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“I am sick and tired of being sick and tired.” Fannie Lou Hamer’s infamous words have stuck with Black women through the fight for equality, racial justice, the gun violence crisis, and so many other fights for social justice. I’m part of a generation of young women who have borne the brunt of this harsh reality, and we are taking action

Growing up in the South, I saw Black women supporting my community when our so-called leaders would not. In the 2017 Alabama Senate special election, 98% of eligible Black women took to the polls and elected the Democratic candidate, Doug Jones—the first Democratic senator elected in Alabama in 25 years. Alabama voters rejected Roy Moore, a racist who had been credibly accused of child molestation and sexual assault, and elected a former U.S. attorney who successfully prosecuted two Ku Klux Klan members for the 1963 Birmingham church bombing.  

In 2020, the phrase, “Black women will save America from itself” rang true again. We voted to protect ourselves and our communities, as we’ve done for generations. We continued working to protect our communities by using our voices, even when others tried to silence us, and we again proved that Black women are the backbone of this country—and Gen Z Black women are no exception. 

We have gone out and been changemakers, especially in the wake of the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor when we were the first ones to hit the streets. We registered voters, even though many of us still aren’t able to vote ourselves. We raised awareness about the gun violence crisis, which disproportionately affects our communities. We adapted to vote by mail, even though many in our generation had never even mailed a letter.

While leaders continue to assume that our generation cares nothing about politics, we prove them wrong time and time again. We know what we want, we know how to get it, and we are starting with the gun violence crisis. 

For young Black women, gun violence is a personal issue. We have grown up amongst police brutality and gun violence in our communities. Some researchers even suggest that because gun violence is so frequent in our communities, it has been ignored by our leaders, seen as separate from mass shootings. 

Black children and teens are 14 times as likely as our white peers to die by gun violence nationwide, according to Everytown for Gun Safety. Firearms are the leading cause of death for American children and teens. We decided we weren’t going to sit around and wait for change, and in November, we went out and made it ourselves.

In 2018, I joined Students Demand Action, the youth-led grassroots network of Everytown for Gun Safety, after Courtin Arrington, a young Black woman in my hometown of Birmingham, was shot and killed by a classmate playing with a gun at school. Every day, I passed by that school—the same school where my father graduated. After the shooting, our community leaders and lawmakers sent their “thoughts and prayers,” but took no action. Our “protectors” failed us and gave us nothing but their condolences. So, I decided to take action for myself.

In Students Demand Action, I met hundreds of other students like me who are tired of empty promises. I helped lead our Summer of Action campaign, an initiative to rally our peers and help register voters through phone, text, and social media, with 10 other young women my age. We supported the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, chalked our neighborhoods, put up flyers, and registered classmates to vote. In total, we registered over 100,000 voters. My generation is a force to be reckoned with, and we are tired of gun violence in our communities being ignored. 

President Donald Trump threatened our safety and we voted him out. The 2020 presidential election is just the beginning for young activists like me to end gun violence, and we have a lot more victories up our sleeve.

While we are making incredible leaps towards equality, Black Gen Z women are still the one of the most vulnerable groups in our generation. The issues we face aren’t solved by the “thoughts and prayers” from our leaders; instead they are being solved by the mobilization of Black women. The legacy of changemakers like Fannie Lou Hamer are in the thoughts and hearts of young Black women across the country. Our predecessors fought for our seat at the table, and we owe it to them to fight for the change they worked for. 

Makayla Jordan is a member of the Students Demand Action National Advisory Board and a highschool senior in Birmingham, Alabama.