Certified Bad-Ass Activist Daphne Frias On the Power of Young People.
By Mary Stringham.
Twenty-two year old Daphne Frias wants you to stop invalidating and start listening to youth activists. A New York native from West Harlem, Frias is already a multi-hyphenate. Self-proclaimed climate warrior and gun violence prevention activist, she now works as the NY State Director of March for Our Lives. She also founded Box the Ballot, a bipartisan youth voter initiative. Did we mention she helped organize NYC’s Climate March last fall? The list goes on for this impressive young woman.
Here at Mission we got the chance to pick Frias’ brain on all things youth activism.
The young visionary first became politically engaged after the 2018 Parkland shooting. “I realized then how complacent I had become towards gun violence in America, so I sat down and I wrote a letter to the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas saying that if they wanted to do something about tackling gun violence I would be right behind them.” Little did Frias know that she would go on to work for March for Our Lives as their New York State Director.
March for Our Lives was originally a student-led demonstration in support of legislation to prevent gun violence in the United States. It has now turned into a youth powered movement working to combat the gun violence epidemic in America. On why she fights for this cause, Frias said, “I fight to end gun violence because I am tired of going to school being afraid of getting shot and killed. I fight to end gun violence because communities like mine face it’s scourge all too often, but it never makes the headlines. I fight to end gun violence, because we don’t talk about how police violence and suicide are also gun violence.”
As a person with Cerebral Palsy, Frias states she is proudly disabled and works to be a voice and champion for her community. With the existential threat of climate change in full-swing, she wants people to know the implications this has for those who are differently-abled. “Those of us with disabilities are some of the most affected by the climate crisis. When we think about the climate crisis, you think about the growing number of natural disasters that are going to be happening as a result. In those instances you often are required to evacuate rapidly, but if you’re disabled you often don’t have the ability to get up and run. You also can’t afford to get you medical devices and mobility aid to get destroyed in these natural disasters.”
Photo by J Woo
On top of this, she actively advocates for climate justice because it hits close to home. “I live in West Harlem which is a minority community. I’ve seen how city planning has made it so that climate destroying infrastructure is placed in communities that are poor.”
So, what has Frias done about all of this? A lot. Most notably, she helped organize the September 2019 Climate Strikes in New York City alongside Greta Thunberg. This event, also known as the Global Week for Future, consisted of a series of international strikes and protests that demanded action be taken to address climate change. Over 315,000 people showed up to the New York strike and Frias said she’ll remember the moment as one of her favorite acts of advocacy.
For her, young people are the key to creating sustainable change. “I get to be part of the best generation. We are not sitting complacently, but are the ones actively fighting to save the world. 2019 and 2020 have seen that adults are finally starting to listen. The universe has a special way of reminding you that the work you’re doing is important.” If the adults won’t take action now, then youth advocates will. Frias urges older generations to start acknowledging and learning from the impressive work of Gen-Z activists.
When asked how young people can get involved in their own communities, Frias responded, “Anyone can be an activist! The best place to start is by asking yourself if there’s anything you’re upset about. What is that thing and what would you like to see done to fix it? Once you have those answers, don’t be afraid to reach out to your local representatives.” She also recommends letter writing, speaking from the heart and being specific in one’s requests. Frias believes these are some of the best ways to create change. She even suggests grabbing a few pals to join in on the advocacy. “You’d be surprised how many big movements have started with just a couple of friends, some snacks, and a desire for change.”
Photo credits: Homepage: Bea Ciordia, Banner: Reva Goldberg.