THE BLOG

2011: The Year of the Activist

12/20/2011 08:01 am ET | Updated Feb 19, 2012
  • Biko Baker Executive Director, League of Young Voters Education Fund

In 2008, community activists struggled to be heard as the noise from the presidential race convinced voters that the fate of our nation lay in a battle between two juggernauts, and that non-partisan organizing, once the back-bone of our democracy, had become superfluous.

Fast forward four years, and everything has changed. Seeing our hijacked democracy hurtling towards a fiery crash, the American citizen wrestled itself into the driver's seat, and is putting our country back on track. We see that our futures will be determined, not by blind hope that a politician will do right by us, but by our country's most marginalized voices coming together to advocate, loudly and tirelessly, for each other.

And that's the story of the League of Young Voters Education Fund. In 2011, despite an economic recession that hit us like a ton of bricks, we made a strategic decision to cut our national travel and expand our staff in key local battles that have set the stage for national policy change.

Facing voter ID legislation in nearly all our target states, we learned to fight smarter, not harder, and it paid off. We halted voter ID laws in Texas and Ohio, and are building a base, several thousand youth strong, to fight for voters in Wisconsin. We have harnessed groundbreaking technology that puts a communication power, once held exclusively by the mega-rich and mega-corporations, into the hands of 15-year-old high school organizers in the hoods of Milwaukee.

Just a few days ago, I stood in a room at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and described the League's plan to protect thousands of young voters of color from disenfranchising legislation. Their response was as simple as it was profound: how can we help?

In short, 2011 was the year that America experienced an explosion of grassroots community activism. When I look at the League's digital yearbook, Spotlight 2011, I see a universal dream realized: people of every race and region who believe that the future is not yet written, and that the answer to all of our challenges has been in our hands the whole time: it's us. We are the ones that we've been waiting for.

We are not the apathetic, disillusioned or disengaged young Americans that the mainstream media derides when it wants us all to forget its own cynicism. The new America believes in each other, believes that the past can be put behind us and the best lessons carried forward. Our new America is unafraid to shake down the institutions that have led us astray and in their place, build not a corporation, but a community. We know that, in our hearts, the future is local. Our activism must be local.

The League's 2012 agenda is to crowd-source an inclusive vision of people-led democracy, and everyone is invited. Our Atlanta team has "partied with a purpose" all year. In 2012, the celebration will be nationwide.

Join us.