Teen Vote 2020

Ayanna Pressley, Storm Reid, and Youth Activists Are Urging People to Vote for Joe Biden

Teen Vogue hosted a panel on the 2020 election and the fight for racial justice.

The countdown to Election Day is here, with just eight days remaining and millions of votes already cast.

To acknowledge this climactic moment in a year that changed everything, Teen Vogue brought together some of our favorite actors, activists, and lawmakers to talk about all that is at stake. Massachusetts Representative Ayanna Pressley, actor Storm Reid, activist Jamira Burley, and Black Lives Matter of Greater New York president Nupol Kiazolu joined our own editor in chief Lindsay Peoples Wagner for a panel on what 2020 has been like for young Black women, and where we, as a country, need to go from here.

As Rep. Pressley put it, “We find ourselves in unprecedented times, which really demand from us unprecedented organizing, unprecedented mobilizing, unprecedented community.”

The conversation focused on some of the issues most important to young voters: climate justice, the Black Lives Matter movement and systemic racism, crushing student loan debt, and how COVID-19 has made it harder than ever to land a good job.

Jamira talked about how too many Black communities are seen as “disposable” dumping grounds for toxic waste, while Nupol pointed out that neighborhoods like hers in Brownsville, Brooklyn, are starved for resources — “overly policed and underfunded.”

The panelists agreed that a Joe Biden–Kamala Harris administration can’t make all these problems disappear overnight, but that voting them in will be a huge step in the right direction.

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“Every time a moment of racial tensions boil over and something tragic happens, this country and so many people always say, ‘This is not who we are.’ But I always argue, this is exactly who America is and has always been, and now we’re finally coming to terms with that,” Nupol said.

“This election really represents where we’re going to move forward in this country,” she continued. “And quite frankly, it’s going to determine the trajectory of our country moving forward for the next 20 years, so we really have to show up.”

Rep. Pressley pointed out that “we don’t elect saviors,” but rather “partners.” And that Biden and Harris represent much better partners than Donald Trump and Mike Pence.

“Donald Trump has completely compromised our standing on the world stage. He has alienated allies, he has befriended our enemies, he has endorsed disinformation campaigns, so he is quite literally a threat to free and fair elections. Our democracy is on the ballot. And not only does he not denounce white supremacists, he emboldens them,” she said. “The contrast is very stark. Someone who emboldens white supremacy versus someone who can stand on a stage and affirm that my life matters.

“I don’t know that everything I want is going to be accomplished under a Biden-Harris administration,” Rep. Pressley continued. “But I know nothing I want is going to be accomplished under a Trump administration.”

With all of these world-changing events underway, it can be difficult to find your place and to determine the right thing to say or do, as Storm pointed out.

“For me, as a 17-year-old young Black woman — as a 17-year-old just young person — I’ve been trying to figure out what it means to be a civically engaged human,” she said.

Storm said she feels reluctant to call herself an activist because she isn’t on the frontlines of protests and anti-racist organizing every day, but that she tries to lend her platform to those who are.

“I am donating, I am trying to get resources out there, I am trying to attend protests, and I am trying to have conversations like this where I can stay informed and in turn inform my supporters, my peers, my family, my friends. 

“I think it’s just important that if you are not on the frontlines like [me], it’s important to really do your homework, really educate yourself, and surround yourself with people who are doing those things,” Storm said. 

But Rep. Pressley insisted that Storm — and anyone else who engages on issues of justice and making the world a better place — is doing the exact right thing.

“Everyone has a role to play in the movement,” she said.

Want more from Teen Vogue? Check this out: Why Vote in 2020? The Election Is Not Just About Trump vs. Biden

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