship of Christian Athletes when I was in high school. So I was very religious. And there are people who I grew up with who I saw as like mentors, or pastors, who, once I kind of started getting into politics more, I noticed would kind of look at me a little bit differently, or I was treated differently, or like, where I had previously been in roles in the ministry where I would be very active and upfront with other young people. I was kind of being moved to like back rooms. And so I kind of started to see as being ostracized and pushed out a little bit because I had started TikTok at that point. And the real like hammer in the coffin was when I started doing abortion advocacy work. I was posting about it on Facebook, and I had a woman who had known me since I was literally like 6 years old, comment and call me a baby killer. The way that I was pushed out of these spaces, or I chose to leave, like this ministry I had worked in for like, Five years, like I had watched me grow up, I chose to leave because people were just, they say that they lead with love. Like, that’s how I was taught to do like, lead with love lead with compassion, volunteer help people. And then you just see how ugly their hearts are for people who they don’t agree with. And once you’ve seen that, you can’t unsee it, and you don’t want to be in that space anymore.
V Spehar 10:26
And we get a lot of, you know, comments, I guess I would call them to be kind about, anytime you say something, it’s bias, or it’s partisan, or you’re not hearing both sides, right. But there is this thing that I love about Gen Z, which is a very hardline decision there is right and there is wrong. And y’all are just never afraid to be like, because it’s wrong. That’s why I’m not gonna debate you on it, it straight up just isn’t true, or it straight up just isn’t wrong. Is that common for the way that your generation really talks to each other? Is it something that just happens more quickly? You’re not as afraid?
I mean, definitely, for sure, I would love to also hear from Victoria and Olivia on this, because they are just amazing. And they definitely have some amazing insight on this. But yeah, I think, you know, among our generation, there is a very clear like moral path. You know, we accept LGBTQ members, we want them to be a part of society and have the rights that everybody else has, we want women to be able to control their own bodies, we don’t want people of color to disproportionately be killed by police. You know, we want low income people to have access to everything that wealthier individuals have, we don’t want excessively rich people controlling all aspects of American society and buying elections and things like that, and treating their workers and in factories like the Amazon does just terribly. And I think that, you know, the majority of our generation, there are outliers, of course, but the majority of regeneration just these are things it’s like, yeah, yeah, that sounds right. You know, what I mean, that we shouldn’t be on the side of oppression, we should be on the side of acceptance and equality.
I feel like older generations tend to see unity as a way more of a strength than Gen Z has. Because sure, there is, you know, a collective organizing an action that is important. That’s a good form of unity. But simply being quiet when you see something that’s wrong is not is not a good thing. And we shouldn’t pretend that it is. I mean, you look at something like the war on terror, which back in the day, was overwhelmingly popular, that was a form of unity that we can look back on right now and say, wow, more people should have spoken up more people should have been celebrated for, you know, a difference in opinion there. So, yeah, I definitely don’t see a problem with definitively just being like, no, what you’re saying is inhumane, cruel and wrong.
V Spehar 12:40
Exactly. Olivia, can you tell me a little bit about what it’s like to be a leader at this age? In specific, none of you are old enough to run for Congress or the presidency. So you can’t really like hold office for yourself? And neither can your immediate group of peers in a lot of ways. That has to be very frustrating. How do you keep yourself motivated behind candidates that aren’t in your generation?
I think it’s really interesting, because I’ve kind of taken a very, like, very local very state approach to the way that I work about politics to the point now where like, I am in pretty new, like usual conversations with politicians in Texas, or politicians who are running for office in Texas. And so it’s very much this place. I’ve noticed like a lot of people who are in office or in these elected positions, they really want to know what we have to say. And they really want to know what policies our generation is advocating for and what we believe in. And I think it’s really good, because I think they see the kind of action that we have had when we work together, like, you know, taking down the tip lines, or voter turnout in 2020, which was insanely high. And I think they see that and they recognize that like, we’re really being let into these spaces. And the value of the information and the platforms that we have are really starting to be recognized because we are speaking to an entirely new generation of voters, and the future generation of office holders. And so I think that they’re really kind of starting to get to this place where they want to start passing the baton to the next people that they see as the next generation of leaders.
