Ever since George Floyd was murdered by a police officer on May 25th, there has been a global outpouring of support for the Black Lives Matter movement, and ongoing protests against police brutality. There has also been a widespread disruption of content across Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. Instead of sharing selfies and food pictures, much of Gen-Z have been dedicating their digital real estate to amplifying Black voices and sharing a plethora of resources including educational infographics about systemic racism and the prison industrial complex, petitions to sign, countless funds to support, and extensive anti-racism reading and watch lists.
As the most tech-savvy generation, Gen-Z have collectively overthrown the social media ‘norms’ in order to show their support for Black Lives Matter and spread awareness. Perhaps for the first time since its creation, people are beginning to use social media to its best and fullest potential – as a tool to educate and create real social change. From social media activism to showing up to protests – Gen-Z’s experiences have become an important bridge of information between generations.
Montclair resident Miles Weddle (Harvard ’20), is one of the Gen-Zers taking the initiative to spark action among his own network. Miles recently put together a fund to match donations up to $10,000 to be split evenly between four criminal justice organizations – The Equal Justice Initiative, The Innocence Project, The National Bail Fund Network, and the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund.
Before announcing the matching fund, Miles published a letter which first appeared on Instagram, sharing his own thoughts and feelings about being a Black man in America, and his response to the recent tragic murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and Tony McDade. He then created Stand in Solidarity, a compilation of resources with Representatives to contact, petitions to sign, books to read, organizations to support, mental health resources for the Black community, and a variety of Black-owned businesses to support in the New York/New Jersey area. The Stand in Solidarity Fund is the most recent addition to his website, which has raised $2,642.40 as of June 15th. I spoke with Miles recently to learn more about his Stand in Solidarity project.
Q: How did your time spent at MHS influence your activism?
A: In all honesty, I probably was not as involved as my peers in activism at MHS. I think the diversity of MHS is what lends itself to an actual exploration of the myriad of different socio-political topics that are present in this country. I attended three high schools: a year at Newark Academy, two and a half years at MHS, and half a year at The School for Ethics and Global Leadership in Washington D.C. Collectively, those different experiences gave me a platform as well as people that I could reach out to in order to feel comfortable to be an “activist.” Regarding MHS specifically, the general diversity of the school is what gave me the foresight or at the very least, introductions, to narratives other than my own to consider creating platforms in order to highlight those narratives.
Q: Would you say you became more of an activist in college?
A: I don’t know if I would characterize myself as an activist. The events that have taken place thus far are so horrific that I personally felt compelled to share my narrative. Certainly, some of it has been as a result of college because classes I’ve taken with Cornell West, Roberto Unger, and Elizabeth Hinton have pushed activism to the forefront of my mind.
Q: What inspired you to create a matching fund?
A: It was largely wanting to get more people involved. By nature of growing up in Montclair, attending Harvard, and the connections I had made interning at JP Morgan, I had a network that could put together a pool of $10,000 in matching funds. I felt it would also serve as an impetus for my network to actually donate and contribute to the cause. On the other end, the matching fund would serve as a way of motivating kids like us, or people that were sitting on the fence about which funds to donate to, or those that thought their contribution wouldn’t necessarily go a long way.
Q: Why did you choose to support these four organizations (The EJI, The Innocence Project, The NAACP LDF, and The National Bail Fund Network)?
A: If you look at EJI, the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, or the Innocence Project, they all have the mission of helping those who are currently being assailed by racial injustice in this country, but they also research and advocate for long-term structural reform.
Each of them is somewhat involved with criminal justice reform which has been more of a key topic since Michelle Alexander’s publication of The New Jim Crow. The prison system is an $87 billion industry. There are 2.2 million people incarcerated in the U.S. The National Bail Fund Network is trying to assist the 700,000 people in U.S. jails that haven’t been convicted of a crime, but can’t post bail. In the context of picking these non-profits, there was a huge emphasis on one of the major issues facing Blacks in America – the criminal justice system. Also, if you look at the long-run history of these organizations, they have a very good track record, which is important to me as well.
Q: Are you still looking for donors to match donations?
A: Yes, I am still looking for individuals to donate to these organizations so we can use the full matching pool of $10,000 to double the impact. I am hoping that this will serve as a long-term project in the sense that we’re able to get more people involved.
Q: Do you have any other thoughts you’d like to share?
A: I’m excited about making sure this isn’t just a singular moment in history, but something that we’re all continuing to work on. I think we as a society cannot look for a quick fix because there isn’t one. It’s going to require every single one of us, including myself, educating ourselves on the history of race in this country. It’s not just an issue in the United States, it’s a global issue. To understand the intricacies of not only what’s going on in the U.S. but also abroad, it’s going to require all of us going that extra mile – reading more and having more conversations.
How to Contribute to the Stand in Solidarity Fund:
Make a donation directly to the Equal Justice Initiative, Innocence Project, National Bail Fund Network, or the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational fund by visiting their websites.
The Equal Justice Initiative
The Innocence Project
The National Bail Fund Network
The NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund
After you donate, you will receive an email confirmation with your receipt – take a screenshot of your receipt.
Visit the Matching Fund website here to submit your donation for matching and upload an image of your receipt.
Fill out the form Submit Your Donation for Matching to have your donations matched. Please note that you can only submit one receipt at a time.
Repeat this process for each organization, and spread the word!
Access these resources, Miles’ letter, and the matching fund at https://standinsolidarity.co/
Genna Batson, MHS ’16, graduated from Syracuse University in May 2020.