In 2014, generations across the board came together and mobilized for change. Mothers, daughters, fathers, sons, students, immigrants -- rose to stand up for justice.
It was the year when people began talking about sexual assault. Students mobilized across the nation and officials began paying attention to the startling statistics regarding sexual assault on college campuses. Emma Sulkowicz rose to national attention when she began carrying around a mattress, refusing to stop until her assailant was expelled from Columbia.
Students have risen awareness about Title IX rights. Today, more than 70 American colleges are under investigation by the Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights in regards to complaints about how they mishandled sexual assault cases. California passed a landmark law dubbed "Yes Means Yes," requiring affirmative consent agreement to engage in sexual activity, which is just the first step in a movement for affirmative consent policies.
Feminism rose to prominence with the UC Santa Barbara shootings, and misogyny dominated the national conversation. Chelsea Handler made headlines for demanding Instagram to revise their community guidelines, writing, "If a man posts a photo of his nipples, it's ok, but not a woman? Are we in 1825?"
The nation was moved by the deaths of three unarmed black men: Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and John Crawford. Race and police brutality became part of the national conversation. #BlackLivesMatter supporters and mobilizers gathered to stage protests, sit-ins, and more. As a result, agreement for police reform has sparked relatively little divide across party lines. According to a Washington Post poll, 86 percent of Americans support the use of body cameras, and 87 percent are in favor of a policy requiring an investigation by an independent, outside prosecutor whenever police kill an unarmed civilian.
Leelah Alcorn's suicide note went viral, and was a signal that young people who identify LGBTQ are still targets for abuse, prompting a call to action by LGBTQ advocates. A petition named "Leelah's Law" has already gathered more than 280,000 signatures, and legislation to end "conversion therapy" before age 18 will be introduced in the state Senate for the 2015 season.
What makes 2014 different?
The year marked a peak of interconnectivity around the nation through technology -- from Facebook and Twitter to podcasts and news networks, injustices are able to become viral quickly through these platforms. Our lives are increasingly filled with these sources of information; the latest news fills discussion on the platforms we immerse our daily lives in. Technology enables people to become activists and part of movements by simply pressing 'Share' on a story they felt passionately about. Protests are able to be staged online through hashtags, or planned in-person through an online invitation that can reach thousands of people. Solidarity and support for a cause can be shown with just the attachment of a cover photo on one's page.
Even filming a video and tagging friends on Facebook became a form of activism. The viral ALS ice bucket challenge -- where participants would dump a bucket of ice on their head to raise awareness for the cause -- lasted approximately one month, and led the ALS Association to receive $100 million in donations, compared to $2.8 million during the same time period in 2013.
2014 was the year when everyone became an activist. Technology is enabling activists and mobilizers to influence more people than ever. 2014 has shown us that individual voice matters --and that collectively, we have brought a shed of justice to these injustices.
2015 looks optimistic.