V Spehar 14:26
That is very encouraging to hear. And we’re going to take just a quick break, and then we’re gonna come back and we’re going to talk a little bit more about exactly what that work is that Olivia and Victoria and Harry and everyone is doing over at Gen Z for change, including a recent invitation to the White House, like she said, shutting down the tip lines, some very clever tactics that we’ve never seen before. So we’ll talk all about that when we get back. And we are back, back with our friends from Gen Z for Change. And I wanted to ask you guys, we were starting to get into some of the work that you get to do and some of the unconventional tactics that you’ve used to really move the needle on how this generation is being respected in the political arena. And I wanted to ask about the invitation to the White House. You were on a White House briefing? Victoria, maybe talking about how that came about?
Yeah. So um, basically, you know, the White House was kind of familiar with what a bunch of people on Tik Tok were doing, whether you’re a journalist or an activist. And so they invited a bunch of people to this Ukraine briefing to try and dispel some of the misinformation and disinformation that we’ve seen online. And it was an interesting experience. You know, it was it was really cool getting to hear from, you know, White House people themselves about what’s going on. But I think that there is this misconception that somehow by going to this briefing, were suddenly like, big, like White House Biden fans, which is definitely not. We were just like, you know, what’s the tea like, what’s going on? And they told us, and so we regrouped and kind of made informed decisions based on the information that they provided on what we were going to kind of say, on our platform. So it was overall a cool experience, just because I’m happy that people in power are taking the time to actually educate and inform young people, I think that that’s always a good thing.
V Spehar 16:27
Yeah. And I listened back to the audio that leaked from that call. And Gen Z was not they certainly were not there to be proper candidates. For the Biden administration, it was very clear that this was a place that you guys recognize the opportunity that you had, and were asking some incredibly tough questions. And just asking follow up questions. There was certainly no air of intimidation coming from the conversation that you all had with Jen Psaki at the time, which was pretty cool to see. And now for listeners who are just getting familiar with your organization, now, there are a couple of different tactics that you’re using, we talked about tick tock a little bit as far as like building community around Gen Z for change. Harry, can you talk a little bit about online debating, and how folks might be interested in doing something like that?
Yeah, for sure. I think, you know, in the modern age, there are so many different ways to reach people with different ideas. But the most important thing is, you know, reach those people, but debate in a way that you can convince them, you know, the best way we can, you know, get voters on our side, and maybe get people who are maybe not so informed or you know, haven’t been involved in political process before to get out and vote is through, you know, good faith arguments and say, well, I hear you, I understand maybe where that viewpoint came from, and how that viewpoint might have developed from the place you live, or the community you’ve grown up in and things like that. But here’s the facts. Here’s what’s actually going on. And I think that’s so important with Roe v. Wade right now, I think, you know, getting you’re building up that support from the ground up to hopefully one day reestablish roe is really, really important. So in terms of online debating, it’s kind of a new concept. But I would definitely recommend that anybody who’s involved politically kind of, you know, reaches out to people they may not have had the ability to talk to you before.
V Spehar 18:15
And in a good faith way, like actually trying to hear the other person so that hopefully they hear you as well. I’ve listened to some of your tech talks to where I can hear the other side talking. And oftentimes, folks are coming with a strong standpoint, just because they don’t have access to all the information that maybe somebody who grew up at a different area did like you said, but when debating doesn’t work, Olivia. We shut down the tip lines, and we buy all the rally tickets. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Yeah, so I’m a big fan of what’s called malicious compliance, which is where we do exactly what they want us to do, but we do it in a malicious way. So a really shining example of this. This was what kind of catapulted me into abortion advocacy work in politics was, Texas passed Senate Bill 8, which is the civil enforcement bounty law that they put out concerning the abortion ban. And the organization that had lobbied behind this Texas right to life, set up a tip line where you could report people who had had an abortion past six weeks in the state of Texas. So I saw this and I was like, I don’t like that. So then I remembered, like, two years ago, there were Trump rallies that were going on around the country. And I don’t remember the name of the tic toc or who encouraged it, but they were like, Let’s reserve all these tickets and then not go. And so then I was like, let’s send fake tips and just keep sending them. And so we did I made a video telling people some fake tips and then Victoria made a video and one of our coders now, Gen Z for changes named Sean wigs. He generated a code that would send Fake tips to the point where the website was just inundated with false tips to the point and like public criticism to the point where I got taken down. And all these months later, almost a year, I wouldn’t say it’s still not playing, it’s not going back up. And they’re right to life chapters all over the country. And I have not seen a tip line like this pop up since.
V Spehar 20:22
It’s just so unique The way that this generation is, just like you said, employing malicious compliance, and also just kind of having fun with it to some level. I mean, Victoria, I’ve seen you put out trending videos that are like dances or sounds or things and then on top of it, that video will go viral, not just because it’s picked up by the algorithm, but also because of the content that you’re putting in. That gives people messaging that they might not have otherwise seen if they’re not political people, right? Like we all have our own little FYI piece. But if you’re using a trending sound, and you’re getting that talking point in and then it’s hitting like someone who’s not political, it has to have some effect some positive effect on bringing people your way. Do you have any info about that?
