On Thursday, Nov. 9, Edison High School students promptly left their classrooms at 2:55 p.m. to gather in a demonstration of activism. Students of all grade levels joined together to proclaim their support for Palestine amidst the ongoing Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
In recent weeks, the amount of disturbing, saddening, and outright shocking content from the Palestinian Gaza strip has been staggering. Hospitals leveled to the ground by Israeli attacks, children left wandering alone and afraid, whole communities isolated without food or water. We see these things everyday in pictures, videos, and articles on the internet, and there is still so much that we don’t see. At times, it can be overwhelming.
As high school students, and as citizens of a nation that has declared its support for Israel, it is easy to feel like there is nothing we can do to help. Even with outlets like donations and fundraisers, there is uncertainty regarding where the money is going and whether it will even reach its desired destination.
So, we turn to things like walkouts, protests, and public speaking to show our support.
Jason Zavala, one of the youth organizers of the walkout, shared that he is part of the First Nation American Indigenous community that experienced ethnic cleansing and were forcibly removed from their lands, and were forced into reservations deprived of food and water.
The Palestinian genocide bore resemblance to this tragedy, and Zavala had to take a stand.
“No life is worth less than another,” Zavala said. “If we turn a blind eye, we are just as bad as the people committing the crimes.”
The primary motivation of the walkout was to bring awareness to the crimes being committed in Palestine. Zavala asserted, “Our goal for the walkouts was to show our support for a ceasefire, and to spread awareness about what is actually happening in Gaza.”
Organizers of the event began by educating their peers, sharing pamphlets with information and statistics on the current situation in Gaza. They then began spreading the word about the walkout, circulating fliers throughout the school and creating posts on social media.
Ally Ayala, another organizer of the walkout, shared her experience in not only organizing the walkout but receiving backlash for it. She talked about the negative responses she received from not only teachers and staff, but other students as well.
“Teachers and admin pushed back,” Ayala started. “But it was heartbreaking to see students throwing the fliers away and disregarding it like it wasn’t important.”
She went on to criticize Fresno Unified’s apprehension towards political topics, saying that it is the discouraging behavior of teachers and administration that leads students to believe that their voices are not valuable.
“It’s the small things,” she said. “Students think that since they’re not on the front lines that anything they do is pointless but that’s not true.”
This raises an incredibly important point about activism that must be emphasized. Just because an action does not directly and immediately help the people who need it does not mean it is made in vain. Spreading awareness and educating peers is just as important as anything else.
A common point of contention among high school students when faced with an opportunity for protest is: “but this won’t actually stop anything.”
“They’re kind of right,” Zavala admitted. “One school won’t do anything. But, schools all over the state, even if they’re miles apart, will show that we aren’t going to be complacent, we aren’t going to be silent.”
It is crucial to remind youth that their actions, no matter how small, do have an impact. Adults, especially those involved in education, must perpetuate this. Some students pushed back from the walkout because they have been conditioned to think that unless they do something substantial like go to Palestine themself or donate large sums of money that they are helpless. However, spreading the word and unapologetically declaring your beliefs is more invaluable than many students realize.
Keep educating yourself and encourage your peers to do the same. Don’t let people tell you that what you’re doing isn’t making a difference. Don’t lose hope.