Student-activists rally in a new book

“Letters from Young Activists’ collects rebel and University student voices and causes

Katrina Wilber

He’s a spoken-word artist. She’s a second-year medical school student with a 6-year-old son.

University students Ismail Khalidi and Rebecca Trotzky-Sirr are student-activists. They fight for justice in different areas, but their strong beliefs in a cause are similar.

Khalidi was born in Lebanon and raised in Chicago, while Trotzky-Sirr is Minneapolis-born and bred. He aims for a peaceful end to the fighting between Israel and Palestine, while she focuses on reproductive freedom and family justice.

Despite different backgrounds, both are among the almost 50 contributors of “Letters from Young Activists: Today’s Rebels Speak Out.” The writers range in ages from 10 to 31 and are working toward racial, environmental, economic and global justice.

The book and the people behind it remind us that young people today do care.

Activism in our generation might seem to be a forgotten agenda. Voter turnout in our age group continues to decline and we’ve become famous for our political apathy.

“We’re all activists,” Trotzky-Sirr said. “It just depends on whether we identify with the term or not.”

Trotzky-Sirr contributed to “Letters From Young Activists” because she believes community activists must learn from each other and prepare future generations of activists.

“We need to document the work we’re doing now so people in the future can read about our efforts,” she said.

The book has an interesting perspective. It categorizes the letters into three sections: one dedicated to previous generations, one for political movements and one for generations yet to come, said Terry Labandz, University trade book manager.

“They wrote letters to their parents, the activists of tomorrow and even their future selves,” she said.

“The marketer types say we are “boy scouts,’ prone to follow the leader and not “rock the boat,’ ” contributor Doyle Canning writes to the activists of tomorrow. “But I have seen us rocking this boat with all of our might, with stories and hip-hop poetry and organized resistance.”

This format makes the book personal. We learn why these activists do what they do and see into their lives through their first-person accounts. It’s certainly not a cut-and-dried, boring old history book.

The book aims to make us more aware of the causes that need help, the causes that require more attention than they receive now.

Through seeing the people behind these causes, we see the causes’ true importance. As these young authors remind us many times, this is our generation.