Yeah, definitely. It’s so random how it kind of happened. I colloquially sorry, I can’t say that word, but I’ve kind of know. But I dubbed it as like political thirst traps because I don’t really know what to call them. But like, I’ll be wearing my cute little, you know, outfit with a trending sound. And just there’s some information on the screen maybe a call to action on the screen, and it just works really well for TikTok and, yeah, I mean, it’s been really, really great. I feel like hopefully some new eyes have seen it, which can sometimes get me into trouble because then there are some, you know, maybe conservative people who see it on their free page, but either way, I mean, yelling, you know, preaching to the choir isn’t why I’m on Tik Tok, I definitely want to try to reach as many new audiences as possible.
Do you guys find that you are reaching those conservative audiences and maybe like changing some folks mind? Has that ever happened so far?
Yeah, I’ll get, you know, a comment or a DM from someone. And this has actually happened a lot recently, which is kind of interesting. But they’re basically like, you know, I started hate watching you, like two years ago. And after watching for, you know, so long making fun of you, you’ve actually changed my mind on something. So thank you for that. And that, I mean, that really, really makes my day. Nothing makes me happier than a DM like that.
V Spehar 22:23
That is beautiful. That’s very high praise. Has there ever been a time that you guys have changed your mind about something or heard from someone and thought, like, we didn’t nail that one, we’re gonna adjust and how do you deal with that?
Yeah, definitely. I know, probably all of us have been in this position. But I used to be a pretty, you know, fairly moderate liberal. You know, I thought that I was a real radical liberal until I kind of entered into the world of anti-capitalism and that type of thing, because especially grown up in Texas, you know, I think the first time I met someone who is communist was when I was a freshman in college, and my jaw dropped to the floor. I was like, You just said you were a communist? Like, isn’t that like, is that illegal to say, like, just earth shattering, right? And so I’ve definitely been on a weird political journey, where I’ve been relearning and unlearning a lot of stuff, which has been a really cool process.
Can we talk about in the queer community often, like when you stop trying to fit in, you can find where you actually belong. And sometimes it takes moving out of our parents’ home out of our small towns. And we were maybe like, out of the closet just to toe but now we can be fully out because we’re in a place that we feel sort of like wrapped in love. We see other people that are like us. Maybe can you guys tell me a little bit about what it was like growing up with Gen X parents and how that maybe early influenced you to be more moderate? Because you were kind of still living under their house until you were able to get out into decide who you were?
Yeah, I mean, my situation my father is also a moderate Democrat. My mom’s not all that involved in politics. But funnily enough, my father started his career as a lawyer. So he and I would clash all the time. And we would debate all these things. And as I became more of like, a progressive I, you know, we would definitely go back and forth on these topics and things like that. And what’s also funnily enough is I don’t talk about my brother all that much, but my brother is now a communist.
V Spehar 24:16
Younger or older brother.
He’s older than me. He’s in his early 20s.
Little brother got the older brother. Okay.
So we have my brother who’s a communist, I’m like, progressive and then my father who was a moderate and man is that a fun discussion at the dinner table.
Olivia, I see you nodding too. How was it for you? Coming out as a communist to your parents like, oh, I don’t know if that’s how you identify but.
I don’t identify as a communist. I identify as a pragmatic progressive. My dad never worked in politics. My dad worked in like building construction for most of my life. But my dad went to college for political science. He’s a conservative. So growing up in my house, like every day 6:30, it was Fox and Friends on the news. So Fox News. And then my dad always really made it a point to have me watch political thing. So like, I remember being really, really young, watching Obama versus John McCain, and Obama versus Mitt Romney. And both of those times like my dad voted for the Republican candidate. And so growing up, I was kind of like, No, this is normal, like people know about politics like me and my job these conversations all the time. And it wasn’t until I was a freshman in high school, I joined debate, and I was in Lincoln Douglas debate. And in […], you have to research both sides of the argument that you’re arguing. So once I got there, and I was like, oh, wow, I’m be like, I don’t agree with the right side of this at all. I really started moving further left and I love my dad, don’t me wrong. I’ve had several extremely heated political with my father, because of what he does, is even though we disagree to this day, my dad will always disagree with me, disagree with everything I say. And his mindset of it is, I might not completely disagree with you. But there are people out there who will and you need to be able to know how to argue against them and win argument. Even though he doesn’t agree with me, and we don’t necessarily vote for the same people. He really had this very stubborn mindset growing up that has made me very determined politically to get my point across in whatever way it takes to change someone’s mind. So he didn’t really shape my political views. But more shapes my political mind is a way that I like to say it.
