Earlier this year, a photographer caught a moment in time that shaped the way we see youth activism today. The image taken was that of a young girl in Birmingham named Saffiyah Khan, smiling in defiance as she stepped in to defend a Muslim woman being harassed by protester!
We sat down with Saffiyah to talk activism, social action and how her life has changed since her photo went viral. Read on for her story.
Tell us a bit about your background
I started becoming involved in political and social action at quite a young age. I’ve been involved in grassroots and other projects since!
A picture of you standing up to an English Defence League protester went viral this year! Tell us about what your life’s been like since.
It’s been really busy! I’ve had some really good opportunities. Yeah, it’s been great. I’ve been put in touch with so many cool people and cool projects. I’ve been involved with some socialist newspapers that want me to write for them, to more local projects, to supporting the bin man strike, to helping out at fundraising events. It’s been brilliant.
What do you hope to achieve in the next year as an activist?
Well, I’m trying to pitch some documentaries about social tensions. I think that would be great because I’ve done documentaries before. I’ll either document it through photographs or film documentaries.
What does ‘youth movement’ mean to you?
It sounds like the power of young people. Youth movement sounds sick! It sounds like a large percentage of people who haven’t been involved in politics are now getting involved.
How do you feel about the idea of young people voting at 16?
This would be huge! Completely huge! We need to make sure that the wrong political groups aren’t influencing young people. We need to make sure that once they have that responsibility, they’re educated from a young age. Most people – when they vote for a party, they stay with that party for the rest of their lives! What we need to be careful of are vulnerable young people who might not be interested in politics at 16. They’re going to be hounded on by some political groups as pawns. We just need to make sure that people are educated. When they don’t understand, we need to make sure that we’re not condescending.
What does unstoppable mean to you?
When you’ve got a drive and you know where you’re going and it becomes your life! You live it and breathe it.
Do you have any advice for any young activists?
There are always political groups and social groups everywhere. Every town has them! The problem is that old people overrun them. Make sure that when you join them, you make your point heard and make it about youth. Not to the point where it’s like tyrannical. You just need to make sure your voice is heard. I’m quite loud so when I joined them I never had a problem. [Young] people with good ideas tend to get spoken over so often by older folk. At the end of the day, it’s not their future.