The Future of Leadership Symposium

Changing the World in 2020 and Beyond

The Next Generation of Leaders Is Not Silent

Maryam Ahmad

2020 has laid bare the most striking inequalities and injustices in our system. We have seen how the pandemic has impacted the most marginalized and underprivileged in our society, and are now faced with the harsh truth that our system, which was built on the backs of Black Americans and the poor, comes at too much of a cost.

This system comes from complacency, from being too comfortable to take the uncomfortable step of actually creating change. This complacency comes from fear, the fear that changes in this system will threaten our own way of life. But it comes at too much of a cost.

This complacency also results in silence in the face of clear injustice, and a desensitization to all the wrongs occurring in society. We all saw the videos and pictures of Black Americans who were killed by the people who were supposed to protect them. But we didn’t do enough about it, because it kept on happening. Their pain and their lives are the cost of our silence.

Martin Luther King, Jr., in his “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” said that the greatest obstacle in the path towards Black people’s freedom was “the white moderate who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice.”

“Letter from Birmingham Jail” was written 57 years ago. We are lulled into the belief that the Civil Rights Movement solved the issue of racism, but it didn’t. Not even close.

Isn’t it humiliating that King’s words are still true of our country today? And not just the “white moderate”, but also non-Black people of color, who have not raised their voices against injustice.

But my generation is not silent. My generation is screaming in the streets “No justice, no peace!” My generation is doing the work through educating themselves and others. My generation formed the March for Our Lives movement, led the charge in climate strikes around the globe, and is on the streets today, protesting injustice. I, along with others of my generation, am part of a global club called the Anti-Racism Education Project, and through media and content from Black and POC creators, we confront the painful truths and will move forward.

Our generation is uniquely positioned to create change. We are, after all, the generation of social media. The climate strikes led by Greta Thunberg, the walkouts organized by the students from Parkland, and the protests occurring right now, were only so widespread because of social media, and how accessible information has become. Change is accessible due to the global audience on the Internet.

Our system does not work for everyone, and my generation will continue to educate, advocate, and discuss to bring lasting change. The leaders of our generation are the ones who understand the need to advocate for everyone. My generation will never be silent until there truly is equality and justice for all.

Justice for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Elijah McClain, Tony McDade, and all those names and faces we have ignored.

No more.

Change begins from raising our voices, and my generation will not stop doing so until our system works for all of us.

Maryam Ahmad is a rising college freshman from Albany, New York, and will be majoring in political science at Wellesley College in the fall. She plans on becoming a journalist and spotlighting the voices of the marginalized in politics.

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