V Spehar 26:53
I love that and we’re going to take a quick break, and then we’re going to come back and talk about that kind of like changeover that was happening. Right as you guys were getting into your high school years. And we’re back, we are back. And we’re going to be talking a little bit about what it was like being in high school during the Trump years coming off of those debates, where we went from a two party system that was kind of more similar than not to where we are now, where we are truly in a situation of being diametrically opposed from each other, and now, factoring in the issues of religion on top of it. What was it like for you guys to watch that as you were growing up? Did you feel a shift the way that the millennial generation maybe did?
Definitely. I mean, I remember I was liberal at this point, you know, didn’t absolutely love Clinton, but adamantly hated Trump. And I remember the day after he won, we were all in senior hall. And there was this group of boys marching up and down the hall chanting build the wall. And just the reactions on the teachers faces, everyone else’s faces when they were doing that, like, I mean, it immediately made me uncomfortable. I wanted to go home. It was crazy, because I had never seen politics be like that, you know, anytime the boys were making noise in the hallways, it was some sports thing or something. And so I think that that was the concerning thing about the 2016 election and the Trump presidency, is that he kind of radicalized people who maybe previously didn’t care about politics. And typically, you know, people getting into politics is a good thing, but not when they’re, you know, promoting White supremacy talking points. So it was definitely a scary, scary wake up call for me.
Olivia Julianna 28:50
Yeah, I mean, the first election with Trump, like, I remember coming to school afterwards. And I lived in a pretty nice, diverse community at the time. And there were kids, I knew whose parents were undocumented who were sitting in class crying, because they were so terrified of the reality of what was going to happen. And I think for me, and this might be similar for Harry, because I know me and him are a little bit closer than age. For the 2020 election. I was I was already involved in politics at the time. And so not only did I see the kind of like hyper politicized nature, in terms of like online, but I was being like, directly targeted at school because of what I was doing online like I had guys threatened to like burn crosses in my front yard. And I had, like, there was a group of boys who on Election Day organized a Trump parade to drive by my house and like drive to the high school. So it’s like this very, like targeted kind of political bullying was going on. I mean, unfortunately for them, how will you see online With me in terms of that, like very stubborn, blunt attitude, that’s how I am in person. It’s like I was not playing those games. But it just like, it really goes to show you like people don’t realize the extent to which young people on the right have kind of been radicalized by politicians like Trump and like, in Trump endorsed candidates. So it was definitely a really interesting and unique experience being young person in politics at the time.
V Spehar 30:30
Harry, were you in a similar situation?
I definitely didn’t have it to the extent that Olivia had I’m so sorry to hear that. That is insane. But I definitely didn’t have it in to that degree. I know that when I when I first started my TikTok account. You know, I had around. I think at the time, I only had around 700 followers when I got this comment, but someone who lives in my neighborhood commented under one of my videos, you’re an F-slur. Wow. And I was like, okay. Oh, wow. All right. That’s something. So I blocked immediately, of course. But I’ve also had, you know, anti vaxxers from my school, reach out to me saying you’re supporting the mark of the beast, you know, okay. All right. But thankfully, I wasn’t all that popular in high school. So I kind of just, like slid under the radar. And nobody really knew what I was doing on the outside of school.
I do wonder just how you dealt with it. Because you had several years in high school? Did this create even more attention than the average high school experience already has kind of built into it?
For sure. I think, you know, living under the Trump years, and, you know, dealing with the very flagrant Trump supporters that I had in my school, those who would thought it was appropriate to wear his hats and merchandise to school, and kind of at any opportunity, you know, talk about Trump and his policies and things like that. I think it just made like school on a daily basis, a difficult thing. I really do, I think, because the you know, when Trump was in office, and when he was really like, the head of the Republican Party, he was everywhere. You know, the hate that he spread was everywhere. You found it in your schools, in your churches, everywhere. So I think, you know, when I moved from Ireland and came to United States, you know, high school is a totally different process. But I think it definitely made those kind of four years is like so much more difficult than it really had to be.
