In this episode, two young activists discuss how they’re leading a movement towards justice and equality for everyone. Indya Smith-Johnson, a 2020 graduate of Naperville Central High School, and Elijah Trannon, a junior at the school, have both organized and participated in a number of recent protests in and around Naperville following the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police.
Reaction to George Floyd Murder
“Initially I was just really mad but then I wanted to see what the next steps are to further the movement and to create change,” said Trannon.
“My reaction was one rooted in anger,” said Smith-Johnson. “There are things that are happening similar to that right where we live and there wasn’t so much being done about it yet, even though both Elijah and I had been working to get progress made on that during the school year.” Earlier this year, Naperville School District 203 took disciplinary action after a student at Central posted a Craigslist ad featuring a photo of a black student with a caption that read, “Slave for Sale (NAPERVILLE).”
The young activists discussed both the challenges and opportunities that came about as a result of planning and carrying out several rallies and marches around Naperville, all of which have been peaceful, except for one that evolved into a night of looting in downtown, which Smith-Johnson and Trannon say had nothing to do with her group prior to the violence.
“After people started seeing that we were peaceful and we were united, more people wanted to come join,” said Trannon in regards to trying to rally people together. Many of the protests saw more than 300 people gather. “For me, the best part is just having a conversation with someone and changing one person’s opinion.”
“Being in media is huge for me because I feel like my voice is being heard,” said Smith-Johnson. She says she’s going to pursue a political-science major at the University of Iowa to continue to “continuing this type of activism but on a larger scale.”
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Finding Common Ground is focused on important current events and how they impact our diverse population. We are many voices of one community, often with strong opinions on every side of an issue. Here, through courageous conversation in the interest of discovering collaborative solutions, we hope to find out common ground.
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