Young Justice Advocates inspires a generation to take a stand against racial injustice


The Enough Is Enough Protest in the summer of 2020. Photo courtesy of @youngjusticeadvocates; Design by Miranda Muir

The day is June 6, 2020. 

It is warm, as hundreds of people are gathered at Ruth Hardy Park in Palm Springs carrying signs, wearing “Black Lives Matter” t-shirts, and following a group of high school students protesting against racial injustice. Speeches, music, and poetry from the desert’s leaders and the next generation fill the park and ears of onlookers. 

In the days leading up to the Enough Is Enough protest, local news organizations helped promote the event, and donations of food and water were made as the community rallied behind student activists of the Coachella Valley.

Areli Galvez ‘21 and Hina Malik ‘21 are two of the co-founders of the Young Justice Advocates, a student-led organization officially formed that summer during the Black Lives Matter movement to spur youth involvement in politics and advocacy, and the organizers of the Enough Is Enough protest in June. 

They were among the thousands of student activists last summer across the country, following a wave of police violence, primarily against Black Americans. Men, like George Floyd, and women, like Breonna Taylor, became symbols of the Black lives lost and the spark for nationwide Black Lives Matter protests throughout the summer of 2020. 

Design by Miranda Muir

“I really didn’t expect a lot of people to come out and protest,” said Malik. 

She found that it was shocking to see the youth take physical action rather than just posting on social media. 

“I think a lot of our generation are keyboard activists, and I thought a lot of them were just posting a black square on Instagram and that’s it,” Malik said.

The black square in question was a full-day Instagram campaign accompanied with the hashtag #blackouttuesday, to protest racial violence and police brutality. Although it began in the music industry, it quickly became a general form of digital protest on social media platforms. 

The square was also found problematic by many activists, saying it was a form of performative activism without action behind it. 

The Enough Is Enough Protest changed everything for the Young Justice Advocates, with Galvez explaining that the group often receives messages on social media asking to speak out for anyone who may not know how to. 

Both Malik and Galvez credit their own experiences as students being a factor that pushed them to form a group focused on activism in the valley. 

“I’ve experienced a lot of racism and a lot of inequality throughout my life, especially in the school systems,” said Galvez, “so when it comes to school and having to spread awareness like this, it’s mainly just for other students to understand that I’m here, and for teachers to understand that us students sometimes feel attacked as well.

Galvez said she remembers being bullied for her hair type in elementary school, as well as being singled out in high school by teachers and students, “as everyone [is] a lot more serious [in high school]” about racism and being purposely hurtful with what they say. 

Malik sees La Quinta High as one of the most diverse schools in the valley from her own experiences. 

According to the California School Dashboard in 2020, La Quinta High School has a Hispanic population of about 71.8%, a white population of 19.8%, and 1.5% African American student population. 

“You never get to be comfortable. You have all kinds of different opinions and that really has shaped the way that I go about my activism, because I have experiences with all kinds of different people that don’t allow me to hide in the comfort of my own bubble,” said Malik. 

A particularly memorable experience where Malik’s perspective was challenged was the day a classmate shared a video of the New Zealand mosque shooting. 

“I’m Muslim, I’ve been to a mosque my whole life, and it was just so surreal,” said Malik, “[…] nobody said anything, they were just laughing.” 

They laughed, recalled Malik, because “islamophobia was so rampant at the time […] unleashing the floodgates on racism to a point where it was just normalized.” 

In response, Malik wrote a poem titled “The Muslim Girl,” as well as other poems, regarding the presidency of Donald Trump, sexism, and of being mixed race. The culmination of all of these personal experiences and perspectives spurred her involvement in the Young Justice Advocates. 

Success for the Young Justice Advocates in the Coachella Valley to Malik “looks like creating change here at home, allowing our community to discuss sensitive topics like racial injustice, police reform, and sexism without the controversy” by listening to and exposing ourselves to different beliefs people may not hold. 

The co-founders of Youth Justice Advocates. Photo courtesy of @youngjusticeadvocates; Design by Miranda Muir

The goal of the Young Justice Advocates, said Galvez, is to keep social justice issues at the forefront even if they face opposition. 

Uprooting what people think they know about certain issues causes the slight discomfort that keeps one from getting stuck in a potentially harmful mindset.

Although Galvez doesn’t see the group reaching true success in the world of inequality anytime soon, she plans on continuing the fight every day to make a change in the Coachella Valley. 

“Every day there is a new case, every day someone is labeled differently [but] every day we continue fighting no matter who supports us and who doesn’t,” said Galvez.

Malik urges the youth to take a stand on what they believe in even if it means starting small. 

“You don’t have to go out to the streets and get tear-gassed by police to make a difference. Start at home with the people closest to you, and if they say something that may be hurtful, correct and educate them.”

One way to get started, said Malik, is to do research from sources that hold different biases to “form your own opinions [and] start having civil discussions” with close friends and family. 

Both co-founders agree that the cycle begins with each individual person, and the gains made today would not have been possible if people did not take a stand and speak up. 

Malik explained that everything the current generation does is being seen by the next generation, and what the youth does now will determine the future and serve as an inspiration and a catalyst for activism and change in the world.