Generation Z has grown up in a time where social media presence and activism, more often than not, go hand in hand. The widespread use of platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, and TikTok within the past decade has provided users with ways to engage in civic-related conversations and build a name for themselves when it comes to advocating for human rights. For someone like Christine Lee, social media presence is everything.
Christine Lee is a Korean American born and raised on the East Coast. A rising sophomore at Harvard University, Lee is majoring in neuroscience and is hoping to, as a pre-med student, attend med school one day. “I feel like a good way to incorporate long term allyship goals and social activism goals into any career, I think especially if you are on the higher education path, would be to take on a secondary that allows you to explore classes that discuss these topics,” she explains on the topic of choosing a minor as a University student. Lee expresses that for this reason, two of her most contemplated options to minor in are global health policy and ethnicity migration rights.
Lee’s Youtube channel is where she has gained most of her followers, having amassed over 50,000 subscribers. The channel is dedicated to sharing her experiences at Harvard and in everyday life, as well as sharing tips and tricks for things such as note-taking. Her channel, which was started in 2015, is what led to her most notable experience as an activist: selling her own merchandise that acted as a fundraiser for climate change awareness. After being reached out to by the apparel company Bonfire, Lee’s confusion set in–“‘Why in the world would I make merch? Who would be interested in buying that from me?’” Advocating for climate change awareness was a way for her to shift the focus onto a prevalent issue that the average person could spend more time learning about. “At that time, a lot of people were recognizing the detrimental effects of human activities on the Earth, and the way UN reports were not looking particularly optimistic about the future of our world.”
The merch was designed to be minimalistic but powerful; closely resembling Michaelangelo’s The Creation of Adam, it depicts two hands touching, one holding flowers. The design, made to focus on solidarity and love for the planet, raised nearly a thousand dollars in just a few weeks for GreenPeace. GreenPeace is a global, non-governmental organization that exposes global environmental problems and promotes solutions via peaceful protest and creative communication. Over the nearly 50 years since the organization’s establishment, GreenPeace has lobbied for the banning of commercial whaling, convincing world leaders to end nuclear testing, protection of Antarctica, etc.
But why choose to fundraise for a climate change organization, as opposed to any other organization? For Lee, advocating for climate change awareness meant uplifting silenced voices. “There are studies and a lot of research showing that it is often minorities, Indigenous people, Black people from poor communities, those are the people most affected by climate change.” A fact about climate change that is overlooked is that it is deeply connected to racism. Elizabeth Yeampierre, a co-chair of the Climate Justice Alliance, has researched and addressed racial inequalities in conversations about climate change. Yeampierre states in an interview with Yale Environment 360, “Climate change is the result of a legacy of extraction, of colonialism, of slavery. A lot of times when people talk about environmental justice they go back to the 1970s or ‘60s. But I think about the slave quarters. I think about people who got the worst food, the worst health care, the worst treatment, and then when freed, were given lands that were eventually surrounded by things like petrochemical industries. The idea of killing black people or indigenous people, all of that has a long, long history that is centered on capitalism and the extraction of our land and our labor in this country.” Communities most affected by environmental issues such as pollution will always be more susceptible to extreme weather events and other tragedies. In a country where systemic racism is most prevalent in housing and neighborhoods, as well as a lack of funding for those areas, minority communities will always be directly affected by climate change.
Despite gaining a large portion of her following from Youtube, Lee’s Instagram is the true goldmine for all things activism and advocacy. Social media was created for sharing your personal life with others, but for Lee, and many others who seek to uplift and educate, it has become a melting pot for resources and information. With the recent excel in media attention for Black Lives Matter, Lee has used her Instagram to share petitions, organizations, and fundraisers she supports. Lee has dedicated story highlights to voting rights and registration, POC businesses and creators, and BLM resources. Lee’s activism is far more than performative; she works towards educating herself every day. “The Black Lives Matter movement wasn’t just born out of this uproar from these past few weeks. It has been going on for years in terms of the official movement but then centuries in terms of the struggle that the Black community in this country has had against systemic racism, white supremacy, racial injustices, so I think that’s something that’s really important to recognize – for all of us to recognize. But I think in terms of this current uproar of support, I think it was only a matter of time before it was finally really pushed into the mainstream spotlight.” She pushes for long term change through having uncomfortable conversations and education via reading, researching, and open discussion.
Much like the correlation between racism and climate change, there is a deep link between STEM and disproportionate representation as well as systemic racism and academics.
“There are so many groups and organizations of doctors, medical practitioners across the country who advocate for better health care, for better legislation that support those in underprivileged communities, who are shut out by the health care system.”Christine Lee
Lee believes that there is very much an overlap between science and humanities, and describes this by explaining how patient care is not always about strictly organic chemistry or biology– medical workers have to constantly think about how to interact and communicate with patients. This is why Lee concerns herself with learning about inequalities perpetuated in the medical field and advocating for political conversations when it comes to health policy. For Lee, bridging the gap between humanities and STEM requires critical and creative thinking as well as an open mind.
Lee is involved with a few different campaigns and companies, one being Money Girls at Harvard’s campus. Money Girls is a company that focuses on empowering young women with financial knowledge. Lee describes financial knowledge in women as a taboo of sorts. She notes that women are often shut out of medical and health fields and are neglected when it comes to financial teachings, something Lee has felt personally insecure about: “That’s why I decided to join Money Girls as a strategist to help spread that information that is so important for anyone, not just women, but anyone moving into careers, into professional fields.” Companies such as Money Girls break past the barriers of schools or places that are regarded as elitist and work to overturn systematic inequalities ingrained into the ways of top universities, and provide ways for students such as Lee to uplift and overcome.
As a member of Generation Z, Lee feels that technology, the internet, and social media can change the world. Through conversations and communication that were not possible prior to the age of information, people are more capable of taking matters into their own hands when it comes to activism. Lee attributes her platform to technology, because of Instagram and Youtube, and finds it empowering to know that digital platforms are there as a way to keep those who want to speak up from feeling discouraged.
Social media will always be an advantage when it comes to being empathetic, learning, and educating. Lee wraps up the premise of using the age of information to its fullest extent:
“For anyone reading this, please don’t be afraid to change your opinion about something after learning about the ways that maybe you were wrong about it previously. That’s something that’s so important to having engaging and meaningful conversations, is being open minded and willing to change. That’s something we can all just keep in the back of our minds moving forward with trying to sustain this long term.”Christine Lee
READ THE FULL INTERVIEW TRANSCRIPT HERE!
Interviewer: Sophia Delrosario and Alexis De Castro Interviewee: Christine Lee Sophia: First off, can you introduce yourself. Please tell us your background, interests, hobbies, and anything that makes you, you. Christine Lee: Awesome! Hi, my name is Christine Lee. I am a Korean American, born and raised on the East Coast, and a rising sophomore […]
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Director of Editing
Dylan is a 16-year old sophomore at Bayonne High School, who displays multiple interests in politics, activism, writing, reading, and journalism.