And a lot of folks are seeing that was now the overturning of Roe v. Wade, I was like, at VidCon when this happened, which is another place where young people gather and do things. And the question that I kept getting asked from folks was like, I feel like my youth is getting taken away. I feel like I lost my high school years to all of this kind of like bullshit that was going on politically. are you guys feeling that weight since the Roe v. Wade was overturned as well.
Victoria Hammett 32:52
I was just gonna say something David Hogg always says, that I really agree with is it just so sad to see so many people who shouldn’t have to be activists becoming activists, because they’re really left with no other option? I think we’re seeing a lot of young people kind of falling into that category.
It’s like my friends who are not political, if they went to high school, it’ll tell me like, we’ll be out and about, and my phone will just be blowing up and they’re like, do you ever unplug like, does your work ever come second? And I was like, no, like my work the activist might do always comes first. And so it’s just, I feel like we were robbed of the abilities have an innocent youth in terms of not having to worry about these problems. But I’m very grateful for all the experiences I’ve had. Because if I didn’t have them, it wouldn’t shaped me into who I am today. And I think that can stand true for a lot of young activist is because we are the next generation of elected officials. And because of the circumstances that we were raised in, that we grew up in, I think that it’s going to make us even more dedicated and heartfelt and passionate about the issues we care about once it comes time for our generations, millennials and Gen Z to kind of overwhelmingly be the office holders. So I am disappointed but I’m also very grateful at the same time.
V Spehar 34:13
Yeah, and Victoria, you just mentioned David Hogg, who has become a bit of a spokesperson for gun legislation and gun control. He survived the Parkland shooting; I believe it was. How is Gen Z for change tackling this issue that your generation uniquely has dealt with more than any other I can promise you that the elder millennials, at least we’re not doing gun drills. This has been something that has been a burden for your generation, constantly. Since you were in kindergarten. What is Gen Z for change doing right now surrounding supporting common sense gun laws or gun regulation?
Yeah, definitely. So primarily, we’re trying to educate our followers on, you know, legislation that we should be advocating for. Just because with gun control legislation, you know, you want to be very purposeful and very thoughtful to ensure that you do not accidentally harm marginalized communities in the process of trying to make schools safer. Right, we’ve seen how that can definitely happen. I think that air fifteens are obviously way too accessible. We need to ban AR fifteens. There’s a reason that other countries do not have the same problems that we’re having. But then also, we need to take a look at institutional violence that we see in this country, our police force that terrorizes the citizens that they are supposed to protect. When I look at gun controls and issue I’m not only thinking of how do we reduce the risk of individual violence, but also how do we reduce the institutional violence that has been perpetuated against communities for decades?
I think part of what makes Gen Z for changes approach a little bit more unique is I think that our leadership team has a lot of people who have very varying opinions and backgrounds in terms of the information that we know. So like gun control, gun legislation, the majority of gun violence in America is caused by poverty, institutionalized racism, gender inequality, domestic violence, and we’re talking about like extremely violent occurrences. It’s usually the result of like white supremacy or gender inequality, this radicalization and so I think that part of the work that we’re doing is trying to have these very like, forward thinking conversations where we kind of try to steer people away from those more radical ideas on the right by getting them to understand like, hey, like, we’re all just people. And we’re different. We need to talk about our differences and address them. Because the whole notion of like, just ignoring our different marginalized identity, like the whole, I don’t see color, you should understand the differences and complexities. I think that’s what makes Gen Z for change really unique is that because we’re so diverse, we can have those very forward thinking conversations, and especially integrate that into our content as well.
V Spehar 36:59
Another big issue for Gen Z for change, I know is the idea of unionization and labor. You have a program out there the Wreck It Ralph that went after Kroger, was it?
Yeah, so Wreck It Ralph’s and Changes Brewing are two biggest labor actions. So Wreck It Ralph says specifically about covers how there weren’t paying workers fair wages, and the same kind of union busting tactics, but our biggest labor program to date has been changes brewing. So we created this code, like our promo code, or Shawn and Sophia, they’re amazing. Starbucks is like Starbucks stores across the country trying to unionize and Starbucks corporate has been hell bent on stores, not unionizing, or retaliated against the stores. And so but we’ve done a Gen Z for changes created changes brewing, which will send fake job applications to Starbucks that are trying to hire scab workers while they’re trying to unionize. And I think to date, we’ve sent over I think, numbers 150,000, fake job applications. And that includes a job application that was for, like crisis management at Starbucks corporate who could like overseas stores that were trying to unionize. And so we sent in fake job applications for that to where it was taken down. So it’s just using digital tools, like what we call hacktivism, to kind of fight back against these different like oppressive things or like anti-union actions. And it’s just been really fun to have fun with it, but also, like help laborers at the same time,
Victoria Hammett 38:34
even people on the left will hear that, you know, we’re using a code and we’re sending in all these fake applications people be like, I don’t know if you know, that’s the right way to go about, you know, doing that when at the end of the day, these companies are doing illegal union busting practices, you know, when they are playing that dirty, we can’t just sit around and do nothing. So yeah, those have been really fun initiatives to work on.
