Books are my safest haven. Reading was the beginning of my activist journey, beginning with I Am Malala in third grade. My family and I marched in the 2018 March for Our Lives DC protest when I was eleven, which stimulated my wanting to learn more, more, more, as much as I could. I wanted to change the world, just like Malala.
In May, I marched against the overturn of Roe v. Wade, where I met a young woman, a rising senior who went to my school, volunteering with the Women’s March. I got her number and she introduced me to Generation Ratify.
Generation Ratify is a youth-led, nationwide nonprofit working to enshrine the Equal Rights Amendment into the Constitution and advance gender equity. Through legislative, judicial, and community-based advocacy, members advance feminist policies, uplift the youth vote for progressive, pro-ERA, gender equality sense candidates, and empower young women-identifying, non-binary, gender nonconforming, and femme folks to claim their power in all spaces.
They quickly introduced me to the Equal Rights Amendment, and I was floored that women and Queer folks were not already constitutionally protected. The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) is a basis for change. Establishing that systemic prejudice is unacceptable in our government will set a precedent to reflect the same in our society.
An ERA in the US Constitution is going to affect my generation more than any other. Our future must be just and equal above all. Young people across the nation, especially in Virginia, have realized this and are making meaningful changes.
My new friend was on the state team for Generation Ratify Virginia (GRVA), the Virginia chapter of Generation Ratify, and her job required that she table for GRVA at a variety of events, all of which she invited me to. The first event I attended with her was the Network NOVA Women’s Summit in McLean, VA, and afterward, I cried. It was embarrassing. I cried because I felt that I was finally able to make a difference with my chosen people. I had finally fully realized my calling to make genuine change.
Thanks to GRVA, I was introduced to grassroots activism in many forms. GRVA’s Lobbying Collective connects high school and college students across all regions of Virginia with the General Assembly through virtual lobby meetings to ensure that youth voices are taken into consideration on issues such as abortion access and student’s rights. In the educational meetings before the legislative session, lobbying collective members learn how to write one-pagers, research their topic, submit testimony, and talk to government officials in person or online.
On January 23, 2023, GRVA (with the Coalition for Virginia’s Future) held an in-person lobby day in Richmond to talk to elected officials about abortion access and its importance to young people. Seventy-five students made the trip from all over Virginia to attend meetings with their local lawmakers to help ensure the protection of their fundamental rights.
Young people with GRVA fought, lobbied, and testified against Virginia House Bill 1669, which would lower the minimum wage for workers under 18 to $9/hr from the current $12/hr. It died quickly and quietly thanks to the voices and power of the youth.
Generation Ratify Virginia emphasizes the importance of grassroots activism by hosting phone banks, town halls, and canvasses for local candidates. My first phone bank experience was with GRVA and it was easy and productive.
In 2022, in the wake of leaked Supreme Court documents planning to overturn Roe v. Wade, over six thousand students from over 50 high schools across Virginia organized and attended walkouts at their schools to prove to their representatives that they care about abortion access and enshrining the Equal Rights Amendment into the Constitution. They gained attraction from local newspapers and national news. I was taught the importance of community-based organizing. My senior friend and I started a chapter of Generation Ratify at our high school in hopes that we could filter the loud desire for change among our student body into productive actions.
We are changing the world, one action at a time.
Generation Ratify Virginia allowed me a space where speaking out is not only accepted but encouraged. Where loudness is encouraged. Being surrounded by motivated people who are my age is an extraordinary experience.
Generation Ratify Virginia continues to provide an outlet of hope and excitement to young people across Virginia. This energy is the driving force to create the equitable future we desire. A future with an Equal Rights Amendment in our Constitution. It is important to acknowledge the time and work of young people with the same seriousness as their adult peers, to include us in the fight for our future. As young people, our freedoms are the ones at stake. Our future is what’s at stake.
Emily Love is a 16-year old sophomore at Edison High School in Alexandria, Virginia. She is the Communications Director for Generation Ratify Virginia.