In this op-ed, protesters Sophia Theoharis Caruso, Isabel Peterson, and Indi Barnes explain why pro-democracy activism is important to them and why they decided to join the Poor People’s Campaign.
By Isabel Peterson, Indi Barnes, and Sophia Theoharis Caruso
July 21, 2021
On July 19, 2021, we joined the Poor People’s Campaign as we protested near Capitol Hill with 100 people from all over the country who are willing to risk arrest to get voting rights, and to speak out against the voter suppression tactics rolling out across the country. Even though we’re not old enough to vote yet, we’re still ready to fight for our right to do so when the time comes because we’ve seen from history that democracy has to be fought for.
When most people think about the Civil Rights Movement and the fight for voting rights, they think of the work of Rev. Dr. Martin King Jr., Rosa Parks, and other adults who organized and strategized. But today, we remember Audrey Faye Hendricks, a 9-year-old girl who was arrested in 1963 during the Birmingham Children’s Crusade, protesting racism and segregation laws. Audrey Faye Hendricks was young, but she still made an impact on history. She lit the torch, and we are the ones to carry it.
At the Seneca Falls Convention, 173 years ago this week, women raised awareness of the issues of their day including economic inequality, injustice, and voting rights — but failed to address racism and anti-Blackness. Today, women of all races, ages, and genders are demanding the right to vote and to raise the minimum wage. We stand with our friends, our family and allies in the movement to protest these same issues.
While we can’t deny progress has been made, at the same time, it is discouraging to see legislators who are supposed to get their power from the people using that power to harm and marginalize others through voter suppression. We will not stand for this. Generations of women before us have shown us the power we have when we come together, and we will use that same power to ensure our voting rights. Right now, we are too young to vote, but if this path continues, we fear there will be nothing left when we are of age.
For our entire lives, we have watched people in our families and communities organize to build power among the disenfranchised, including with the Poor People’s Campaign. The impact this has on our lives has shown us the importance of caring for those who others say don’t matter.
Together we declare: Lawmakers cannot take our voice. Their actions may seek to take away our right to vote or access to elections. We are here because we want to speak up against these bullies. There are young people who feel the same way we do and when one person speaks out, more people will join in. We want to show other young people that they can stand up and use their voice too.
We believe this action and others like it will call attention to the rights that women deserve. On Monday, we marched and chanted in the streets. It was so energizing. Marches like this show people in power that everyone, no matter their gender, age, or race, deserves their voting rights.
The Poor People’s Campaign means a lot to us because we are fighting for equality for all, and speaking out against poverty. People in power too often ignore the poor, while they maintain the systems that continue to keep us poor. This movement is our family, and it’s for everyone. We’re committed to leaving a better world than the one we inherited, and this movement is the way to do that.