When we get back we’re going to talk a little bit about how Gen Z does not dream of labor they dream of a better life and what they’re going to do to provide that and how they see the political landscape changing and what their place in it will be.
Okay, we are back for our last segment today. This hour has just like absolutely flown by but I have been waiting in so excited to ask you guys some questions about this quote that I heard from somewhere on the internet related to Gen Z, which is Gen Z does not dream of labor, they dream of a better future. So can you talk to me because you all got multiple jobs, so you are laboring. What does that mean?
So, first off with the saying, you know, Gen Z doesn’t dream of labor we dream of a better future Gen Z for the most part, we don’t dream of a job where we are going to be exploited for labor nor do we have the same kind of fantasy I think A lot of millennials had a becoming a CEO Girl boss one day and exploiting other people’s labor, you know, that seems to be just completely not what our generation is thinking about. We instead dream of a future where no matter what job we get, we will be treated fairly, we will have livable wages, great benefits, health care. Yeah, that’s definitely I feel like a good slogan for our generation. And as for us with all of our jobs, you know, we’re all just trying to put in work to hopefully see that better future one day.
V Spehar 40:33
And another issue that you guys are focused on is health, justice, and disability rights. Can you talk to me a little bit about how that factors into a better democracy?
Yeah, I mean, for sure. I think, again, everything we’re kind of experiencing with pay with the economic circumstances right now kind of play into this. I mean, you know, when people are paying an arm and a leg for insulin lifesaving insulin, that’s a problem. So I don’t get Levine wants to say something on this. So I’ll make it quick. But that’s a problem, you know, we have to address that. And when you have millions of Americans who are still uninsured in this country, if they if they as Bernie Sanders, Bernie Sanders and say, commit the heinous crime of breaking a leg and go to the hospital, they’re bankrupt, they will have that medical debt for a very long time. Now, Olivia, I would love to hear what you have to say on this topic.
Yeah, so I’m actually diabetic. I’m diabetic. And I have polycystic ovarian syndrome. So I had a hospital visit in December where I was in ICU for three days, I’m very privileged to have had really good health insurance. But the result of that was, I just wanted to learn. And so I got my first dose, and then it’s like December 30th. And it’s time for me to get my second dose going into January. And I get a call from my doctor’s office, it’s saying, hey, your specific time of […] is no longer covered by your insurance. So to get your next dose, you’re gonna have to pay $435. I’m a 19-year old college student, I don’t have $435 in my bank account at the time to cover that medication that I needed to live. So that’s something that far too many people are seeing in this country. And like, especially when it comes to reproductive health care, like we’re seeing like in Texas, Texas has banned abortion at all stages. But what they don’t want to tell you is we also have the highest rate of uninsured women in the country. And two of the top demographics for people who don’t have health care in Texas, are pregnant women, and single mothers, pregnant postpartum women, and single mothers don’t have health insurance, and now they are being forced to give birth to children, who very likely could end up not having health insurance as well. So that’s a big part of advocacy and intersectionality is understanding that, like, every political issue we have, is because of humans, and if we don’t have the health care we need to survive, then all of the political work that we’ve been working towards, is for not, because if we can’t even live and be healthy, then what’s the point of fighting for all of this anyways, so Disability Justice is a really big part of that. And as someone who’s like disabled myself, like, I really deeply understand the need for that advocacy work.
Another group that I see all advocate for and give platform to is the indigenous, and that has often sort of intersected with climate policy that you support to. Maybe Victoria, can you talk to us a little bit about those two spaces?
Yeah, definitely. So I think a big problem, even within, you know, kind of, I guess it would kind of be like the moderate liberal climate change movement is that they really have ignored indigenous communities who are number one, the most affected by climate change, and things like, you know, the Keystone pipeline, but also have really, really amazing solutions to combat climate change. And so I think that that’s a huge problem that even in some left wing groups, there’s not nearly enough intersectionality in.
V Spehar 44:03
I’m curious to know, how you guys see the next, like you’ve said several times in this interview, the next generation of elected officials is Gen Z, what type of platform could we expect? What type of candidate can we expect? Or are you not going to tell us what’s coming?
