GURLS TALK: Eliza Hatch Documents 5 Youth Activists of NYC

In collaboration with Adwoa Aboah's GURLS TALK, Eliza Hatch shines a light on five leading voices re-shaping New York City.

“Over the past few months since moving to New York, I have been documenting what young activists are doing currently to help and support their communities in their different fields.” Says London-born creative Eliza Hatch. “Being a youth activist myself, I have found my own personal community through activism, and women’s rights groups both online and offline. Since starting my campaign, Cheer Up Luv, three years ago, it has opened up a whole new community and given the word ‘community’ new meaning to me.”

Inspired to document younger activists who are paving the way for great change in their different fields, Hatch collaborated with the T-shirt company CHNGE, on a self-directed project where she interviewed and photographed 5 individuals in locations related to their activism. Join BRICKS and GURLS TALK as we meet the young people paving the way for a better future.

Nadya Okamoto, period poverty activist and founder of PERIOD

“I founded PERIOD when I was 16-years-old, as a junior in high school. My family experienced living without a home of our own for several months. During this time, on my commute to school on the public bus. I had many conversations with homeless women in much worse living situations than I was in. I wanted to learn more about menstrual inequity and period poverty after collecting an anthology of stories of their using toilet paper, socks, brown paper grocery bags, cardboard, and more, to take care of something so natural.

Via Google searches, I learned about the barrier that menstruation has for girls in school around the globe. It’s the number one reason why girls miss school in developing countries. I also learned about the effects for disadvantaged menstruators here in the US and the systemic barriers to proper menstrual health management. It’s 2020, and yet, 33 US states still have a sales tax on period products because they’re considered luxury items, unlike Rogaine and Viagra. Period-related pain is a leading cause of absenteeism amongst girls in school. They are also the number one reason why girls miss school in developing countries. Over half of our global population menstruates for an average of 40 years of their life and has been doing so since the beginning of humankind. It’s about time we take action.”

Sophie Sandberg, women’s rights activist and founder of Cat Calls of NYC

“Growing up in New York City, I began facing street harassment in middle school. The comments about my appearance made me extremely self-conscious. I could never respond to the objectifying words which made me feel continually silenced. As I got older, I was struck by the connections between these words and larger issues: gender-based attitudes, safety and comfort in public spaces. These experiences drastically affected my day-to-day life. Yet, they were often belittled as “just words” or “no big deal.”

After my first catcalling experience, my dad suggested I dress differently to avoid unwanted attention. Catcalls of NYC was inspired by the feeling of helplessness that resulted from this situation. I wanted to find a way to respond to the objectifying comments. I also wanted others facing harassment to take action, reclaim the streets, and not question for a second whether it was their fault. As long as we live in a racist, patriarchal, capitalist society, we need intersectional feminism. Intersectional feminism is about breaking down existing power structures, shifting violent narratives, and creating a sustainable world. We need that urgently right now.”

Obrian Rosario, integration youth activist with IntegrateNYC

“I was inspired to do the work do with IntegrateNYC and Youth Over Guns because they are issues that affect myself and the community. I wanted to be able to be the voice for the people I represent. The only way we can make positive change is to continue listening to youth voices. We know exactly what will make the world a better place.”

Luis Hernandez, gun control activist and co-founder of Youth Over Guns

“In the aftermath of the MSD tragedy, and a national outcry for gun violence prevention solutions, there was a void in the national conversation around gun violence prevention. Black and brown young folks being most impacted by the epidemic were being left out of the conversation. I joined a coalition of black and brown youth who wanted to organise a major public demonstration to insert our voices into those conversations. Together, we mobilised thousands of people from across the tri-state area for a march across the Brooklyn Bridge. Demanding that leaders and other stakeholders invest resources into local, grassroots gun violence prevention organisations that work towards reducing gun violence in marginalised communities.

While calling for evidence-based safety measures that are more effective than policing, prosecution, or incarceration to be implemented in our schools and communities. We understood that mass shootings taking innocent lives in privileged communities and schools were receiving far more media and public attention than the tragedies occurring at disproportionate rates in our neighbourhoods. The criminalisation and dehumanisation of victims impacted by gun violence from marginalised communities were vivid. We set out to change that narrative and continue to work towards holistic solutions to end gun violence.”

Lucy Ivey, youth activist and Executive Director of Teen Speak Up

“Seeing the lack of intersectionality within teen activist space, made me sick to my stomach. I wanted to create a space for people of all identities, and ethnicities to feel safe, and wanted. Although Teens Speak Up isn’t as diverse as we’d like, we make it our number one priority to make sure that we take space and make space. Meaning that we make sure that we let those truly affected by certain issues to speak there minds. To me, activism means resistance. It means not taking no for an answer, it means staying true to myself, and everything I stand for. It means serving others, and making sure everyone has a better, brighter future.”

This article originally appeared in The Rise Together Issue #7 of BRICKS Magazine.