The Teen Vogue Summit: #TurnUp drew more than 600 young activists to The New School in NYC this past weekend for inspiring keynotes, workshops and action opportunities. So much happened during the three-day event: Emma González and Rowan Blanchard discussed the challenges of activism; Teen Vogue gun control cover stars reunited to discuss their plans for what's next; 11-year-old activist Naomi Wadler told Roseanne Barr "Bye, Felicia"; Amandla Stenberg and Common discussed activism and their new film, The Hate U Give; Cynthia Nixon talked legalizing marijuana in a "Teen Vogue (Side) Take"; and Al Gore told teens who are eligible to vote but don't "to just shut up."
Fresh off the heels of last December's inaugural event in Los Angeles, The Summit united a mostly digital audience of Teen Vogue followers for a first-of-its-kind gathering designed to inspire, encourage, and connect a new generation of activists, creators and innovators, providing them with the insights and tools to change the world.
Last year, our young activists united in Los Angeles and kicked off the Summit at TOMS Headquarters. From there, they headed off to immersive experiences at Instagram, YouTube, Netflix and other progressive brands. Day two began at 72andSunny with Grown-ish star Yara Shahidi in conversation with Teen Vogue’s Volume 4 Guest Editor, Secretary Hillary Clinton. Throughout the day, attendees participated in immersive sponsor activations, curated mentor sessions, workshops, and panel discussions with leaders like Compton Mayor Aja Brown, ipsy founder Michelle Phan, and many more.
Here are some of our favorite moments from last weekend's Teen Vogue Summit: #TurnUp:
1. “Bye Felicia”
Eleven-year-old speaker and gun control activist, Noami Wadler, who organized a walkout at her Virginia elementary school earlier this year then brought the house down with her powerful speech at DC's March For Our Lives, spoke out against Roseanne Barr and the comedian's racist Twitter comments that got her ABC reboot canceled last week.
“As a brown girl, you grow up seeing police brutality, ruthless murders, domestic violence… all against people who look like you,” Wadler said. “You see your cultural history labeled as fads or appropriated by others. Your cornrows are unprofessional but on a white girl’s head they’re trendy. You are hyper-sexualized, you are made out to be angry, and no matter how successful you are, how poised and sophisticated, you are still compared to an ape by an ugly racist with a popular television show. Bye, Felicia.”
2. Young people leading the revolution
According to Parkland survivor Emma González, one of the hardest parts of getting involved in activism is focusing on just one issue at a time. While speaking with Rowan Blanchard, Emma opened up about some of the challenges she faces as a young activist. "I have so many other things I want to talk about that are unrelated to gun control — or things that are in addition to gun reform," she explained. "And I can't talk about them as much as I want to, because if I don't focus on one centralized message, it gets lost."
Rowan, who has used her platform in the past to speak out on issues like women's rights and gun reform, agreed. "That's the thing about activism," she said. "You can't do it all." Both the Wrinkle in Time star and Emma noted that the best education has come from other like-minded young people. "Adults were so shocked when Emma started speaking out and all these kids started speaking out," Rowan said, commenting on the aftermath of the Parkland shooting earlier this year. "We all learned about everything from social media. I learned from other teenagers about these topics."
3. Using social media for good
Dear Evan Hansen stars Phoenix Best and Laura Dreyfuss joined Stephanie Sciandra of Situation Interactive to talk mental health and the Internet, opening up about how logging on can make you feel less alone.
"How many people have either created a piece of art or had a problem that they wanted to talk about and actually felt like it was easier to say it to the internet than talk to somebody you know because you were afraid they were going to judge you," Stephanie asked. "How many people have friends that started out as somebody you started talking to online? Social could be a really dark and isolating place, but it can also be a really really really incredible place to find community. You sort of get out of it what you put into it."
Laura, who plays Zoe in Dear Evan Hansen, said we have to figure out the best way to use social media so we can continue creating community. The Dear Evan Hansen stars also talked about how the show itself is a testament to the fact that you're not alone if you have a mental illness, are feeling lonely, or are going through it in general. Ultimately, the sense of community that we can find all around us — on the Internet included — is what's really powerful.
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Cover photo courtesy: @heatherhazzan for @teenvogue Instagram