I jokingly say this all the time. But I truly mean it is like one day I’m going to be governor of Texas, like it’s going to happen. And I think that it’s really interesting because I’ve found that Gen Z especially with politics is just very blunt and honest with what they want and what they believe in. And I think the very like Reagan esque messaging style that politicians have taken where they say one thing but mean another, I think that’s going to be gone. I don’t think we’re going to see that anymore in terms of Gen Z elected officials. I think we’re gonna see a lot more progressive inclusion I think really two really good examples of how I think we’ll see that is one, the pro-choice or pro-abortion thing, I think we’re gonna see a lot of young people being like, no, I’m not a pro-choice candidate, I’m pro-abortion candidate. And then the second thing is inclusive language and inclusion and like policy is like, it’s not just women who are affected by this. It’s trans and non-binary people as well. Like, I think we’re gonna see a lot more inclusion and progressive ideas coming forward from the next generation of politicians. And I’m really, truly excited to see that.
And I know that last week, you guys had a meeting, where you were talking about a couple of calls to action that maybe folks can join you on. Can you tell us a little bit about that last Thursday meeting?
Yeah, definitely. So in response to the overturning of Roe versus Wade, Gen Z for change is launching what we call the safer initiative. And our kind of thought process behind this is that while we ourselves are not lawmakers, we cannot keep abortion legal for everyone, we can hopefully make it safer. So it’s a five prong plan. The first one is we are going to spam the reviews of anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers. And we have posted a bunch of information about what crisis pregnancy centers are and how harmful they are. And then we’re also going to assess people who are either providing abortions or needing abortions through volunteering with clinics and organizations. And then we’re also going to fund abortion services through abortion funds. We’re gonna educate y’all on the laws in your state and how you can still access abortion using telemedicine services, and we’re gonna get folks registered to vote and listen, when I got that $15 Nancy Pelosi email, I was pissed. Okay, I was I was really angry. But I’m telling you all, there are so many crucial, crucial elections, where I mean, literally Wisconsin governor, if he loses reelection this year, that will dramatically impact reproductive rights for everyone in Wisconsin, plus a local elections are incredibly important as well for abortion ban enforcement. So with that five pronged plan, we’re really hoping to help make abortion safer for some folks.
What would you say to other young people who want to get involved in activism?
I would say like, start local, I think a lot of people think of activism work and getting involved as is kind of very big thing where you can’t really find a space. But the truth of the matter is, is we have underserved communities, all over our country. And there are young people in those communities who want to make a difference and don’t know how, whether it be climate change advocacy, or, you know, local soup kitchens, like if you want to get involved, find somewhere in your community where the people you’re helping are your neighbors and your family members. And really make sure that you’re getting back to you know, your own spaces, because I think that that’s something that people don’t really see in these like type of conversations, as I think of it as such a huge scale thing. And then the other thing I would say is like, I think a lot of young people right now are feeling voter apathy, and like they don’t really want to vote in elections, because they don’t think it matters, because, you know, Roe v. Wade was overturned. But I would say like, my biggest thing right now is if voting didn’t matter, for one, they wouldn’t try to suppress your vote so much. And two, if the 2020 election didn’t matter, and we had a Republican Trifecta in the House, Senate and presidency, there will be a federal abortion ban in place right now. So I want young people to understand the importance of voting and how your voice does matter in terms of local activism, and making sure that you’re being civically engaged as well.
V Spehar 48:41
Yeah, there’s still so much to fight for, they’re still on the on the line right now up for risk is gay equality, LGBTQ issues, the crime bills, all kinds of things that still are worth fighting for. Harry, what would you say?
What I would say to younger folks who want to get involved, is just make your voice heard. You know, as Olivia said, Start local in whatever way you can on social media, local, wherever you can work in your local elected officials office. And just get involved. It’s just, you just have to do it. It’s like a big step. You just have to do it and get involved. And you know, as Olivia, Olivia kind of touched on, you know, a lot of people are feeling voter apathy. And it’s, it’s 100% understandable when always being told to vote for this vote for this, and we can do this and it doesn’t really happen. It’s demoralizing. But, you know, this upcoming midterm election is especially important, especially the Senate, if we want Biden to continue putting very diverse people on the different courts. The Senate is crucial. We need to be able to confirm those nominees. Biden has put on a very diverse group of people from different backgrounds, public defenders and whatnot. It’s amazing.
Yeah, he’s on his 19th round. Right now there’s pointing federal judges, which we don’t hear a lot about, but it’s extremely important on the backside.
It’s so important. It’s so important and it’s especially, you know, hopefully we get another Supreme Court opening, doubtful, but we’ll see. But if Biden doesn’t have the Senate, we won’t be able to get the nominee we want. So yeah, midterms are important, please vote.
Victoria Hammett 50:14
You know, there are going to be some days that are really, really sad, there are going to be some days when you know, you don’t really want to get up, you don’t want to get out of bed. Good news about the internet is you can do a bit of activism from your phone in bed. So that makes some days easier. But overall, I would just say, Start local, like Olivia said, find community quickly, because you don’t want to be doing any of this work alone. And yeah, just hang in there.
What would you guys say to the parents that are listening right now who have a kid that wants to get active, but maybe they’re a little afraid for them?
I would say support your kids. I’ve been put in the position where, like, I’ve had relationships in my family, especially my parents, like been rifted, because of the political advocacy work that I do. And I think that parents out there need to understand like, at the end of the day, your kids are going to do what your kids want to do. And you want them to do what they believe in and fight for what they believe in knowing that their parents have their back and they support them. Because 1020 30 years down the line, your kid is going to have probably accomplished amazing things in terms of fighting for what they believe in. And they’re going to have done that knowing their parent may not have supported that. And I don’t think you want to be in that position. I don’t think you want to put your kids in the opposite position. So just listen and learn and just love your kids.
We talk about not being the first bully of your children, because you’re trying to protect them just stand behind them. Don’t try to shield them from all the bad things that might be said about them by saying those bad things to them. It’s, it’s exactly right. You three are so inspiring. To me today, you’re like my North Star for feeling like the world is gonna be okay. Especially in the face of all the troubling things that have been happening. How do you stay motive motivated? How do you stay positive?
Victoria Hammett 52:04
I would say it, it’s funny that, you know, you kind of call us like your north star because the people I work with are my North Star as well. Like, if I was doing any of this work alone, I would have given up so long ago, like genuinely the people I work with keep me motivated and excited for the future, even in times like this, where it seems like everything that can go wrong, will go wrong.
Harry, is that true for you to the sense of belonging that you feel in the group keeps you motivated?
Definitely, I think, just, you know, having the ability to talk to people around the country about the similar issues and kind of, you know, finding that community is, is important. And I think you know, one of the ways that I stay motivated, you know, it’s super easy to get down in the world. I mean, with everything going on right now, I can’t tell you how many days where I’m like, I really don’t want to look at the news today. But I think you know, you know, there was Victoria and Olivia spoke about this, you know, that community is so important. And everybody in this podcast, I think I look to as inspiration that these people are fighting alongside me for the right things. And when I see you know, Olivia in Texas fighting for abortion rights every single day and Victoria doing some amazing behind the scenes work for Gen Z for change in her public advocacy. I’m like, look, if these people can do it, too, so can I and you know, they need me, I need them. And it’s one big community that’s fighting for this future. So I think it’s just looking to other people is big for me.
Tell us how we can support your work financially, specifically.
Yeah, thank you so, so much for that, um, we’re GenZforchange.org. That is our website and you can find a link to donate there. And then also, especially with the overturning of Roe vs. Wade, we’re really trying to get donations for the abortion fund that we set up. And so that is linked there as well. It’s the Gen Z for Choice abortion fund.
Fantastic. So we will make sure that we drive people to those two spaces. It has been such an honor to get to chat one on one with all of you I feel in the presence of greatness. I can’t believe we were able to get you on such short notice with everything that you guys are doing. We will continue to keep up with Gen Z for change. If you have any questions for them or you want to follow their content, you can find them on TikTok. We’ll link to those in the show notes as well. Thank you all so much for everything that you’re doing and for being here with me today.
V Spehar 54:23
Be sure to tune in to Tuesday’s episode where we will be diving into the headlines that you found most interesting. You can still leave me a voicemail at 612-293-8550 and subscribe to lemon on a premium on Apple podcasts have a great weekend.
V INTERESTING is a Lemonada Media Original. Our producers are Rachel Neel, Xorje Olivares, Martín Macías, Jr. And Dani Matias. Executive Producers are Stephanie Wittels Wachs and Jessica Cordova Kramer. Mixing and Scoring is by Brian Castillo, Johnny Evans and Ivan Kuraev. music is by Seth Applebaum. Please help others find the show by rating and reviewing wherever you listen and follow us across all social platforms at @VitusSpehar and @UnderTheDeskNews, also, @LemonadaMedia. If you want more be interesting, subscribe to Lemonada premium only on Apple podcasts.